JANET’S COUNTRY FAYRE LTD
‘Janet’s Country Fayre’ is an Irish artisan producer of chutneys and relishes, pasta sauces, pizza sauces and recently developed Piccolo pizzas. Janet is the lady behind this artisan food business and her products are award winning, produced in Co. Wicklow. Her core ethos is to develop pure taste and additive free goodness to the consumer.
What was the seed and idea that developed into what is now your food business?
Realistically and in true honesty it came to fruition after I had been laid off from a decorating business that folded in the mid 1990’s. I had always had a huge interest in food and
particularly preserving so, when the opportunity to set up a tiny production kitchen in the grounds of Ballinlough Castle in Co. Westmeath (Ireland) came about I took it. During this time in Ireland very little was known or understood by consumers about the description of artisan Irish foods. John McKenna a food critic with the Irish Times newspaper and his wife Sally are both authors of the famous Bridgestone Irish Food guide were a great support. They were both passionate about supporting and developing Irish local produce, food heritage and encouraged people starting in artisan food making, farmers markets and sustainable food businesses. In the Irish food sector females Myrtle Allen, the “renowned matriarch of Modern Irish cuisine,” and Darina Allen at the time were forging ahead at Ballymaloe country house and cookery school while Darina also launched her first cookery TV series. During the 1990’s this provided me with direction, inspiration and empowerment in my direction for my food business.
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome or lesson you have learnt as a female food entrepreneur?
As a female food entrepreneur, I have never been any different to a man in business. I was fortunate to have very inspirational parents who supported me. My father had the courage to go out on his own in business in the height of Ireland’s worst recession in the 1980’s. Had he not sadly died very unexpectedly; I might have spent my business life working at ‘The Packaging Centre’ which now supplies me with all my glass jars for my produce.
My mother was fantastic at helping me in the early days. Still to this day I have never tasted Lemon Curd such as she used to make! And, no better woman for taking notes of every crab apple tree in our part of Westmeath to make her signature crab apple jelly (I still have that old Filofax/ notebook).
It’s very important to learn and understand the business sector you are working in. For me originally supplying the independent retail sector and to moving into the area of supplying the multiple sector was a huge learning curve. Margins /planograms /rate of sale /category management /Unique Selling Points (USPs) / branding etc. All were and seemed daunting until, I learnt why they were important for me and my business. And most importantly that; ‘Sales are vanity and Profit is sanity!!’.
What advice would you give to aspiring female food entrepreneurs?
Take a reality check and learn to understand who you actually are. Do you have a viable business proposition and if so; ‘Who Are You?’ within that business what role do you play. Are you the creator /the organiser /the accountant / the worrier or the glass half full person?
Once you define this, then learn to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. And yes, you may think you have all the necessary strengths, but it does take a huge reality check to confront your weaknesses and it is vital. I have been there on many occasions. I quote what my father used to say, “know your abilities and then surround yourself with capable people who can support your business with all the other skills required”.
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 had no access to female specific training, but certainly I would have engaged If the opportunity arose. In Wicklow, our Local Enterprise office was an excellent training resource when I moved here originally and their ‘Business Start Up Programme’ was hugely beneficial for me and my business.
I subsequently availed of other courses they had to offer which led to other opportunities, like applying for Grant Aid when we required the factory. The training I received certainly helped grow my business. But I have also learnt so much from advice given by people in my industry that are way more experienced than I am. Never be afraid to reach out for advice, if it supports you it will help you grow.
Recently Janet has taken part in the ‘Grow with Aldi’ a Special-buy programme to help small to medium sized Irish food suppliers in building their brands. Aldi nurture and support Irish businesses to flourish providing growth opportunities for the businesses they believe have the potential to grow and prosper further in the Irish market. Janet is one of six winners of this year’s Grow with Aldi Supplier Development Programme, whose products have been chosen to form part of the core range of products and launch in all 142 Aldi stores nationwide over the coming weeks and months.