Steven Wade.



What is your business called?

Woodmill Game.

Where is it based?

Lindores, Fife.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

Woodmill Game sources and prepares top quality Wild Game to sell at markets, shows and online across Scotland and the UK. We take enormous pride in combining the traditions of game with exciting and innovative foodie ideas and are committed to getting more and more people to discover and enjoy this amazing wild food.

To whom does it sell?

Households, restaurants, shops, hotels and event organisers.

What is its turnover?

Over £100,000 projected in 2020.

We have had a whirlwind few weeks with the coronavirus lockdown affecting so many people. The cancellation of all events and festivals across the UK instantly affected our production of game burgers for my son, Guy’s, Screaming Peacock Events business. With the summer season fast approaching and extra staff in place to service a full calendar of events across Scotland we had to take the decision to furlough. We have three full time employees and asked them to join us in a discussion but found that they had already expected this and came forward with their own plan. Each would take a two month furlough rotating with one staying employed to complete a reduced workload.

However, we started to notice an increase in on-line orders as the general public could not or chose not to go out to the shops as often as normal. Over the first ten weeks of lockdown we increased our volume of sales by 100 per cent. The majority of these new orders were from the older generation, many struggling to get out and about. With more time on our hands, the interest in on-line shopping has increased overall.

When was it formed?

Woodmill Game evolved over three decades.

In 1986 I bought a pheasant plucking machine, mounted it on a trailer and drove around Scottish estates processing their birds at the end of the shoot day and called it The Game Cart.

In 2003, I started Woodmill Shootings, a deer stalking business that gives people from around the world a Scottish hunting experience in the highlands and lowlands of Tayside.

After graduating with a first in Business Management, my son Guy arrived home and headed up the merging of the businesses into a clean, fresh rebrand – Woodmill Game Ltd.

We immediately set about joining as many producer markets as possible, launching the online shop with a 24 hour delivery service, and investing in the equipment needed to take things to the next level.

Why did you take the plunge?

Over the years, we watched helplessly as the wholesale price of wild venison progressively fell whilst farmed venison rose. Dropping to a low of £1.50 per kilo, we found it simply uncomfortable to be giving away such a valuable food source for so little – and decided to do our own thing.

Another reason was our awareness of the building momentum behind the sustainable meat movement. With our unrivalled access to Scotland’s wild venison through our deer stalking arm of the business, we recognized the opportunity to brand our own and market it.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

A thriving deer stalking holiday business with all deer carcasses sold wholesale to game dealers.

A busy but seasonal game bird processing operation with all birds returned to individual customers. The Game Cart was more of a processor with no real marketing or branding behind it.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

All in house plus bank borrowing facilities.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Family discussions, usually at meal times, about new ideas, flavours, products and routes to market.

What do you least enjoy?

Servicing an overdraught.

What is your biggest bugbear?

Slow payers.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We hope to become the go-to producer for all Wild Scottish game products. We want to continue to develop new flavours and ideas centred around Wild Game and share our passion for its versatility and deliciousness. We may also start to look at an educational arm to the business, allowing us to share the knowledge that we have with other groups, businesses and schools. This will educate those that have an interest in wild and sustainable food, and talk to those who aren’t aware of its benefits.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Take an interest in rural business from a rural perspective; champion and prioritise British Food (food from Britain); come and talk to rural businesses about keeping jobs in rural areas.

In terms of the response to the impact of the coronavirus, initial government funding via local councils was swift at the beginning, gratefully received and helpful.

Recently I applied for (The Scottish Government’s) Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund but was not successful. I thought I ticked all the boxes as we also have a holiday business which entertains sportsmen from all over the world and have recently finished a luxury steading conversion to cater for increased demand. Being a seasonal business, May is one of my busiest months of the year so all income was lost with sporting enquiries for the rest of the year faltering due to uncertainty. However, due to the vagueness of the grant application form it was difficult to decipher exactly what was required. I used the online enquiry facility to help with questions and was told I had less than 24 hours to complete it as a first come first served basis would be applied. The fund had only opened two days before but the uptake was very strong. I came away realising that the process required a bid writer, which would have involved more expense, but was unsure how one could achieve that within 48 hours.

If the government truly want to help small businesses to survive via grant funding they have to make the application process simple but above all precise and unambiguous.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Cut-off times, schedules, forms and good software make life a whole lot easier!

How do you relax?

Mowing the lawn followed by a glass of good Burgundy.