Sheffs is a story about a collaboration of two established businesses within the food and drink industry who believed they would be stronger and more successful together. After meeting in a street food event, positioned side by side, Michelle and Jeff hit it off. They then spent many more events in each other’s company where they started thinking about the future and what each other wanted to achieve.
Michelle and Jeff begun collaborating on different projects in August 2019 and in December of that year, they worked together on their biggest project yet: a standalone unit in St Davids 2, Cardiff, where they sold their produce throughout the Christmas season alongside other Welsh brands. It was at this point where they made the decision to form a more sustainable joint company. They planned to merge Cymru Confectionery with Shelly’s Shorties and to relaunch with a new brand that would drive the business to the next level of success. The aim was to make a healthier and more sustainable business using their combined strengths which is what made them take the plunge.
Michelle and Jeff begun looking for premises in South Wales for their new business venture however it was at this point, in February 2020, when the global pandemic struck forcing many businesses to close. They became extremely uncertain about the future of their business, like everybody else in the food and drink industry. Fortunately, as the public were on lockdown, the take-out and delivery service industry hit an all-time high, not just for Michelle and Jeff but for other food delivery companies too.
“I don’t think in our wildest dreams we could have envisaged what we have achieved in the last 6 months let alone in the last few years” Michelle
“My grandfather was a chef in a hotel in his younger years and then joined the RAF as a chef during World War 2. He was deployed in both India and France where he learned many local recipes and confections. During this time, his passion for cooking was ﬁrmly established, but due to needs with raising his young family he had to put his passion aside for a more practical career to support his growing family.”
His grandfather’s passion for food never left him and Jeff remembers him coming around at Christmas where he would spend weeks making trays of petit fours, truﬄes and Turkish delight for all his friends and family to enjoy . “My cousins and I would often help him make these in the lead up to the festive period and it became a tradition. The tradition was almost lost after he sadly passed away, until we were able to ﬁnd his recipe book and begun deciphering his handwriting. Since then, we have been making the confections as a family, and they have brought back very fond memories.”
Jeff and his family have since been adapting these traditional recipes by adding new ﬂavours and selling them at local markets throughout South Wales to help gauge public opinion on their products and ﬂavours.
The feedback from selling these products, at festivals and markets, has been overwhelmingly positive and so Jeff and his family believe they have successfully reﬁned the recipes and ﬂavourings so that
the majority of people love their products. As time goes by, they hope that they can sell across the UK and begin exporting their products so that more people can experience these traditional luxury confectionaries.
Shelly has been in the food and drink industry for 24 years; she started the Welsh Shortbread Company nine years ago while on maternity leave after having her two children. “As a family, we have always had a keen interest in all things food with both grandmothers being professional bakers.”
After her father, Graham, retired he became the head baker of the Shorties and, at 70 years old, is a very much loved and respected part of a well-oiled team but he is looking to retire when the unit is fully operational.
Shelly started small with a stall at the Cardiﬀ Christmas market in 2010 and discovered that there was a place for the humble biscuit within the current marketplace. During the last 9 years, Shelly has attended many high proﬁle food festivals within the South Wales corridor; she has also appeared on stage at several food festivals demonstrating the Welsh Baking that she loves: “Since 2017 we have been chosen to represent Welsh produce in London for St David’s Day and Welsh Produce at Paddington Train Station and Borough Market, one of the biggest foodie areas in London. In 2020 we represented Wales again by offering our produce in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Reading over the St David’s weekend with great success.”
Last year Michelle won 2 awards for the Welsh Shortbread Company (Welsh Produce of the Year 2019 and Highly Commended Small Welsh Business of the Year 2019). This year she is also nominated for the Welsh businesswoman of the year awards 2020 where she is now a finalist. Michelle will find out later this year who will win. It still makes her laugh when people ask her about her awards:
“It’s lovely, but a bit embarrassing as you have to accept the award in front of 500+ of your peers … something a confessed wallflower finds a little daunting”.
Following the success of her shortbread company, Shelly opened her own Deli which serves hearty homemade food such as pasties and sausage rolls. This is based in Bridgend on the old stone bridge and has been very successful.
Michelle and Jeff have a good working balance between them with Jeff as the Finance Director and Michelle as the Production Director, everything else is discussed between them and they make joint decisions.
They are both open with their love-hate working partnership. Both have disagreed many times, but for them, it means a strengthened partnership. They’re still learning about each other’s ways of working, and of course, they have to compromise on some things, Michelle describes it as a marriage; however, she is already married to the lovely Gerwyn and they share two beautiful children.
“You will always make mistakes in business, and it’s what you choose to do with the lessons that those mistakes teach you that guides you to the next challenge. There have been some questionable choices made by both Jeff and myself along the way, but we wouldn’t have learnt the life lessons we have if we hadn’t made them. The saying ‘you learn something new every day’ is certainly true in business. ”
– Handmade in Wales with Passion