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Meet Our Suppliers… An International Women’s Day Special

We work with some fantastic businesses here at Uniquely Local and many of those are owned and run by hard working, inspirational women. So, in recognition of International Women’s Day this Sunday (March 8th), we thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about these ladies, the stories behind their businesses and who inspires them.

Yorkshire Heart Vineyard Owner - Gillian Spakouskas

Meet – Gillian Spakouskas

First on our list is Gillian Spakouskas who, with her husband Chris and the rest of the Spakouskas family, runs the award-winning vineyard and brewery ‘Yorkshire Heart’.

We asked all our ladies the same questions, here are Gillian’s answers:

Are you Yorkshire born and bred?

Yes born in Skipton and grew up there till I married then moved to Lancaster for a few years then back to Yorkshire to Nun Monkton, hopefully stay forever here.

What’s the story behind Yorkshire Heart?

Yorkshire Heart started as a hobby to grow and make our own wine which grew into a developing tourism and event business. We are very fortunate that all our family want to be involved with all aspects of the vineyard life.

What do you love most about your business?

Working with the vines throughout the year, being involved in their grape production from fruit setting to making the wine

Where’s your favourite Yorkshire spot?

Anywhere on the coastline!

Which (Yorkshire) women inspire you?

The most inspirational woman is my mother, as she has brought us all up with the philosophy of you can do anything, if you put your mind to it.

Yorkshire Heart sell a range of Vineyard & Brewery Tours through Uniquely Local.

Jackie Barlow from Beacon Alpacas

Meet – Jacki Barlow

Next, we meet Jacki Barlow with her herd of gorgeous alpacas who runs Beacon Alpacas in Husthwaite near York.

Are you Yorkshire born and bred?

I was born in West Yorkshire and so were my parents and all my sisters and nieces.  

What’s the story behind Beacon Alpacas?

When I moved to North Yorkshire 10 years ago to build an alpaca farm and business most people asked me ‘Whats an Alpaca?’ The mixed farm my sisters’ and I grew up on in West Yorkshire was a tenanted farm and after mum and dad died I missed them and our life on the farm hugely. Seven years later my sister started breeding alpacas with her husband Ivan in Aston Abbotts, Buckinghamshire. I enjoyed helping them out with shows and looking after them on my visits and fell in love with alpacas too. I started to dream of getting back to farming and keeping my own alpaca herd in Yorkshire. 12 years ago I succeeded in buying some land and this dream became a reality when eventually started to build the farm on a 20 acre field in North Yorkshire. I named it Suncliffe Beacon after the ancient land mark at the top of the field and when my first alpacas arrived in October 2009 Beacon Alpacas was born.

Those first few years were really hard work and very tough at times, within weeks of moving in, the UK had its worst winter in many years with deep snow and temperatures often below -10 degrees. The alpacas coped really well with their amazing fleece to help; I had almost finished building the barn so at least they were sheltered with lots of hay bought from my new neighbour.

Gaining permission to live on the land was difficult; the business had thrive and be sustainable in order for me to be able to stay here permanently. So one of my ideas for an income was to invite people to come to meet the alpacas and take them for a walk in our stunning landscape. Plus the alpaca boys and I needed some exercise in the summer while we were waiting for the girls to have their cria.

Alpacas are so great I wanted to share their amazing characters with other people so I trained my most confident males to meet people they did not know and got them accustomed to being stroked more. I built up slowly, walking the route we would take for many weeks before we started so they knew where they were going.

Despite the difficult winters and long hours I love living here in Husthwaite with my alpaca family, the summers are wonderful with cria running around and I really feel like Ive come home now loving my farming life in the countryside.

What do you love most about your business?

I love working with the alpacas and all my animals most about my business its my dream come true and living in such a beautiful place I feel very lucky.

Where’s your favourite Yorkshire spot?

My favourite Yorkshire spot home, otherwise Sandsend near Whitby as it go there to relax and I love the Yorkshire coastline.

Which (Yorkshire) women inspire you?

Beryl Burton came from Morley where I was born and worked on farms we knew and was one of the first female competitive cyclists so she inspired me growing up.  More recently Nicola Adams, Jodie Whitaker, Jane Tomlinson, Sally Wainwright, I was invited to the Women of the Year Award in London 2 years ago which was great fun and I met lots of amazing women there including Margaret Emsley Executive producer at ITV’s Calender programme.

Beacon Alpacas sell alpaca walks for couples and families through Uniquely Local.

Marion Martínez from Tours in a Dish

Meet – Marion Martínez

Third up is Marion Martinez who runs ‘Hidden Gems’ food tours and tastings in York with her company Tours in a Dish.

Are you Yorkshire born and bred? 

Local myth has it that those born and bred in York can pass the Minster without experiencing the “wow factor”.  Even though I’ve lived in York for seventeen years and have adopted Yorkshire as my home,  York Minster always catches my breath.  As a matter of fact, York guests on my Hidden Gems Food Tour debunk the myth as they fully appreciate the beauty of their city.

