Farmer Donald MacPherson, who runs an award-winning burger business from his Northumberland home, will admit to some early trading mistakes - including losing £40,000 in a year - when he speaks to a gathering of his peers next week.
Donald will talk about slip-ups at his Well Hung and Tender business, which he has run with wife Sarah since 2001, when he attends the Northern Farming Conference in Hexham on Wednesday.
Well Hung and Tender uses the beef from Aberdeen Angus cattle on Donald’s Castlehills Farm to produce burgers and steaks that have won the nationwide Battle of the Beef Challenge, beating Jamie Oliver among many others.
Two areas of the business that caused Donald the most amount of work for the least profit were selling prime cuts to restaurants and internet sales.
He explained: “To begin with it looked as though selling fresh meat to restaurants was going to be a great money-spinner.
“Our client base was growing and turnover was going up all the time - but profit was going the other way.
“I had to sit down and go over the figures, and taking in, everything including wastage, delivery losses and bad debt, I then realised that we had lost £40,000 in one year from the restaurant trade alone. It became obvious that this was not going to work for us.
“Another bad decision was the internet. While many businesses think that e-commerce is the only way forward, we found it was the opposite for us – the combination of not being able to get insurance cover, together with customers often not being available to receive the produce, meant that it was just too risky.
“With perishable goods we have found that face-to-face retail, such as at farmers’ markets, works much better.”
Well Hung and Tender now has 11 catering units, ranging from trailers and chalets to barbecue tents. This will also be the third year that the company has operated two units in Adelaide over Australia’s summer.
The Northern Farming Conference has found a new home for 2013, taking place this year at Hexham Auction Mart on Wednesday, November 13.
Now in its fourth year, the conference aims to provide a range of information on developments across the agricultural industry to help farm businesses plan for the next 12 months and beyond.
In addition to Donald, other speakers on the day will be Farm Minister George Eustice, economist Allan Buckwell, North West dairy farmer and Nuffield Scholar Ian Pye, Northumberland farmer and Monitor Farm Project lead, Simon Bainbridge, Yorkshire carrot farmer and 2012 Farmers’ Weekly Farmer of the Year Guy Poskitt and 2011 Arable Farmer of the Year Colin McGregor.