It all happened very organically. I studied business at a college in America. When I returned home to Ireland I noticed that there were no coffee chains, so I thought that would be a great business for me to start. I went and did a three-month cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork, Ireland. When I had finished the course I was offered a job at the restaurant in Ballymaloe House, I stayed there for two years. I knew after my first day that I had found my passion in food. That was 20 years ago!
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Learning that I can’t do everything and how important it is to surround yourself with good people that believe in you and will help you realise your dreams.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
The best book that I have read recently was The Social Media Planner by Luan Wise. Social media is crucial to the success of any business; being able to communicate directly is such a fantastic free tool. This book is a great guide on everything you need to know to plan your social media schedule.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Yes but it all came from a good place. At the beginning all my family were very concerned about how I was going to make a good living from going out on my own as a chef. At that time cookery programmes and food weren’t popular like they are now. But I never questioned myself, I knew that food was my passion, and it didn’t matter to me whether I made money or not. I just wanted to communicate my passion for food, share my knowledge with the hope that people would be encouraged to cook at home.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Developing and running farmers markets around Ireland. I did this for three years after I left Ballymaloe House. During these years I really got to understand the life of farmers, producers and fishermen. This is where our food chain begins and the roots of everything that I do. I also got to hear feedback from customers of my stalls what they cooked, what foods the loved etc. It was a very exciting time, we called it the Irish Food Revolution.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Genuinely nothing. I have learned so much from all the many mistakes that I have made. I am still working successfully in a job that I absolutely love, and I have platforms all over the world that I get to communicate on every week, from the Today Show in America to the Marilyn Denis Show in Canada and my Evening Standard column here in London. The sometimes difficult ups and downs at the beginning of my career make me appreciate these great experiences every day.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Find a business that you are passionate about, never it do it just money because that will never make you happy. Structure your day like an office job, 9 to 5. This makes it easier to switch off which is always a struggle when it is your own business. And my last piece of advice would be to enjoy it, easier said than done, but if you aren’t happy and excited about you business how can anyone else be?