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Q&A with Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, Founder & CEO of The Black Farmer.



How could you describe your career path in a few words?

 

I describe myself as ‘a poor boy, done good’.  From the backwoods of Jamaica, I was raised in poverty in inner city Birmingham as one of the Windrush generation. One of nine children, my job, as the eldest boy, was to help my father tend the family allotment. It was there that I found the space to breath away from our very crowded two up two down family home, and I would dream of one day owning my own piece of land. That dream was the driving force behind my career. It took me until I was 40 to achieve that goal to buy a small farm on the Devon Cornwall border, the inspiration behind The Black Farmer brand. My journey there has not been straightforward or easy. My career has spanned cheffing; BBC TV producer/ director; founder of a successful marketing and PR company, and now founder and CEO of The Black Farmer and of the Hatchery group of entrepreneurial companies. To this day I remain focused and determined to make the most of my life and, as important, to use my position to inspire and encourage others to succeed.



What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?


I have faced many, many tough challenges in my life and career.  An undiagnosed dyslexic, I left school with no qualifications – but I didn’t let that get in the way of achieving my dream. After an unsuccessful stint in the Parashoot Regiment (I left with a dishonourable discharge) I trained to be a chef and spent some time flipping burgers before deciding I wanted to work as a director for the BBC! Unqualified but ambitious, and through sheer determination I talked my way into getting a short-term contract as a runner for the BBC. I worked relentlessly and went on to become a successful producer/director for the BBC Food & Drink programme and launched the TV careers of the likes of Gordon Ramsay and James Martin. It was a short step to starting my marketing and PR company, and then on to launch The Black Farmer brand. It was here that I met with some of my biggest challenges - trying to sell The Black Farmer sausages to the supermarkets I would put at the top of my list, but I would not be defeated as I had set my mind on The Black Farmer being a major force in bringing about change in the food industry to be more diverse and inclusive. My mantra is to always follow your dream, what you are passionate about, and stay focused. Never get defeated by those who want to knock you down. It has taken a huge amount of courage and conviction – and many battles along with way - but it’s been worth it. My mindset has always been determined, and that hasn’t changed to this day.



Based on your experiences, what skills should an entrepreneur develop in 2023?

 

Resilience, courage, and unwavering belief in the future are the skills I would say are essential for any entrepreneur. Having been in business for many years now, I recognise that we are never without highs and lows, and we need to navigate these times as best we can. Hand on heart, I don’t think I have experienced anything quite like our current economic situation. Trying to run a business and manage its cashflow in such a price volatile time is nail-bitingly hard. Requesting price increases from retailers is tricky at the best of times, but when you’re having to make these requests every few weeks the pressure is relentless. The business climate is very tough at the moment and likely will be for some time. But it will change, and you need to be prepared for that. If Covid taught us anything, it’s that life as we know it can change overnight. And change brings with it opportunity. Seize it.



Based on your recent experiences, if you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur's success in the context of 2023, what would it be?

 

Without doubt technology has transformed much of our lives for the better, and I am an early adopter of any new piece of kit or system – be that Teams or AI - that will make my life and that of the company easier and more efficient. However, what is at risk of being forgotten is the power of human connection. The one piece of advice I have for any entrepreneur – and everyone in my own company – is build personal relationships with your customers – earn their loyalty. We're in an age of increasing digitisation and automation, but the power of genuine human connection should never be underestimated.


Outstanding customer service should be at the top of the list for any company. It's not just about networking but forming bonds that can withstand the ebbs and flows of the entrepreneurial journey. I insist that in my company people pick up the phone and talk to our customers – they are the ones paying our wages, and we love them and we want them to know that. 

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