What was the seed that grew into what is now your food business?
I started getting into moulding chocolate when I was very young, thanks to a woman at a local farmer’s market. This led me to take a course when I was 12, start my ‘business’ and I spend that Christmas making spreadsheets and price lists for my new product. Later I studied Globalization and Social Entrepreneurship and applied all that to my business to grow and develop.
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome or lesson you have learnt as a female food entrepreneur?
I think the biggest lesson has been the ability to listen to and trust my own inner voice, not to be intimidated by those who want to tell you what the direction of my business should be.
I have had to pull away a bit from some of the business networking and mentoring offered as I know some of those events and interactions can leave me questioning my path and choices for my business. Another massive learning was to trademark my name, I thought that registering with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) was as good as trademarking, unfortunately not, and I learned the hard way! It’s expensive at first but a trademarked name lasts 10 years.
What advice would you give to aspiring female food entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to look hard at your costs, getting a solid sense of what your complete product will cost. This will of course be higher if it’s ethical/ eco-wrapped/ environmentally responsible, but it will give you the right idea about what you need to charge. Also don’t forget you need to include ingredients, packaging, electricity, labour (as if you are paying staff!), rent, insurance etc.
Set up a spreadsheet and update it when things change. Don’t be afraid to charge for your time and product! Packaging really does matter I’m afraid, I have a very strong dislike to marketing in general, but you do need to spend some money to make sure your packaging reflects the contents.
Also – in the same tone, don’t be afraid of the Health Service Executive (HSE), they are there to help. I have found them very helpful, friendly and they are usually only doing their job – get advice before you set out rather than have to redo things after you are all set up. They will usually look over your packaging and advise on anything you need to add or change.
If there had been (female entrepreneurial) training available to you before you set up your business would you have engaged with it? Did you do any training?
In the same tone as before I would be deliberate about doing any training, there are a lot of ‘free training’ available around small food businesses, and some of it might be just what you need but much of it might be time not well spent for you. I did do training, but a lot of it was a waste of my time. I think the best training I did was in life experience and creating relationships & talking to other food producers. The training I really needed and wanted I couldn’t find.
If you were interested in engaging with training/further training what areas would be of most interest to you?
I would have liked training on accounting and bookkeeping for small business. I would have also liked specific shelf-life training and training on filing taxes as a sole trader and registering/filing VAT.