At Cropwell Bishop they believe in keeping things in the family. That is why, from their creamery in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir, they have made mouth-wateringly delicious Stilton for more than three generations.
Today, cousins Robin and Ben Skailes oversee the day-to-day running of the cheese dairy along with their fathers, David and Ian. Using traditional methods passed down by their grandfather, they continue to produce award-winning Stilton of the very finest quality.
Robin spoke to Paul Andrews and shared his thoughts on the family firm and his passion for their product.
What does your family business do?
Makes handmade Stilton cheese and other handmade blue cheeses from our family farm.
How did you get involved?
I always loved the cheese so it was easy for me.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A Racing Driver
What are your first memories of the family business?
Being forced feed Stilton at 4 years old!
What values are important in your family/family business?
Responsibility towards the local community and protecting traditional cheesemaking. Our creamery plays a big part in Cropwell Bishop village life. Most of our employees live locally, and some of them have been with us for more than 25 years. Some have even worked under Robin and Ben’s grandfather. That is why we trust them to maintain the highest standards of cheese craft; and why we regard them as part of the family.
Our strong family values extend to our suppliers, too. We have hand picked some of the best milk suppliers in the region: small, family-run farms whose expertise, like our own, has been passed down through generations. And in return for the exceptional milk they supply, we make sure our farmers are paid a price that they deserve. After all, we’re likely to need their milk for several generations to come.
What is the best thing about being a family business?
To plan for the future and the long term.
And the worst?
Having my father as my boss!
What is the best thing about your working day?
Tasting Stilton! It is something that I will never tire of either!
What is your proudest family business achievement?
Being shortlisted for the Midland Family Business Awards and winning the 2013 Family Business of the Year Award.
Is there a next generation waiting in the wings to take over?
Yes, I have 2 young sons who already love Daddy’s cheese.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing family firms?
Competing with much bigger companies as more consolidation takes place.
What words do you associate with family businesses?
Passion, fun, long term.
Words Of wisdom – What piece of advice would you pass on to someone thinking about joining the family business?
Work for someone else before joining the family firm.