How time away from rugby set me on the path to a biltong business

guest post from Rupert Freestone

When I finished school, I thought like every other school boy rugby player who’s had a taste of success at international level, that I was destined for the Premiership.

‘I’ll just train hard and the rest will fall in to place’.

I decided to skip university and focus on full time rugby in the RFU Championship with Plymouth Albion. It took a while but I broke into the first team and had a good couple of years as a young hooker in a decent league. Then I fell off my bike in Bristol one Saturday afternoon. It put a stop to that.

A forced 18 month hiatus was a harsh reality check. The odds were against me recovering and getting back to playing decent rugby so I needed to look at other options. I’d always been passionate about health and fitness, or at least lifting weights. I took that on and became a personal trainer. Before long, I’d developed a good base of clients and was enjoying myself. Maybe professional rugby wasn’t for me after all?

When I had the second operation to reconstruct my shoulder after my bike accident, I was told that in 3-4 months time I’d be good to go again. I reignited my dreams of playing professionally and knew that I wanted to give it another go.

I managed to get a trial at Bristol when Andy Robinson had just taken over and once again I had real belief I could make it, the opportunity to play for a top Championship team with realistic Premiership aspirations too good to decline. I thought I was on to something good. 9 months later with a mere handful of appearances against subpar opposition, the bubble burst again. I was released.

What do I do now? Back to PT I guess!

Only this time I wanted more. I enrolled on a business degree at UWE Bristol and signed again for Plymouth Albion. I had 3 great years at Albion playing week in week out, playing the best rugby of my career while juggling PT clients and my studies.

At the start of my second year, I decided to set up a small biltong company with my best mate Fred. He worked at our local butchers and knew the product really well. We did some research into the opportunity and thought we’d give it a crack. Turns out, we had a bit of a knack for it and the biltong we were making in the shed was next level delicious. The business grew a bit, supplying a couple of small retailers and various hungry rugby boys.

When I finished my degree and came to the end of my third season back at Albion, I was approached by Richmond who were in the Championship at the time. I was lured to the big smoke by the prospect of a high flying city career and a good level of rugby. The rugby was good, although we got slapped most weeks, and the high flying city career I landed in the end was actually just a job in sales for an eyewear company. It had some perks and I earned some decent coin, but it wasn’t exactly enriching. I felt like I’d conquered the world of sales after hitting my targets all six quarters I was there.

When doing everything I was supposed to do at work didn’t make me feel fulfilled, I felt that that gig wasn’t really for me.

I am a Cornish boy at heart, I love a pasty and I love the beach. I’ve always been a keen surfer growing up and spending time back in the county showed me what I’d been missing. I convinced my girlfriend to take the plunge and we moved back to Cornwall, bought a house and I started to focus on the biltong full time.

We now have an awesome brand, an awesome product, and a small but awesome team. We are hoping to hit supermarkets in 2021, and our e-commerce business has increased tenfold. I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but I’m enjoying the process a lot.


You can get a taste of The Cornish Biltong Co. by following the link! The beef comes from Cornish cows and is hand sliced and packaged in the county.

Instagram: @thecornishbiltongco


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