A woman who fled the war in Syria with her family is growing her Yorkshire cheese business, with the support of the West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency, after finding a gap in the market.
31-year old Razan Alsous has launched Yorkshire Dama Cheese from a small factory just outside Huddersfield. It produces a range of halloumi cheese made from Yorkshire milk which is already being sold in shops around West Yorkshire. Last week (Friday 14 November), it won a Bronze at the 2014 World Cheese Awards at the BBC Good Food Show in London.
When she arrived in the UK from Syria in July 2012, she wanted to start her own business to support her family and, with a background in microbiology, she decided cheese-making would be a good use of her skills:
“I wanted to do something that helped my family and built a good future for my kids in our new home. I went to the Jobcentre and told them about my hope to start a business and they referred me to the West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency and placed me on the New Enterprise Allowance.”
Researching her options on the internet, she found that the UK was the second biggest consumer of halloumi in Europe but there were not many producers. She decided to fill that gap and produce a high quality home-produced range of the cheese.
Yorkshire Dama Cheese was born after Razan was placed on the New Enterprise Allowance, the government scheme that aims to get those out of work to start their own business. With the support of a business mentor, she produced a business plan and then set up her base in Linthwaite.
She says the support of the West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency was vital:
“My mentor was brilliant and gave me all the information I needed to start up the business. Everything seemed so daunting and at times I wasn’t sure where to start but she helped through the entire process.
“My motto is that nothing is impossible, especially when there are people out there who can help you. The financial help from the New Enterprise Allowance is small in value but big in opportunity – it gave me the ability to buy the equipment, start my business and turn my dream into reality.”
Razan was supported on her business journey by mentor Veronica Baldwin who says she enjoyed working with someone so determined to succeed:
"When starting a business, everything else can be learnt and Razan combines her passion for her business with her passion for learning. By bringing this together with her skills, it makes the perfect recipe for success.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of Razan's journey, she is determined to succeed, yet also open to learning and understanding all aspects of running a business....and she makes a fantastic product!"
Yorkshire Dama Cheese is already developing new products including the soon to be launched Herbal Cheese. Razan hopes her products will be on sale in more shops across Yorkshire and around the country soon:
“I am very optimistic and excited about the future. Within five years I am confident I will be in bigger premises, be offering a wider selection of cheeses and have more customers.”
You can watch Razan's story here: