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Sky Cracknell

Food Policy
Alumna from Centre for Food Policy

Diary of an...artisan jam entrepreneur

Sky Cracknell and her partner Kai, founded artisan jam-making business England Preserves back in 2001. They’ve since grown the business from a tiny stall on Borough Market to a successful luxury preserve brand. Sky and Kai work as Directors of the business and live in London with their two children.

Sky studied for a Masters in Food Policy at City University London in 2007. Here she gives us a glimpse into the working life of a company Director.

I start my day…

At 7am. I’ll wake up our two young children and we eat breakfast as a family. This is usually followed by some frantic running around and finishing homework. Kai and I take it in turns to cycle our children to school, while the other one heads straight to the office.

My working day…

Starts at about 9am. My first thing I do is to get an idea of what needs to be completed during the day, then I’ll catch up on emails. Owning a small business means there’s a really broad spectrum of things on my to-do list! One day I’ll be working on the overall company strategy, the next I’ll be trying out new jam recipes or even helping to put the lids on the jars. When we’re really busy we get stuck in with everything – we pack boxes, order ingredients and arrange deliveries.

My responsibilities…

As the company Director, my responsibilities are to oversee the business and develop our company strategy, at the moment I’m working on how we can grow the business.

I’ve been talking with new customers who want to stock our products and looking at new ways to promote what we do. We run courses on artisan jam making, and been featured in several magazines, which takes work to arrange. We’re also looking at ways to improve our processes to make them more efficient and to speed up production. We recently installed new jar-capping equipment, and I oversaw the logistics of this.

How I made my career choice…

It all started out as an experiment. Kai and I knew we wanted to work together doing something food-related, but soon realised there was little we could without any money. We had an appreciation for English produce and at the time there weren’t that many artisan preserve makers in London. So, we started making jams in the kitchen of our tiny flat in Wood Green.

We both had other jobs so we’d make the jam in the evenings and weekends and sell it at the weekend. Starting out in farmers markets helped us build a relationship with farmers and to interact with our customers, their enthusiasm for our products was intoxicating – it became a real passion.

Our goal however was always to run our own business, and gradually, by ploughing our own profits back into the company we’ve scaled the business and started supplying to retailers. We now provide preserves to hotels and restaurants including Peyton & Byrne, Fernandez & Wells and Holborn Dining Rooms.

Why I went back to University…

I’ve always been interested in the role food plays in society and culture so in 2007 I started a Masters in Food Policy at City University London. The course changed the way I think about food, the way I evaluate the decisions I make and inevitably how the business has developed.

In the artisan food industry there’s a strong feeling of a right and wrong way of doing things and as a preserve company we fall into debates about sugar and healthy eating. My course helped me to decide how we should place ourselves within the discussion of food, health and food recommendations. I’m now a lot more confident debating this issue and how to present our business.

The people I work with…

Kai and I now work with three full-time and two part-time members of staff. That’s people who work in the kitchen, production, sales, despatch, office manager and a bookkeeper. In the beginning it was just the two of us and it can be a challenge working so closely with one other person.  Since we have grown the business Kai and I have been able to find our own distinct roles, and we’re in a good place!

My greatest work achievement…

My greatest achievement is that we have customers that appreciate what we do. Our whole aim is to produce something people feel really happy to purchase. Also, that we employ staff who seem really happy with their job.

At the end of the day…

My partner and I take it in turns to collect the children so we either finish at 3pm or 5pm. I’ll then make dinner and take the children to the park or we’ll play in the garden. Once homework and violin practise is done and the children are in bed, I’ll catch up on any essential emails of the day. We love spending time together as a family and try to make sure our children get a taste of the countryside, despite living an urban life.