A new school for Irish food startups

A new digital ‘School of food’ has been launched in Ireland to help food startups succeed. 
The ‘School of food’ is designed to help people building, or in the process of establishing, a new small food production business.
“It supports food companies to develop and grow, with advice from some of the leading practitioners in Ireland. It is part of our commitment to the food sector in supporting their development and growth,” says the head of LEO, DúnLaoghaire Rathdown, Owen Laverty.
The school was built by the Dublin Food Chain and the Local Enterprise Offices in the Dublin region. It’s the first of its kind in Europe, giving food entrepreneurs access to expert advice from their own home or office.
To learn more and apply, go here. 
Useful topics that can be studied include:

Plan your journey
Route to market
Think about finance
Grow your sales
Expand your business
Support for experts

The school is available to food businesses in the Dublin region initially, following which, it will be rolled out nationally.
The need to know more
Supported by Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and the Dublin Institute of Technology, the school came about as a result of the keen interest among food entrepreneurs to learn about succeeding in business from key industry experts.
Pictured is Maria Betts of Maria Lucia Bakes who has worked closely with dlr’s LEO office in the development of her award-winning gluten wheat and dairy free cereals.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/a-new-school-for-food-startups-in-ireland/ on thinkbusiness

How to handle September stress

September is a stressful month. It’s back to school and back to a hectic pace at work. Here’s how to handle the ‘mayhem’. 

It’s back to school season, and we’re all trying to settle down after the summer distractions. For the kids, it’s a time of new beginnings: new teachers, new schoolbooks and most importantly new pencils. It’s a time to reset and start again.

But for adults, a feeling of panic can set in. The reality that there are only four months left in 2018. And still so much to do. All those objectives we optimistically set in January, all those plans we made.

Where have those nine months gone?

“Build in some slippage because life always throws up some unexpected things.”

Time to reset

Well, September can be a time of new beginnings in work too. It provides us with a chance to review our year so far and prioritise what we can achieve in the remaining months.

You can refocus, replan and reset yourself for a productive end to the year. How great would it feel to achieve essential goals and finish the year on a high?

“Get yourself a four-month calendar and plan out what you can do when.”


First, identify the most important things to achieve. Then ask yourself the following:

1. What do I have to do to complete this work?

2. Can I break my goals into sub-goals?

3. Do I need help or input from anyone else?

Make a plan

To help you plan what needs to be done to break down the goal into smaller sub-goals. Brainstorm each sub-goal to list out the tangible tasks or actions required. Now decide what can be done when.

1. Are some tasks inter-related?

2. Do some jobs depend on the completion of others?

3. Can you identify key milestones, so you can tell that you are on track?

Now get yourself a four-month calendar and plan out what you can do when. You can use Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Excel or merely create a planner yourself on a chart or board.

“It helps to share your plans with a colleague or friend.”

Don’t over plan

Be realistic about how much time you have. You are already busy so where and when can you create “extra” time for these tasks?

Build in some slippage because life always throws up some unexpected things. Be practical. December can’t be treated like a typical month because of all the Christmas activities. Aim to finish your plan mid-December.

Track your progress

Capture the date you complete the work so you can compare your ‘Target Time’ with the ‘Actual Time’.

It helps to share your plans with a colleague or friend. This introduces an element of accountability and motivates you to keep going when your enthusiasm is low.

Find what works for you

Like all our productivity tips at beproductive, we recommend that you modify our suggested approach to find what works best for you. Stretch yourself so you can achieve more.

Have a productive Autumn and let us know how you get on.

moira dunne

Contact us if you would like to arrange a ‘Planning & Prioritisation Workshop’ to help your team excel this Autumn.

Article by Moira Dunne, BeProductive.ie.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/september-how-to-handle-the-stress/ on

