Our Tenant Case Study: Mike's Fancy Cheese
Mike’s Fancy Cheese has been at Ards Business Hub since the company was first started by Michael Thomson a decade ago.
When Belfast man Michael Thomson first got the idea of making his own cheese, he knew that Newtownards was the perfect location. To make great cheese, you need the best milk, so after getting plenty of advice from the team at Clandeboye Estate Yogurt – who were also based at Ards Business Hub for many years – Mike found two nearby dairy farmers to supply his new business.
He went to England to study cheese-making in 2012 and then ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to get the business off the ground. He moved into a unit at the Hub’s Strangford Park to start making Young Buck, his signature blue cheese, made to a recipe that started from a book called Practical Cheesemaking that was published in 1917.
The cheese was a massive success and he and his team – three full time and one part time – now make enough cheese to sell to suppliers throughout Northern Ireland, Ireland, the UK and Europe as well as selling direct to customers in a shop in Belfast and online, mainly by subscription. The shop and the online business also carry an extensive range of Irish cheeses.
“When I started the business, I had a good idea that the cheese would be a success. There was no one else in Northern Ireland producing a cheese like it. And no cheeseboard is complete without a blue. At the very start we sold the cheese at pop up events and festivals but now about 70 per cent is sold wholesale,” he said.
What they say about Ards Business Hub:
For Mike the location was key to his choice to move to Ards. The positive recommendation by long-term tenant Clandeboye Yogurt – which has only recently moved to its own premises – helped cement the decision. Mike’s Fancy Cheese has now taken on a second unit in the park as it plans for growth – either increasing its production or trialling a brand-new cheese.
Mike said: “We absolutely love it here and I honestly don’t think we could have done it anywhere else. Not only are we close to our suppliers but the units are perfect the needs of a food production business. We make cheese three or four days a week, and this is such a nice, relaxed atmosphere in which to work.”
What we say:
Ards Business Hub Chief Executive, Nichola Lockhart said: “Mike’s Fancy Cheese has become one of Northern Ireland’s food heroes. Mike had such conviction in his product and he and his team work hard to continually develop the business. We are delighted that they chose to start their story here at Ards Business Hub.”