Former Para wants to share family’s secret recipe
ANTO JONES has travelled the world as a soldier, Thai boxer and communications engineer.
So never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined one day taking a 200 year-old family cream recipe and turning it into one of the most hotly anticipated health products in years.
The Eliawen traditional Welsh salve is being pursued by a number of high street brands, international manufacturers and pharmacy chains.
Ianto is currently weighing up his options while completing a series of tests with the BioComposite Centre at Bangor University, from his bases in Llangefni and on the new Menai Science Park.
Born on Anglesey and schooled at Ysgol Uwchradd Bodedern, the 50 year-old has enjoyed a colourful career, borne of his love of sport.
He was offered a scholarship to an English college as a teenager but was later rejected because as a firstlanguage Welsh speaker his grasp of the language was not deemed strong enough.
“I ended up on a youth training scheme (YTS) doing sport in a local leisure centre and then at college doing different bits and pieces, like science, engineering and cooking,” said Ianto.
“It was the early 1980s and I was lacking a bit of direction, so I decided to join the Army, specifically the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.
“I went down and trained in Aldershot and the next thing I was part of this specialist group going behind enemy lines, in Northern Ireland mainly at that time. We were on the verge of going to the Gulf War and were in a holding area ready to fly out there, but it didn’t happen in the end.”
The mental and physical challenges of military life began to take their toll on Ianto, so he left Paras and took a different path.
“It was always tough going back-and-to to Ireland but it became almost impossible; being from Holyhead I know so many people from Ireland and have so many friends that it was horrible,” he said.
“Re-joining society after that is a struggle. If you’re in the Parachute Regiment it’s one of the hardest groups of all to be in, so getting back to normality took four or five years.
“Trying to find a job with the skills you have is not easy, because there are so few industries they can be transferred to, but I managed to secure a position as a communications engineer in London and that really suited me.”
With his high-level security background, Ianto found himself at the forefront of the newly emerging fibre-optics sector, installing systems in some of the UK’s most prestigious buildings.
“I did jobs at Whitehall and the Cabinet Office, places like that,” he said.
“Because my security clearance was high I was one of the few who could at that time, so my military background did help me there at a time when fibre-optics was beginning to boom.”
He has worked in the sector ever since, intermittently. Taking time out to travel the Far East, including Thailand, where he spent much of his time cooking and sightseeing.
Oh, and keeping himself fit in a rather brutal manner.
“I did quite a bit of Thai boxing out there and really enjoyed it,” said Ianto.
“It’s very hard but the discipline is something I liked, and the competition.”
Returning to the UK, he spent time supporting homeless people at night shelters along the North Wales coast while still working as an engineer, before deciding to do what no other member of the family had done before – taking the Eliawen salve to market.
The formula was first brought to light by his grandmother, who told the recipe to his father and used it to treat burns and other skin ailments among family members and the community.
Ianto was first shown the recipe – which includes the unique healing powers of natural local ingredients – as a child, and decided, when his father passed away 10 years ago, to finally supply it to a wider audience.
“I lost my mum at a very early age so it was my dad that really made me aware of the cream, he is the one I would see working on it at home,” said Ianto.
“I grew up with people a lot older than me – my mum was 47 and my dad 49 when I was born – and there were my grandparents, so I’m a very traditional man who really wants to give something back and believes in nature, and organic materials.
“The essence of Eliawen is something we will never lose. It’s not about money or selling millions of tubs of this cream, though of course I would love to see it become successful.
“For me it’s about finishing what they started, and this salve really does work. We’ve tested it on different ailments and conditions and it has come back as having a positive effect. We want to be 100% ready to go with everything in place this summer.”
Môn Naturals will have a stand at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff in August, where Ianto will take thousands of units of the cream and provide families with fun activities in homage to Anglesey and the story behind his unique product with a King Arthur theme and stories of how it has changed the lives of hundreds of people on the island and beyond.
Over the years, he has garnered a long list of testimonials from customers whose injuries cleared-up within 24 hours of using the cream, which can be applied directly to a burn, a sore and wounds. It solidifies on the surface before regenerating tissue cells; a gauze must then be wrapped gently over so it is given time to heal. Ianto has even written a 20,000 word thesis on the cream’s medicinal merit, to aid patenting requirements and academic investigation.
Last year, his company Môn Naturals was shortlisted for the Wales Start-Up Awards in Cardiff, finishing runner-up in the manufacturing category.
He now has another chance of success at the Wales FSB (Federation Small Businesses) celebrating Small Business Awards for 2018, in the Business & Product Innovation section.
He admits the project is “already bigger” than he anticipated, but is a drop in the ocean in comparison to his overall vision.
“My dream is to create an ecocentre on Anglesey of 100 acres or more,” said Ianto.
“I would like to introduce solar panels, grow organic fruit and vegetables in polytunnels and really give back to the community through health and wellbeing.
“We live in a society where unhealthy fast foods are everywhere, so I’d like to educate people that natural is best. That’s my passion, and hopefully using the Eliawen cream as a springboard I’ll get there one day.”
Ianto Jones, who runs Môn Naturals on Anglesey. Inset: Ianto served as a paratrooper