CEO spoke to Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Founder of The Black Farmer.
He told us about how, through his food business, he is challenging stereotypes and changing the way consumers relate to products.
He told us why uncertainty is undoubtedly a key part of success and why failure is necessary to achieve what you want in life.
The Black Farmer was founded in 1999 and now produces various products ranging from meat to coffee and tea that can be found in supermarkets all over the UK.
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones has also just written Jeopardy: The Danger of Playing It Safe on the Path to Success published in September 2018.
What is The Black Farmer and what’s your role within the business?
I’ve launched the Black Farmer in 1999 and am now the Managing Director.
It is a food business that specializes in gluten free products, so that they can be enjoyed by anyone, even those that suffer from wheat and gluten intolerance.
We started out with sausages as a main product, and now offer a much wider variety, from meat, to eggs, to coffee and tea, as well. Our products can be found in supermarkets all across the UK.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I started out working as a chef. I then moved on to the BBC, where I worked as a producer director. I spent about fifteen years there making food programs and films, and was at the forefront of launching some of the biggest celebrity chefs - people like Gordon Ramsay, James Martin, Brian Turner, just to name a few.
I then decided to leave the BBC and started my own food and drink marketing agency. I especially worked close with challenger brands that wanted to bring something different within their respective categories. One example was Kettle chips.
I ran that business for around fifteen years and then decided it was time to fulfill my childhood dream. So I bought a farm in Devon.
What pushed you into buying a farm and founding The Black Farmer?
I was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK with my family when I was three years old. My father had an allotment and my job was to look after it. I just loved being there - it was like my oasis within the urban jungle that constantly surrounded me. So I decided at the age of eleven that one day I would have liked to own my own farm.
What I wanted to do with The Black Farmer was create a brand that is quintessentially British, while bringing something new and different to it. Doing research, I also found out that about 1% of the population suffers some form of wheat intolerance. That’s when I decided I was going to create gluten free sausages.
I also realized how there is a huge gap between urban and rural England, and how consumers have very little understanding and consciousness in regards to the food they eat. Food has mainly become a functional product rather than an emotional one- I wanted to change this. Our products are different because consumers can relate to an actual person and engage with farmers to really understand how it grown and produced.
At what exact moment in life did you decide you were actually going to turn your idea into this reality?
When leaving the BBC, I realized that if I really wanted to do what I wanted, then I really needed to build my own thing. When working for someone else, people typically operate on fear and hardly take any risks.
One of the reasons I’ve written Jeopardy: The danger of playing it safe on the road to success i s that many people search for certainty. This, I believe is one of the biggest mistakes one could possibly make in both their personal and professional lives.
To achieve what you want, you always need to walk towards uncertainty; you need to make uncertainty your friend and an essential tool to reach what you want in life.
In this uncertainty, where does one seek support?
One of the things I believe to be extremely important in life, for whatever you are doing, is to find your guardian angel.
If there is someone that will get out of their way to help you on your journey, then you need to foster them. The most difficult part is to spot them, but, once you have, you need to make sure they don’t slip away.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone, who wants to create something of their own, what would it be?
First of all, you need to find the courage to dream.
Second, you need to understand that failure is fundamental in achieving what you want.
Starting your own business is a leap of faith and an act of courage. It needs uncertainty.
If you’ve never failed in life, you’re not actually living to the max. If you’re not taking risks you’re not living - you are surviving.