A traditional Irish pub delivered to your door

Functions and events often take place in pubs across Ireland, but wouldn’t it be great if the entire Irish pub could come to you? The Shebeen may just be the answer. 
‘The Shebeen is a mobile traditional Irish pub,’ says John Walsh. ‘I bought a caravan for Electric Picnic in 2013 and after a year of looking at it in the garden, I thought it would be fun to design and create something unique. I have always been interested in traditional Irish bar interior, and the warm feeling you get from having a pint of Guinness, a sing-song or a joke or two. Since then, we have built and shipped a Shebeen to Boston USA, and we are now creating other concept mobile bars, such as The Hayshed which we launched last year.’
“You can rent The Shebeen for an event and we’ll deliver it to the site.”
Did you work in the alcohol industry?
I have never worked in the alcohol industry, but I grew up in a business family where creating experiences and entertaining was part and parcel of our home. It’s in my blood. I’m a creator at heart, a problem solver and a trained craftsman. I worked in Australia, the U.S. and Canada before returning to Ireland in 1998 to start J.W Design, a furniture design and interior fit-out business. In 2010, I founded Clinical Cabinets which specialises in designing and fitting out laboratory, cleanroom and healthcare spaces. I love designing furniture and space solutions and working with a variety of specialist materials to improve people’s space.
“I have never worked in the alcohol industry, but I grew up in a business family where creating experiences and entertaining was part and parcel of our home. It’s in my blood.”

How does it work?
We have two arms to The Shebeen business: rentals and custom

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/a-traditional-irish-bar-that-comes-to-you-the-shebeen/ on thinkbusiness

How to run a boutique hotel in Ireland

John Ryan, the owner of the Pembroke hotel in Kilkenny, delivers a great guide on how to start and run a boutique hotel. 
In 2009, businessman and quantity surveyor, John Ryan took back the reins of his hotel property, the Pembroke Kilkenny, located in the heart of the medieval city of Kilkenny. In the midst of the recession and using an innovative style of management, he outlines how he has helped transform the property into one of the leading boutique hotels in the South East of Ireland.

How are you different?
Boutique doesn’t necessarily mean small, but it is a niche in many respects. It’s somewhere you should find a superior standard of service, where the personal touch and customer service are pronounced and quite tangible. The Pembroke is a hotel that listens intently to its customers, because really listening to feedback, whether positive or negative, provides excellent learning and insight.
“I decided to take back direct control of the hotel.”
Building the hotel
The property had been a garage-site, formerly known as Stakelums, which had been vacant for many years – and I could see that the location had significant potential for a quality hotel from the first-hand experience, project-managing a large number of hotels across the country. In 2004, I was fortunate to end up buying the property, and the Pembroke Kilkenny now stands on the site where the Stakelums garage used to be located.
At that stage, as managing partner, I was heavily involved in professional services within the Nolan Ryan Partnership, one of the leading practices in the country, which we went on to sell in 2005. During this period, I built the hotel and leased it out to a hotel operator. In 2009, during the early stages of the recession, I decided to take back direct control of the hotel because of market

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/pembroke-hotel-kilkenny-john-ryan/ on

‘There are 50 tough days to every great day’

One of the toughest of all startup sectors to crack is the food sector. 

Yvonne Dolan and her son Shane are the founders of Blendi, a product that allows people to make smoothies in seconds and ‘on-the-go’. This is their story.

Sowing the seed 

I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 19. 

I started the first corporate Christmas hamper company Interhamper and ran it for 17 years. I had three other businesses, including one in Croatia.

I returned to Ireland three years ago and went back to college to reskill. My son Shane (now aged 14) would on occasion depend on a Pot Noodle to tie him over until I returned on my late afternoons from college. I began looking into developing a healthier version of Pot Noodles which led me to research the whole space of rehydrated and dried foods.

“Mom if you are making healthy food for kids – they have to love the taste.”

The Eureka moment

It was on a visit to an exhibition in London called ‘Food Matters’ – (a great show for those looking at the health and wellness space) – that Shane discovered this great product of frozen fruit and veg in a single serving pouch. It tasted great. His words to me were ‘Mom if you are making healthy food for kids they have to love the taste.’ I then wondered would dried fruit and veg make a tasty smoothie? That’s how Blendi was born.

Supports to start

Blendi has availed of the Innovation Vouchers and CSF Funding. Innovation Vouchers allow a startup to collaborate with industry or Universities in helping in new product development. CSF is more advanced it would help to find a product in the marketplace.

The recipes

Coming up with the recipes was the hardest part, sorry “is” the hardest part, we are still not there yet. I don’t believe any inventor is ever 100% happy with what they have created. They always want to improve. We are now looking at collaborating with industry and currently seeking a food company to help us develop the flavour balance of the ingredients.

“When it came to the best new food concept for 2018, they gave the prize to Blendi.”

