The Women’s Enterprise Ambassador’s project is one of the actions from the Scottish Framework and Action Plan for Women’s Enterprise launched in March 2014. The projects feature stories of the most successful female entrepreneurs in Scotland, and seeks to inspire, motivate, engage and connect with women-led start-up and growth businesses.
No Dutch courage necessary for charcuterie artisan Anja
Six kids, a major house renovation and a multi award-winning charcuterie business? Awe-inspiring artisan Anja Baak really is something special.
And if the numerous accolades and awards picked up by this Inverness-shire based limited company, Great Glen Game (GGG), are anything to go by, so is the quality of its very own brand of fine food – wild venison charcuterie.
But the road to GGG’s Roy Bridge business base in the heart of the Highlands came via the Netherlands and a koi carp fish farm for Anja.
When her husband Jan Jacob was offered a job as an estate manager in the Highlands back in 2000, it seemed like too good a chance to miss. The risks were small, the fish farm was sold, and the time was right for this adventurous couple and their three small children to up-sticks from Holland for a whole new life in Scotland.
The couple loved cooking, and Jan Jacob’s new job provided ample access to wild venison, creating new culinary challenges for domestic cooking and curing.
Back in 2003, business began simply as a sideline for Jan Jacob, while Anja had her hands full with their own baby boom, as three other bairns came along to join the growing gang.
But business is in Anja’a blood – her father runs a car dealership with two of her brothers, and she has two sisters in business for themselves. Even as a child she was always making and selling things, and when her own children were small she had her own sideline, making and selling deerskin bootees.
So it was inevitable that Anja, plus her background in teaching, would bring her skills to the business, and in 2010 she started to get more involved in the sales and marketing side of Great Glen Game.
Marketing the company from a remote Highlands base hasn’t always been easy, and there were a few really difficult years, especially when the economic crash meant customers were less willing to spend. But quality will out, and Anja quickly embraced social media to promote and market their fabulous products to foodies everywhere. After all, what’s not to love about cold smoked wild venison, or chorizo and salami with green pepper, chilli, mustard seeds and white pepper?
Consumers and critics certainly concur. With 4 gold stars from the Great Taste Awards for their mouthwatering cured meat products, a listing in the Top 50 Foods in the UK, to being stocked in specialist delis, farm shops and Fortnum and Mason, Great Glen Game’s fine Scottish charcuterie is well worth shouting about.
Customer and client satisfaction plays a big part in Anja’s outlook, as does a rock solid belief in her marvellous meats. She’s proud to be part of Scotland’s fine food industry, and its enviable reputation for high quality produce, grown and reared right here.
With ongoing and much valued help from Highlands and Island Enterprise, and new export horizons opening up, Anja feels just fine about the future. And the company looks set to grow. With two staff already, and the search on for bigger premises, expansion is firmly on Anja’s agenda. Just not too fast, and not too quickly.
Great Glen Game is a top end, high quality specialist Scottish company and Anja wants to stay in touch with all parts of the process – all the way from deer to delivery.
“One of the best things about running your own business is that you’re always in charge. With Great Glen Game I have been able to stay in touch with the whole process of producing our award winning wild venison charcuterie, right from deer to delivery.”
“With modern technology and social media I have been able to be connected to a thriving fine food community. When it comes to getting the balance right, it isn’t always easy, but I have been able to find a fit for raising my six children and running the charcuterie business.”
“I hope my example will show other women that in business it’s possible to be part of a larger community, and combine business and family life, even in the heart of the Highlands.”
Follow Anja @greatglengame