A Scottish mother of two young children has won an order from Harrods for her cheese-making kits, which have attracted a global following.
The upmarket retailer's initial order for 100 of Ailsa Proverbs's Big Cheese Making Kits caps a highly successful launch for a product she believes can allow anyone to make their own cheese using a simple process.
The 35-year-old Ms Proverbs has sold around 3,000 of the kits in the six months since launching the product, after winning orders from as far afield as Australia and Russia. A lifelong lover of cheese, Ms Proverbs was inspired to investigate the practicalities of making her own while watching chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make yoghurt on television.
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"It looked simple and I wondered how easy it would be to make cheese," said Ms Proverbs.
After trawling the internet for tips she came up with a recipe for a soft cheese that won good reviews from friends. By avoiding varieties such as Cheddar, which require maturing, she found the cheese could be produced relatively quickly using only a few ingredients besides milk, including rennet and citric acid.
"When I first considered making my own cheese I thought it would be a lengthy process involving lots of fancy kit! I was surprised to find I could make my own... in less than an hour. I wondered why more people weren't doing it," said Ms Proverbs.
After canvassing her friends about the idea of launching a make-your-own cheese kit, Ms Proverbs spent a year developing the product using components she sourced on the net.
An experienced marketing professional, Ms Proverbs tested the idea in 20-strong focus groups in Scotland while pregnant with her second child Fia. "When 20 came back and said they would buy it I thought that's good enough for me," she said.
On September 9 last year, Ms Proverbs launched a kit that she produced in her home in Tranent, East Lothian, which she sold on the internet.
The first order came soon after from a customer in south East England.
By Christmas the kit was generating so much interest that Ms Proverbs was struggling to meet demand.
"It has been pretty stratospheric" said Ms Proverbs, who is now operating from the Business Gateway Innovation Zone at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.
She added: "It was very hard work. I had to recruit some friends to help with packing the boxes... I was working until midnight every night, I didn't take a day off for three months."
While the business has placed demands on her time, Ms Proverbs said it has not been difficult to combine it with being a mum to Fia aged one and three-year-old Duncan.
"It's been really great. I can be flexible and set my own hours," said Ms Proverbs, who paid tribute to her understanding husband, Sean.
Production is now outsourced to Haven Products, a social enterprise in Inverness.
Ms Proverbs's Big Cheese Making Kits include citric acid, vegetarian rennet, sea salt, butter muslin, a dairy thermometer and recipes.
The range of Kits include Mozzarella & Ricotta, Goat's Cheese and a Kids Kit. They are priced at around £20.