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Cheese firm's vision fires up Ignite judges to scoop £120k

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 18, 2013

By Liz PArks

From left: Chairman of judges John Stewart, Cornish Gouda Co's Giel Spierings, Oxford Innovation's Alan Street and Foot Anstey's Gavin Poole

From left: Chairman of judges John Stewart, Cornish Gouda Co's Giel Spierings, Oxford Innovation's Alan Street and Foot Anstey's Gavin Poole

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A Cornish cheese producer has won a prize fund worth £120,000 after being named as the winner of the Ignite 2013 competition.

The Lanreath-based Cornish Gouda Co was named winner at the event's final, which was held at Pendennis Castle, in Falmouth, last week.

The business was started by 21-year-old Giel Spierings less than a year ago and the business has already sold £70,000 of cheese in its first 10 months of trading.

The cheeses are made and sold by Giel and are already being supplied to outlets including the Eden Project with the fledgling business keen to establish itself as the UK's leading brand for premium gouda.

Giel's business plan impressed the Ignite judges meaning that he walks away with a prize fund worth more than £120,000, including £25,000 in cash and a package of support from Cornish companies who contribute everything from product design to legal advice.

Giel said: "I am delighted and honoured to have won Ignite. The prize package will help me enormously to finance new production facilities and drive a sales and marketing strategy, all of which will enable me to expand the company to keep up with demand."

All of the finalists worked with organisers Oxford Innovation to hone their business plans, and were required to make formal pitches of their business proposals to the judging panel.

The Ignite competition is organised by Oxford Innovation as part of its Coaching for High Growth Programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme.

The judges – a panel of more than 20 experienced business leaders in Cornwall chaired by John Stewart of World's Apart – narrowed down dozens of applicants to a shortlist of eight before selecting the winner.

John Stewart, chairman of the Ignite 2013 judging panel and co-founder of toy design company Worlds Apart, said: "Giel is a true entrepreneur and I rarely meet someone with such passion, dedication, determination and the ability to succeed. He is a true inspiration."

Giel, a former world champion kayaker, moved to Cornwall in 1998 from the Netherlands with his family, who run a dairy farm near Looe. Giel felt that his parents were not getting paid a fair price for milk produced by the farm's pedigree cows, so last year he began using the milk to create artisan Gouda cheeses.

For the last 11 months, Giel has produced up to 900kg of cheese every month himself, but has been unable to expand production to cope with demand given the lack of storage facilities to keep cheese as it matures, and the need for help with production, sales and marketing.

Giel's business plan includes an expanded storage area and the recruitment of three new staff, with the aim of increasing current sales tenfold by 2017.

Ignite 2013 has been supported by sponsors including: Foot Anstey, Francis Clark, Jarrang, Pirate FM, Sideways, Creative Edge, Stranger Collective, PFA Research, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, The Vine, DCA Public Relations, Tremough Innovation Centre, Pool Innovation Centre, 3 White Hats, Business Cornwall, Tamar HR, Federation of Small Businesses, St Austell Printing Company, UKNetweb, Buff Industrial Design, NJ Akers, Export Cornwall and 3B International.

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