Getting listed in shops

When we started, we wanted just to sell online. However, we needed to build up brand awareness and were forced to look at retail which opens up layers of complexities. Fortunately, after winning various awards, retailers started contacting us which made it easier to manage

Juices on the move

It was six months into the project when we introduced the Blendi Smart (a portable blender) which you can plug into your smartphone and make a Blendi anywhere. This was a game changer not only for us but for the consumer. We are the first company in the world to offer smoothies and juices on the move.

“There are 50 tough days to every really successful day.”

The awards

We were shortlisted at the World Food Innovation Awards in London. We got a call to say Shane and myself were invited to the award ceremony, and when it came to the best new food concept for 2018, they gave the prize to Blendi. To date, we have won two global awards and two Irish awards.

“Get on a plane and visit exhibitions.”

The tough times

I have worked it out that there are 50 tough days to every really successful day (just joking). It is very, very tough, but those promising days are too good not to chase.

My advice to food startups

Get on a plane and visit exhibitions. This gives you an excellent feel for what is trending and also it gives you great ideas about how to grow a food brand.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/blendi-smoothies-yvonne-dolan/ on

Diary of a student entrepreneur – Vol. 4

In the fourth diary entries, our student entrepreneurs discuss the importance of money and raising funds for their startups. 

Anika Riley, Work Smarter
Few startups can just grow organically without funding. I know we can’t. Merely getting to MVP can be a costly and challenging process. That being the case, I think one of the toughest things to hear as an early stage startup is “we don’t invest in ideas”. It made me frighteningly nervous the first time I heard it, so I think the phrase warrants some context.
“One of the toughest things to hear as an early stage startup is ‘we don’t invest in ideas’.”
An idea means different things to different people. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I chronically understate everything to make sure I can over-deliver. So when we were starting out, I thought that phrase meant “we’ll invest when you have serious revenues”. Since my co-founder and I have known from the start that we’ll need funding to get past our MVP stage, that statement was rather crushing. Having investors speak with us in LaunchBox has really helped me form more realistic views of the investment process.
An idea is something you have in a dream, while on a run or over pints. If that’s what you’re pitching, then yes, I wouldn’t invest either. After idea and before sales, however, there’s a whole lot of work. Here, founders are doing endless hours of market research, talking to industry leaders and testing feasibility. Writing a business plan, creating a regulatory strategy, planning execution. Starting to write code, getting input from all sides and then don’t forget: pivot, pivot, pivot.
Now, after some more research and a few more pivots, you’ve got yourself an opportunity. While that might seem like a nuanced linguistic difference, it’s a difference of a few thousand

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/diary-of-a-student-entrepreneur-trinity-launchbox-raising-money/ on thinkbusiness

How safe is the water you are drinking?

Having spent most of his professional career with Colgate Palmolive in various project roles, Stephen O’Connell is now the managing director of Safe2o, a company which tests the safety of drinking water.
What journey did you take to arrive at where you are?
I completed my Masters Degree in business studies in the Smurfit Business School and spent twenty fantastic years in Colgate Palmolive in various project-based roles and I was part of the original team of their EMEA Service Organisation based in Dublin. I gained invaluable experience working on international assignments, leadership roles and commercial projects.
Why are you doing what you are doing?
I wanted to take my Colgate experience and apply it to a business in Ireland. Establishing a company really appealed to me as a challenge and also for my personal development. Last year I set up my company Bring It To The Lab Ltd to simplify the experience of accessing Irish laboratory services, and started by testing the quality of drinking water. There are plenty of excellent companies providing this service with different offerings, but I felt there was an opportunity to simplify the whole experience, by taking a more consumer centric approach and revise the channel approach. I launched the brand Safe2o with a mission to ‘simplify the experience’ end-to-end for the consumer.
“Safe2o is as much about water education as it is about simplifying the experience”
What need is Safe2o meeting?
In the current environment with the shortage of water, there is a greater appetite to understand more about this resource which we often take for granted. Safe2o is as much about water education as it is about simplifying the experience. Everyone has an opinion on the quality of their home drinking water but not everyone would know where to start to get the facts about it. Water consumption

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-safe-is-the-water-you-are-drinking-safe2o/ on thinkbusiness

