EMMA BREMNER is no stranger to marketing strategies and balance sheets. As a business analyst in retail and distribution it was her job to advise companies on how to maximise their performance and profits.
But after giving birth to her daughter Amy, she realised she wanted to use her skills to develop something she loved that she could do at home. That’s how the Rainbow Egg Company, a specialist hen breeder and egg producer with egg colour as its focus, came about.
She set up the firm with her husband Andrew as co-director in 2010. The next year the family moved to an old battery farm in Oxenhope, near Bradford. Since then they have been cross-breeding colourful egg layers to get the best shell colour.
Emma says: “I’ve always loved colourful birds and been obsessed with putting colours in order, but when we first got chickens as pets the obsession moved over to egg colour too.
“The company actually started when I couldn’t return to my old profession after having my daughter. I was finding it almost impossible to find a job that would allow flexibility of hours yet earn enough to cover the cost of childcare. I used the money received from the employment severance to purchase a lot of the assets required to start up. It was a big risk but so far so good.”
The Rainbow Egg Co is licenced as a producer and a packing site, selling free range eating eggs to retail and trade customers and direct to the public. But most profitable is the sale of hatching eggs, which Emma sends mail order to customers in the UK and abroad. Currently there is high demand from France, Germany, Spain and Portugal.
Emma wraps the eggs in tissue and packs them in polystyrene containers for shipping. “We do what we can to minimise breakages but as soon as we hand them over it’s out of our control. It’s very profitable compared to eating eggs. We can make £1.50 on six eating eggs compared to £1 an egg for hatching eggs.”
The company also sends hatching equipment and eggs into schools and nurseries, companies, domestic customers, allotment holders and farms. “We’ve supplied eggs for aesthetic display too, to poultry clubs, decorators, crafters and professional photographers.”
Customers include the Poultry Club of Great Britain, food magazines and a ‘poultry wall’ structure used to demonstrate breeds and egg colours for trade stands at BBC Gardeners World and the National Pet Show Live. Rainbow Egg Company chicks have even hatched live on the Jet2 website, as part of an Easter marketing campaign.
“We also supply point of lay hens, hatch to order for specific egg colours and supply a ‘hennels’ service where we look after people’s poultry whilst they go on holiday.”
When breeding hens, Emma’s focus is egg colour: “In some respects, unless we’re specifically breeding a pure breed, for which there are breed standards, then the physical breed of the producing hen is not as important. We focus on what colour egg is produced, although we do have heritage breeds on the rare breed list which we deliberately keep as pure breed.”
Emma believes she’s found her dream job. “I love it and it’s been amazing watching other small businesses who buy our eggs grow their businesses.”