What was the seed that grew into what is now your food business?
I have always had an interest in hospitality and food so, when an opportunity presented for my husband and I to take over a food business I was only delighted to accept and take on the challenge.
Initially started my professional work life as a nurse, while always having a gra/love for cooking and developing recipes. Like many people in Ireland, I grew up on a farm, where we grew and ate our produce; ‘farm to fork’. My mother was a great believer in fresh, home grown products well before it became fashionable. She grew her own fruit and vegetables, had her own hens and cows and always had us as children helping in on the farm and kitchen; cooking and baking.
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome or lesson you have learnt as a female food entrepreneur?
Personally, I have never felt or thought that being a female presented hurdles in business. I do think if you present yourself as a successful businessperson, people will take you seriously and won’t look or judge your gender.
The biggest challenges I faced starting out were in the setting up of the company, employing staff contracts/ holidays etc, defining and setting wages, processing VAT returns and other logistics required in the running of a business.
What advice would you give to aspiring female food entrepreneurs?
Take yourself seriously and present yourself as a food entrepreneur. Men don’t present themselves as ‘men’, so I have never presented myself as a ‘woman’. Maybe because I am of a different generation to younger people, I possibly didn’t and don’t dwell so much on gender balance at the time. Ensure you do research your business, all the way from the start to your end goal. I’ve had two very successful businesses and one that was not a success. That one was more an idea that I liked rather than a practical business but luckily, I had enough experience to have an opt out clause. However, that unsuccessful business to this day provided me with a lot of learning of what not to do and what does not work for me helping me be better in business today.
Every day is a learning experience, you will have some dreadful days and you will wonder what it is all about but that is the nature of being self-employed. Don’t ever make a rash decision, sleep on it, the next day get up early and get fresh air – run/walk/swim/cycle whatever you are happy with and then deal with problems with a clear head.
Another massive important thing to remember is to keep your staff and customers on-side, life is so much easier, business is easier as it provides a happier environment for all.
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?
I didn’t have any specific training as I came from a nursing background into this business and learnings from previous enterprises. But, from my nursing background the one thing that stood to me is my ability to deal with people – empathy and understanding is important even in a restaurant. I found that whether it is a customer or a patient you still have to put on that smile and keep them on-side because their needs are number 1.
If you were interested in engaging with training/further training what areas would be of most interest to you?
I’m not sure what is available now, but when I started (2004) setting up a limited company, doing VAT returns, daily spreadsheets, wages and having some understanding of employment law was challenging at times. Courses in these mundane business tasks would be valuable to every start up entrepreneur.