Learn how to sell at a farmers’ market

Are you a food producer? Do you want to learn the skills you need to sell at farmers’ markets?
In September, Bord Bia will host a series of ‘skills workshops’ designed for farmers’ market producers.
The training is open to Irish food, drink, seafood and horticulture producers and aimed at both existing stall holders and first-time producers.
The training is by experienced stall holder and farmer, Margaret Hoctor of Kilmullen Farm in County Wicklow. The half-day workshops will cover a wide variety of skills needed to sell at farmers’ markets including sales and marketing skills, budgeting, stall management and customer service.
“Places are limited, so interested parties are encouraged to register now.”
The interactive half-day workshops will take place around the country:

Kinsale, County Cork on Tuesday 4th September (Acton’s Hotel)
Dundrum in Dublin (Airfield Estate) on Wednesday 5th September
Lough Derg, County Tipperary on Tuesday 25th September (Coolbawn Quay)
Westport, County Mayo (Knockranny House Hotel) on Wednesday 26th September

All workshops begin at 9 am and run until 2 pm. A €20 charge per person applies, and you must register at least three days in advance of the workshop date.
Places are limited, so interested parties are encouraged to register now to avoid disappointment. For registration and further information see www.bordbia.ie/FarmersMarketsTraining or email maria.stokes@bordbia.ie.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-to-sell-at-a-farmers-market/ on thinkbusiness

Diary of a student entrepreneur, Vol. 3

In this series, three student entrepreneurs on the LaunchBox programme at Trinity chronicle their adventures. Here, in their third diary entries, they talk about lessons learned and the people they admire in business.

Anika Riley – Work Smarter
During my MSc of Entrepreneurship program, we covered a lot of ground, but we didn’t focus on many of the technicalities of founding a business. Founders’ agreements, vesting shares and some of the legal points around investment might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of being an entrepreneur, but messing up any of them can kill a company regardless of how good the product is. The speakers that have come into LaunchBox have really pushed us to think about these things early and manage many of these legal necessities on a startup’s budget.
Someone who I very much admire is Céline Lazorthes, the founder of the fintech companies Leetchi and Mangopay. As a female CEO in the financial services sector, she and her female CTO heavily emphasise company culture and are a welcome glimpse into a more diverse future. And, while she is an impressive woman on all accounts, the fact that she founded Leetchi straight out of university resonates with me in particular.
“Work Smarter exists because we sincerely believe that freelancing should not come at the cost of financial security.”
Jumping over to an entirely different sector, I am consistently impressed with the ethics and transparency of the company Dr Bronner’s. What I find most inspiring is their refusal to accept the status quo and their unwavering commitment to a vision. In pursuit of this vision, they hold themselves to high standards such as by capping the CEO wage at five times the lowest paid warehouse employee.
Building such a vision-driven company is what my co-founder and I aspire to.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/diary-of-a-student-entrepreneur-vol-3-trinity-launchbox/ on thinkbusiness

‘We left Dublin to follow a dream, and it’s working’

The founders of Mullicháin Café in Carlow describe how they left Dublin behind to pursue a dream along the banks of the river Barrow.

The Mullicháin Café

In 1999 at a local auction, Martin and Emer O’Brien decided to purchase an old 18th century, four-storey, canal storehouse that was in need of repair. A decade later they converted the bottom two stories of the building into the Mullicháin Café, a unique and now well-established café, located on the quayside at St. Mullins in Co. Carlow.

It was an auspicious time to invest a redundancy package and start a business, in the economic shadows of 2008. The village of St. Mullins is located in the southern-most tip of County Carlow, on a quiet stretch of the river Barrow, between the towns of New Ross and Graiguenamanagh. Martin and Emer recall how they left Dublin, to follow their dream of starting a cafe, just a stone’s throw from the centre of this ancient and historic settlement.

“I can remember saying, ‘If the opportunity arises, I would like to buy something down here’.”

Where we started 

I started off my career working in the Gresham in hotel management, followed by a period in racecourse catering management and finally as sales manager in the pharma sector. Emer had graduated from Cathal Brugha Street with a background in catering and teaching. Along the way both Emer and my sister were also quite innovative, selling Aran Island sweaters, during six-week sales trips to US retailers, back in the 80s.

In our twenties, we both enjoyed playing hockey and rugby and took our respective sports quite seriously. At the time I was playing rugby, but I really wanted a job where I could work and still have time to train and play matches. I was fortunate to secure a position as a sales manager with a German pharmaceutical company, where part of my brief was to organise medical conferences around Ireland.

