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CG newsflash! Founder awarded MBE

We’re thrilled to share the news that our Co-founder and Co-Director Shann Jones has been awarded an MBE for Innovation and Charity in the King’s New Year Honours List for innovation and charity.

You can read the Cambrian News article here, and listen to Shann on BBC Radio Wales here.

Here is Shann’s story’s real-life, rags-to-riches romance, in her own words:

Rich and I met and fell in love late in life – I was 41 and he was 45. At the time I was travelling internationally for my work as a communication coach, and Rich was making harps. Our goal in starting the business was really just a vague hope that if we could get the family farm producing a tiny bit of income, we might both be able to quit our day jobs and spend more time together.

We had acquired our first goat the year before, when my little boy Benji was suffering with eczema and recurrent bronchitis. The goats milk worked a treat to clear his ailments, but we soon found that we had too much goats milk in the fridge! It kept going off and we had to chuck it, which seemed wasteful and made me feel guilty. I started looking for things to do with the excess goats milk (other than cheese, which I thought was a bit boring…)

One day on the radio I heard a Russian doctor – Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride – talking about something called kefir, which could be made with goats milk and real kefir grains. I thought, “Hmm… this might be a way for us to use up our excess milk, as well as produce a bit of income for the farm!” so I contacted Dr Campbell-McBride and asked her to teach me how to make therapeutic-grade kefir in the traditional Russian style.

Dr Natasha, as she is known by her grateful patients, generously taught me the principles of real kefir making: Keep it simple, keep it pure, use live kefir grains, never use sugar or sweeteners. I bought my first tablespoon of kefir grains online and made my first batch of kefir in the farmhouse kitchen. Today, under the immaculate care of Head of Dairy Iestyn Crompton, those very grains have grown into the largest and most powerful living kefir grain bank in the UK!

In 2012 Rich’s colitis worsened and he went into hospital for a series of operations. He came out without his colon, but with a frightening superbug infection called MRSA drilling red holes all the way down his ten-inch surgical wound.

When the doctor told us there was nothing he could do to help Rich, I desperately started doing my own research. I came up with a combination of essential oils (the combination we now call CG Oil) that I hoped might, together with the kefir, knock the infection back. I theorised that the combination of the oil plus the kefir might somehow control the infection that antibiotics could not contain.

Although it seemed crazy, I felt that I had to try something. I hadn’t come this far, and waited this long to meet the love of my life, only to sit back and watch him die on my sofa. That was not, I determined, how my late-in-life love story ended.

So I washed Rich down with alternating rinses of kefir and CG oil, three times a day. By this time he was in bed, fading in and out of consciousness. When he asked me confusedly what I was doing, I told him firmly not to worry, that I had it all under control (which was a complete and utter fib!).

On the fifth day of this treatment, the nurse checked the depth of the infection holes, and reported that they looked a bit shallower. The next day, they were shallower again. The MRSA actually seemed to be drying up!

Two days later, the wound began to heal properly. Rich got up out of bed and got back onto his beloved Ford tractor – and chances are if you come and visit the farm, that’s where you’ll find him today.

So – my own private miracle. My Rich, still alive, and completely free of MRSA.

This taught me two things:

  1. That I’m the luckiest girl on the face of the planet and
  2. Kefir works as well on the skin as it does inside the gut.

With the knowledge under my belt, it seemed obvious to me that I needed to learn how to put the kefir into soaps and lotions. I pinched the last bit of our household money and took the train up to Soap School in Yorkshire where the lovely teachers there helped me combine our kefir into skincare. Chuckling Goat was born.

We were completely broke at the time; Rich’s extended illness and my absence from work had absorbed all of our savings. I’ve still got our cash book from that first year, 2013 – after buying goat feed and soap-making supplies, we made a loss of £1,267 in the first month! Rich had to sell his motorcycle so that we could buy bottles to package the kefir, and my parents generously sent us a bit of money from California every month to keep us afloat.

Once a week, Rich and I loaded a few pints of kefir and some bars of our handmade soap into the car and drove to the local health food store, where we sold our products for cash. We would then take the cash straight over to the local farmers market, where we bought bags of potatoes and pony carrots (never the good carrots, they were too expensive!) We used the veg, along with our own lamb, to make massive pots of Welsh cawl, and that’s what we fed the entire family.

