Lockdown inspires couple’s start-up business

MONTHS of lockdown led to a Liverpool couple fomenting ideas for their own business that have now created The Fermentation Station.

The venture, by Amy and Sam Yarker, was born from a hobby at home to pass the long periods of inactivity that is now a thriving SME with a growing e-commerce base.

Fermentation has been around for centuries and produces probiotic food and drinks such as coffee, tea, chocolate, sourdough bread, cheese and yoghurt.

Amy and Sam describe it as “ordered chaos on a plate”.

Their specialties include Kombucha, a sweetened black or green tea drink, and Kefir, a milk drink similar to a thin yoghurt, which are proving particularly popular with their expanding customer base.

Having set up tentatively last year, a Christmas surge has emboldened them to take The Fermentation Station to its next stage of growth.

Customers are also keen to learn more about the ancient process, so the couple now run regular workshops, which chime with the growing appetite for healthy foods, such as vegan, dairy and gluten-free fayre.

Initially the early days were a fine balance of a hectic home life and feeling their way on the path to self-employment.

Amy was also a carer to her frail 95-year-old nan, who, sadly, passed in December, leaving a very tangible emotional gap in her life.

But, they have managed to press on and, by exploiting the myriad online commercial opportunities are seeing their business blossom.

Liverpool social enterprise The Women’s Organisation, connected the couple with business support agency Enterprise Hub, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The arrangement has enabled Amy and Sam to overcome the unique situation created by a pandemic and draw on a wealth of expertise, either at the end of a phone, or through virtual events.

Amy said: “I have had a number of different support points from Enterprise Hub through The Women’s Organisation.

“I have had access to a business advisor and also virtually attended a number of support events with them, including social media strategy and business planning, all of which have been helpful in establishing TFS, but I’ve found being able to ask my business advisor any queries particularly helpful.”

Ongoing lockdown restrictions mean operations still run from home, with additional kitchen facilities at a family member’s home where the products are made.

But Amy and Sam are planning for a much busier 2021.

Seasonal production will create a wide variety of healthy lines: “We focus on seasonal ferments which are small-batch and gut-loving. Showcasing the diversity of fermented food and drinks through traditional and sustainable methods.

“The Fermentation Station focuses on seasonal sustainability, which is why our products use only the fruit and vegetables that are within season.”

Their tutorials are also proving increasingly popular: “From fermentation first timers to the most proficient pickler, our workshops blend history and knowledge to educate you in the art of fermentation.

“Educating, inspiring and connecting communities to create positive health outcomes and food waste solutions,” said Amy.

“We want our products to be fun from start to finish. From the love and creativity we put into our ferments to the delicious dishes and drinks our clients make with them.”

She also believes life after lockdown will create new business opportunities, particularly from the growing appetite for more plant-based foods.

Their fledgling online shop and website is still in its infancy but is attracting encouraging levels of customer support, including new stockists across Liverpool, Wirral and Cheshire.

Plans for a subscription service will also help to increase their customer base.

And, once restrictions are eased, the prospect of venue-based sales and markets also enters the equation.

Amy said: “The business is going well. There are many positives to running your own business – the biggest one is being your own boss, having the autonomy to decide the direction of your business and what your values are. 

“I’m proud of us, our determination and our ability to do this in the middle of a pandemic.

“Starting a business is big and scary at any time and being able to reach the level of success we have so far, and given the challenges, I am immensely proud.”