Jacquie Marsh, founder of The Butler’s Pantry, talks about her business success and what drives her ambition.
The idea behind my business is simple. Make fantastic food. In the great Irish houses of old, the finest ingredients were always kept locked in the butler’s pantry, and we remain true to this.
I think my biggest achievement was to not just to have survived the recession but to have come through it a far more sophisticated business and, as a result, ready for growth again..
In the past few years we had to stand back and ask ourselves what our core competencies are and focus on those. We did a complete business process review and, if any single aspect of the business wasn’t profitable, either made it so or cut it out.
We also had to really focus on our unique difference- that we trawl the country looking for the best small producers and growers, who make the best ingredients, which we choose because it results in a superior dish.
What was the lowest moment in your business life?
Every low, like every mistake, brings its own learning and boy have we learned! But one of the biggest stand outs was when Dublin City Council put a quality bus corridor outside our Mount Merrion Avenue store, leaving customers with nowhere to park. That cut our business there in half, overnight.
More regular lows come when great people leave the business. It’s always for the right reasons, because they are on a career path and why wouldn’t they, but it’s heartbreaking to lose good people.
“During the recession, we saw some fantastic suppliers, really outstanding producers, going out of business through absolutely no fault of their own, they did nothing wrong. That’s heartbreaking too”
In business you have to be resourceful and resilient. I also surround myself with great people – many heads are better than one.
What do I think of risk? Embrace it, but manage it.
Who has inspired or motivated you and why?
My father for his entrepreneurial spirit. He manufactured and exported clothing around Europe and was one of the first to introduce zippers to men’s trousers. Even back in the 1960s he had the wisdom to think globally. And my mother for her sense of balance and belief in inner strength.
“Trust your instinct, it will rarely fail you. And if it does, always remember that the man who has made no mistakes has not lived at all”
I enjoy walking the coast road in Dun Laoghaire every day with our Labradors, I love to feel the soil between my fingers working in the garden and, most of all, I love music – it’s so good for the soul – so I sing in a choir with a great bunch of choristers.
If I were to start again, what would I do differently? Not a huge amount, I’d still start small and think big.
I’ve learned a lot from my business. The main thing I’ve learned is the value of regularly asking yourself, and understanding, what is your business’s point of difference. Also, the importance of clear strategic thinking – it has got me out of lots of tough decisions and through some bad days.
If I were to give one piece of advice to someone thinking of going into business? Trust your instinct, it will rarely fail you. And if it does, always remember that the man who has made no mistakes has not lived at all.