What’s the story behind Tours in a Dish?

The journey towards Tours in a Dish started with a move to Wales at the age of seven. Finding a friend there, whose family were Dutch farmers, kick started my love of languages, cultures and…..FOOD. I learnt how to make Dutch boterkoek and put chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) on my toast as a breakfast norm. My young taste buds were warmed to the chilli heat of Indonesia’s sambal which reached the Welsh farmhouse kitchen via a Dutch version of nasi goreng. In the music filled village hall, the ubiquitous Welsh teas were made up of plate loads of home-baked, buttery Welsh cakes and dark, juicy bara brith. My tongue delighted at the new flavours of food and words and here a passion was born.

Travelling and working in different countries, studying languages and with it, people and their foods became my hobby and profession. On return to the UK, I made my new home in beautiful York and teaching Spanish at university, mostly through the medium of food, became my thing. Guest speakers were invited to talk about the food in Don Quixote, Fairtrade coffee from Peru, the history of Gachas Manchegas to name but a few. Beginners were taught ¿Dónde se come bien por aquí? Where’s a good place to eat around here? as survival kit Spanish. 

And then Tours in a Dish…. created originally by my good friend, Camille, foodie entrepreneur par excellence, who left York for the continent to study more about food in 2018.  I took over – how could I resist? – and Tours in a Dish relaunched with the Hidden Gems Food Tour in 2019. The enthusiasm for the tours never stops growing and they continue to transport people on an adventure of food and history around York today – I am in my salsa, as the Spanish say (literally “I’m in my sauce” or in English terms, “I’m in my element”) . For who can resist the lure of spending dedicated time eating your way through this stunning city? 

What do you love most about your business?

York never ceases to delight me and food never ceases to please me! But the real hidden gems in my business are the people.  Working with the local artisan foodiepreneurs who produce the most deliciously and carefully prepared food for us, is a real privilege.  And my guests.  I get to meet the most wonderful and varied people from all over Yorkshire and the world! From a local sign writer who made two of the Harry Potter shop signs on the Shambles, to doctors from the Far East new to rhubarb, to Tasmanian farmers delighted by York ham. I get to spend time with them, eating, talking, laughing…dream job!

Where’s your favourite Yorkshire spot?

I love a bit of Yorkshire grit and one of my favourite places is scrambling over the grit to Simon’s Seat to be rewarded by spectacular views of Wharfedale. 

Which (Yorkshire) women inspire you?

The woman who has been my lifelong inspiration is my soon to be 109 year old Grandmother. What is even more impressive than her dizzying years, is the way she has lived her life.  For example, when she broke her hip a few years ago the social services wanted to install a stairlift.  Her response was, “…that will be handy getting the compost up to the balcony for my potato tubs.” At 105 she could no longer climb over the gate at the bottom of the garden so she climbed through it!  And at 99 she went to the local doctor’s because she thought it was maybe time to introduce herself.  Creativity, wit, afternoon tea and avoiding doctors seem to be key to her success.  I hope I can learn from her.

Find out more about the Hidden Gems food tour of York from Tours in a Dish.

Meet – Kala King

And our final, fantastic business woman is Kala King who runs chocolate making workshops and Malaysian/Thai cookery courses from her home in Hutton le Hole.

Are you Yorkshire born and bred?

Not born and bred in Yorkshire.  Have lived in North Yorkshire the last 10 years.  Originally from Malaysia

What’s the Story behind Kala King Chocolate?

My passion started in Venezuela whilst we were living there for my husbands’ work in the oil industry. Visited the cocoa plantation and to really understand the process of bean to bar was an amazing experience. Came to live in the UK and did my training in chocolate and french pastry.

What do you love most about your business?

First of all I love working with chocolate and the versatility of the application. I love sharing my knowledge and running chocolate making workshops is a great way of meeting people.  All our chocolates are made in house from the preparation of fresh purees to finally creating the perfect ganache.  We know exactly what goes in our chocolate.

Where’s your favourite Yorkshire spot?

My favourite Yorkshire spot is the North York Moors National Park.  Fresh clean air, safe, no traffic and the ever-changing colours when the season changes.  There’s always something new to be discovered.

Which (Yorkshire) women inspire you?

If you were to ask me this questions few weeks ago, I wouldn’t know what to say.  One person of late really inspired me and that is Susan Briggs who is involved in North York Moors Tourism.  Recently her house was flooded 3 times and she still found the time to write, inspire us and prepare all the blogs.

Kala runs luxury chocolate making workshops and Malaysian/Thai cookery courses with Uniquely Local.

And that concludes our special edition of Meet our Suppliers for International Women’s Day 2020. We’re constantly inspired by the fabulous women we work with who passionately and tirelessly run their excellent businesses and offer their wonderfully, unique experiences.

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