Helen Colley is an award-winning entrepreneur with over 20 years experience in Britain’s food business. Having founded what became one of the largest outside catering companies in the North West straight from school, she went on to build the hugely successful Farmhouse Fare brand, maker of premium hot puddings and chilled desserts. Despite huge challenges, her products were eventually stocked by almost every major supermarket in the country and in 2006, after just four years, Helen sold the business, in a multi-million pound deal. Helen Colley’s story is a truly inspiring blend of drive, determination. She is an outstanding speaker on all aspects of enterprise and food production, with an extraordinary story to tell.
"I just wanted to also say a huge thank you both and to Ian for the last two days, the event yesterday was exceptional and I have brought so much back with me to start work on, I have ordered the One Minute Manager for a quick read over the weekend, but talking to Helen yesterday was a real revelation, perhaps more so for me than everyone else as it resonated so closely to my own "journey" and I am sure that everything she said will be of great use."
Maria Whitehead MBE
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Helen Colley set up her own outside catering company in 1984 from her parents’ farm in Gisburn, Lancashire, quickly building it into one of the biggest players in the business across the North West. However the foot and mouth crisis of 2002 introduced business-damaging travel restrictions and threatened to destroy everything she had worked for. She was determined not to lose her business or make the sizable workforce that depended upon her, redundant. With a killer recipe for sticky toffee pudding up her sleeve, she diversified into desserts. The fledgling idea grew into a thriving business, ranging across the cake and dessert sector; products which ended up on the shelves of supermarkets the length and breadth of the country, with many of them becoming category leaders. If you’ve ever eaten a dessert bought from a UK supermarket the vast likelihood is that Helen Colley had a hand in it. Today Farmhouse Fare employs over 120 staff at a 85,000 sq ft custom-built, BRC A Grade-accredited site in Clitheroe, Lancashire. Unsurprisingly her gung-ho, no-nonsense style, quickly made her a darling of the business world and caught the attention of the media. With that came numerous awards.
Her titles include:
• Credit Suisse Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Orange National Business Awards
• Entrepreneur of the Year at the Chamber Awards
• The Building Business Award at Insider magazine’s 42 Under Forty Two
• Lancashire Young Director of the Year at the Institute of Directors North West Director of the Year Awards.
• Business Award at the Inspiring Women Awards
• Lancashire Evening Telegraph Business Person of the Year
She also won Personality of the Year at the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards in 2007, where she was up against some of the biggest and most established names in the food and drink industry, including Jonathan Warburton, Chairman of Warburtons and David Woodward, President of Heinz UK and Ireland.
Farmhouse Fare was also recognized for its outstanding success by winning:
• Company of the Year at the Food Processing Awards
• Most Outstanding Contribution to the Northwest Region at the North West Development Agency Awards
• Best Dessert category at The Grocer Own Label Awards
• AXA Small to Medium Sized Business of the Year – Orange National Business Awards – beating the likes of Friends Reunited.
• NWCA Business of the Year 2005
• Bakery Supplier of the Year at the British Baker Awards
• Outstanding Small Business of the Year at the IGD Awards
In 2006, after just four years of trading, Helen sold the business to Daniels Chilled Foods in a multi-million pound deal. While remaining a brand ambassador for Farmhouse Fare, Helen has since established herself as a leading consultant to the food industry, with a killer instinct for emerging trends, and a razor sharp insight into the dark arts of marketing, branding and retail display. As a result she is in constant demand. She has been a key player in the cake and dessert offering at high street chains like Costa Coffee and Nando’s, and sits on the boards of a variety of food companies. Helen has been a Director on the North West Fine Foods Board, Chair of the Lancashire Food & Drink Forum, President of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and has sat on the Board of Lancashire’s Community Foundation.