Faced with the bankruptcy of one of their main customers, who not only owed them money but also left them with surplus perishable stock, would have been enough to force some small companies out of business themselves. Not so Burwell Hatchery, one of East Anglia’s foremost duck hatchery and breeding farms who saw this potential set back as an opportunity to expand their business to include the selling of duck eggs directly to the consumer.
Melandy and Paul Leveridge used the name of their farm’s location “Watercress Lane” as the brand for the new stream of the business. Duck eggs produced by Watercress Lane Ducks are sold across the UK and Europe and carry their own Blue Duck stamp. The stamp provides assurance to the consumer that the eggs have been produced from ducks that have been vaccinated against salmonella.
To ramp up production the couple needed to purchase some new equipment including an egg washing machine and make alterations to the building into which it would be located. Having had their overdraft removed by their bank of many years several months earlier, the company had recently changed to a different bank, only to find that their history with the new bank was too short for them to consider lending. The bank however referred them to Foundation East who were able to help. Valerie was impressed by the professionalism of the Directors and their ability to overcome obstacles and difficult issues. This gave her the confidence that they would be able to make changes as the business continued to grow. The proposal would assist with the purchase of equipment to make the business more efficient and assist in its growth.
Eggs produced by Watercress Lane Ducks have featured on National TV programs including Food Fighters and The Great British Food Revival. As a result of the loan 3 jobs in the business were saved and both the hatchery and duck egg production businesses are doing well. What used to be a seasonal business has become year round and using their new quality mark, they are beginning to develop a franchise model.
"We found the Foundation East application process very in depth and quite time consuming. Having said that, putting down our trials, tribulations and triumphs on paper also made us more aware of our weaknesses and strengths" said Melandy.