One day, feeling reckless, I wrote three letters: one to Fortnum & Mason, one to Harrods and one to Selferidge’s, asking them if they wanted to stock our handmade probiotic skincare. Crazily, Fortnum and Masons responded that they did!

Excited, I wrote and self-published a little book called Secrets from Chuckling Goat, (2015) to sit on the shelf next to our goats milk soap and lotion in Fortnum and Masons, so that customers could see pictures of our goats. In a wild stroke of luck, the book was then picked up and re-published by Hay House, and to my surprise, it became an Amazon bestseller.

Natural product guru Janey Lee Grace invited me onto the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio Two, where she was a co-presenter, to talk about the book. The result was an astonishing wave of publicity that blew us out of the water, creating an overnight sensation and an eight-week waiting list. We were on our way.

Over the next four years, Chuckling Goat experienced an eye-watering 6000% growth. Rich designed and built a lovely sustainable little factory for us, tucked into the side of a hill and roofed with solar panels. We used our first profits from the business to build houses in our fields for our two eldest daughters, who were both married and starting families of their own.

Meanwhile, I was falling ever more in love with the science behind gut health. I could see that our probiotic solution, which all stemmed from the kefir that we made in our little stone barn, was creating powerful results for the clients who came knocking on our farmhouse door asking for help. What I didn’t understand was why it worked so well, not only for skin conditions but for anxiety, depression and IBS as well.

So I went looking for the answers in the world of scientific research – and I found them! This exciting exploration resulted in two more books: The Good Skin Solution (2017) and The Kefir Solution (2018), both of which also became Amazon best sellers.

As the business expanded, more and more members of our family came to work with us. Soon Ceris Colven, (Customer Relations Director) Elly Armstrong (Creative Director), Josh Armstrong (Operations Director) and Josh’s brother Matthew Sewell (Financial Strategist) had joined our team as well. We found that the more family we had around us, the happier and more successful we became!

In 2020 my father passed away in California and my mother, Ann Nix, came to live with us on the farm. Inspired by Mum’s love for natural solutions, we launched CG’s sister company, Ana’s Farmacy, which now makes antimicrobial vinegar (Ana is what the great-grandchildren call Mum).

In order to sharpen our scientific focus even further, we began selling a microbiome test that people could use at home. This was great – now I had an evidence-based starting point to help clients, which made everything so much easier.

I loved the idea of the test but thought we could improve on the version we were selling. So in 2021 we gathered all our courage, re-invested most of our profits and began work on our own Chuckling Goat microbiome test, with the help of Nexer Digital and Cambridge Genomics at University of Cambridge.

Two and a half long, gruelling years later (so many times along the way, I thought we would never make it across the finish line!) we finally launched our own microbiome test in December 2023. What a proud, happy day that was!

Strangely, at exactly the same time, I received a letter from the Cabinet Office, notifying us that I had been nominated for an MBE on the King’s New Years Honours List 2024. We were so shocked that Rich and I thought it was a scam – we kept looking for the place where they asked for money!

As it turns out, my nomination had been made by a lovely lady who appreciated the help I had given her with her eczema, and seconded by two other clients whom I was also fortunate enough to be able to aid with various health issues. My kind nominator worked secretly and with great fortitude, for many years, to get the nomination successfully through to the end.

I was – and am – so very touched, moved and humbled by the huge amount of work and effort that these people undertook on my behalf, over the course of several years. I had no idea. And I am proud beyond words, to finally be made an accepted Member of the place where I have always hoped to belong.

Today I feel like the lucky rugby player who happens to be the one that gets the ball across the try line. I wouldn’t be anywhere without the rest of the team. Rich and I have taken every step of this journey together. My family means everything to me, and everything I’ve done, everything I’ve accomplished, has been for them and because of them. This MBE – a marvellous happy ending to our story – is a proper group victory.

On the night the King’s New Years Honours 2024 list was announced, we threw a Tex-Mex dress-up party for the family. I told the grandkids that if a girl from Texas could become an MBE, they could truly become anything they chose! Our granddaughter Isabella made me a medal that says “Gugu MBE” (Gugu is what the grandkids call me…).

And I hope you’ll understand when I say that this paper medal, tied on a bit of string, is truly the most precious award I will ever receive.


To read more from Shann, check out her Gut Health Express posts here!

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Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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