“We canoed, paddled and camped all the way down, eventually ending up staying with Maggie O’Dwyer in her B&B.”

The Mullicháin Café

Why open a business in St. Mullins?

The main historic route into St. Mullins has always been by the river, along with being a vital access route to the local monastery, founded by St. Moling in the 7th century. Both of us enjoyed down-river canoeing, and when our kids were small, we would start off on the Barrow River at Maganey in Carlow, with our Canadian canoes. We canoed, paddled and camped all the way down, eventually ending up staying with Maggie O’Dwyer in her B&B, which was our first real introduction to St. Mullins. I can remember saying to Emer, “If the opportunity arises, I would like to buy something down here”. Then in 1999 serendipity intervened, a derelict property appeared for auction in the local paper – and so began the fulfilment of a dream.

People always thought that St. Mullins was a bustling place, but when camping out on the first floor of our derelict building, we could see the reality with our own eyes. Generally, it was hushed, except on our saint’s patron day which is still held every July. Nevertheless, we believed that St. Mullins had real potential.

“We spent the entire package creating some self-catering apartments, as well as doing up the coffee shop.”

Minimising risk

In 2007 I was based in Dublin and the pharma sector in which we operated, was becoming more challenging and beginning to shrink. After twenty-eight years with the company, I looked for and accepted a redundancy package which meant, that I could invest in the business without the need to borrow. We went on to spend the entire package creating some self-catering apartments, as well as doing up the coffee shop. Then in March 2009, we opened up our doors to the public.

The Mullicháin Café

Initially, it was just the two of us and a couple of local ladies who ran the show. At the start, we really had to cut our cloth, as people didn’t have the money to spend or were afraid to spend it. We were fortunate because if we had borrowed, we wouldn’t have been unable to meet the payments.

Our fall-back was that if it didn’t work out commercially, we could always close the door with the option to live here instead. This meant that although we wouldn’t need to sell up, we would be very unlikely to get our money back.

Fortunately, year-on-year business has been increasing, mainly through word-of-mouth and through the use of social media and digital marketing. Over the years we have also been fortunate to be profiled on the likes of RTE’s Nationwide, Tracks and Trails, Carlow Matters and the excellent local ‘Discover Graiguenamanagh’ tourism video from 2014.

“[We lost] €10,000 on applying for planning permission, to develop some of our sheds and convert them into a hostel.”

What’s different about your café?

It is a seasonal business, and we open six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm from the first week in March until the end of October. It’s family-run and specialises in quality home-baking.

Accessibility is essential, in particular for older people. We also provide ground floor wheelchair access to our toilet facilities. It’s also the only café located on the Barrow Line, which refers to the tow-path on Ireland’s second longest river.

“We employ a lot of local students who have been instrumental in the success of the café. People know that when they arrive here, that they will be well looked after and can be sure of a warm welcome from us”, says Emer.

“In general businesses in rural Ireland are finding the going tough.”


Recently the biggest frustration we experienced was wasting €10,000 on applying for planning permission, to develop some of our sheds and convert them into a hostel. We felt we were almost there, but unfortunately, at the end of the day, we were turned down. There seemed to be a lack of sufficient encouragement along with too many obstacles appearing in our path.

In general businesses in rural Ireland are finding the going tough and need all the support they can get. A key challenge for us is ensuring that we have consistent customer footfall during the day to allow the business to perform at a constant level. That’s why we support initiatives such as the Blueway, Ireland’s Ancient East, the promotion of local history and the many outdoor activities. Staying at a rural backwater hinders the flow of money that can filter into the local economy; and student summer work can help defray third level college expenses, in an area with limited employment opportunity.

“Five years ago our son Mark joined us, to take over and manage the business, on a day-to-day basis.”

The Mullicháin Café

The next generation

A lot of people in family businesses hope that one day they can pass the business onto their son or daughter. However these days, that appears to be happening less and less. Luckily in our case, it has happened, when five years ago our son Mark joined us, to take over and manage the business, on a day-to-day basis.

“Every day we pinch ourselves, with what we have here right now. It’s the success and enjoyment we experience, along with the fantastic support that we receive from people in the local community and beyond. It’s really what makes, what we do here, all the more worthwhile,” says Emer.

Written by Brendan Byrne

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/leaving-dublin-to-start-a-business-mullichain-cafe-carlow/ on