Mrs Mopps' wonderful world of chutney

Somerset County Gazette: RACHEL and Danni with some of their delicious chutneys. PHOTO: Steve Guscott. RACHEL and Danni with some of their delicious chutneys. PHOTO: Steve Guscott.

IT’S never easy to set up your own business – especially during the current tough economic climate – but a pair of entrepreneurs from Carhampton did exactly that 18 months ago.

Rachel Carson and Danielle Dawkins decided to set up their own chutney company, Mrs Mopps.

The pair, who live next door to one another, wanted to do something to ‘help pass the time’.

Both Rachel’s husband and Danielle’s partner work away for weeks at a time and life can get lonely for them.

Rachel, 50, said: “We decided to team up and do something and after milling around with other ideas that didn’t really take off, we thought we’d have a go at making our own chutneys.

“I remember when my husband came back after six weeks of being away he asked what had happened to the dining room.

“He thought it was just another hobby at first but he has been very supportive.”

It is a full time job for both women but one they both love.

Danni, 31, said: “Rachel and myself have been neighbours for about four years and she is a fantastic neighbour, friend and business partner – it seems to work brilliantly.”

Rachel remembers the first time they showcased their products. “It was at the local car boot fair in Carhampton and it was absolutely tipping it down.

“There must have only been around 11 cars but we made a killing that day – we sold over 50 jars and we had such lovely feedback, it felt amazing," she said.

Rachel makes all of the products from her own kitchen while Danni deals with all of the administration, from banking to researching events and labelling.

This is on top of Danni’s parttime cleaning job.

After her morning’s work, she spends afternoons and evenings doing her Mrs Mopps jobs.

“I would eventually like to work on Mrs Mopps full time but I’m quite happy doing both,” Danni added.

It can be difficult for any small company to get going but the duo make sure to attend all the local shows and fairs – and they keep their products as local as possible.

After attending a summer show at Halsway Manor, the manor started stocking their produce.

Stores in Watchet, Carhampton and even Hestercombe House are fans of the Mrs Mopps’ produce, too.

Rachel added: “We grow a lot of our own ingredients, even the apples come from Danni’s orchard.

“I prepare and cook it all myself.

“My dining room is getting smaller and smaller from all of the products but it’s so enjoyable and incredibly worth it.”

And with some of the chutneys on offer, it’s no wonder customers keep going back for more, from traditional offerings of caramelised red onion and sweet chilli and balsamic red onion to quite unusual chutneys.

“I do enjoy making the jams and marmalades but there’s a lot more you can do with a chutney, Rachel added.

“Cooking is all about experimenting and when we’re at the markets and stuff, of course we have to eat, so we’ve found some interesting combinations.

“Our apple and cucumber chutney goes lovely with a bacon sandwich and then there’s a banana and date chutney which is great with cold turkey.”

Each batch of chutney can take several days to make but it is something Rachel loves.

She can remember her mum making chutneys when she was younger for the family and this is something she feels is ‘in her blood’.

She said: “We decided on the name Mrs Mopps because it’s very old fashioned and conjures up an image of home, rustic cooking, which is exactly what our product is.

“Some days I start cooking at 6am and I’m not finished until quite late in the evening, but I enjoy it– it brings back childhood memories for me.”

So where does this leave Mrs Mopps?

When I asked Rachel where she sees the business in another 18 months, she thinks long and hard before giving me an answer.

“I would never want to be a massive business because it loses so much then,” she said.

“I think what makes our products so special is the fact that everything is made in my own kitchen and that we try and source as much as we can locally.

“I don’t know where we’ll be because I didn’t even think we’d be here after 18 months, but it’s amazing.

“I’d like to employ some local residents if possible and keep everything as local and special as possible.”

With a new website on the way, there can only be good things for Mrs Mopps and her chutneys.

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