The homegrown tycoons keen to share their recipe for success

Ahead of National Women's Enterprise Day, we take a look at Irish entrepreneurs' ideas that have captured the imagination 
The homegrown tycoons keen to share their recipe for success

Gráinne Mullins of Grá Chocolates. Picture: Katie Moran

We all know working from the kitchen table has become the new normal for everyone from bankers to engineers these days. But what about the entrepreneurs who treat that table as a launchpad when starting a company from scratch?

The Great British Bake Off returned to our living rooms in recent weeks. It got me thinking about how this show has given many culinary experts the exposure that’s helped turn their flair for food into a lucrative business.

Closer to home, Irish businesswomen will be sharing secrets during the coming week of how their successful ideas, often edible, took shape from the comfort of their kitchens.

Take Gráinne Mullins, for instance. During lockdown, Gráinne wanted to cheer up friends and family, so she started gifting loved ones with hand-painted Easter eggs. The Galway pastry chef’s creations sparked huge interest on social media so she did some market research, began a business plan and founded Grá Chocolates (grachocolates.com) in July.

“I sold out on the launch night in under nine minutes. Every bonbon is hand-painted and takes three full days to create….I’m sold out until the middle of October,” says Gráinne, who has over 10 years’ experience in fine dining establishments.

Gráinne is the current holder of the Eurotoques Young Chef of the Year title and as well as being a play on her name, Grá is also, of course, the Irish word for love. Hers is a high-end, bespoke chocolate company which creates a unique product. “I like to call it edible art,” she tells me.

For the fillings, the pastry chef sources local and ethically produced ingredients, to create unforgettable flavours. 

Loretta Kennedy of MamaBear Foods, Cork.
Loretta Kennedy of MamaBear Foods, Cork.

Local Enterprise Office Galway has supported Gráinne since she started planning her business. “I first completed the Start Your Own Business course and attended The Digital School of Food, both of which were invaluable to the groundwork for Grá Chocolates. Since then I have been supported by mentors and most recently I completed the Food Starter Programme,” says Gráinne.

She plans to grow Grá Chocolates “until it is the most well-known artisan chocolate brand in the country”. By the end of the year, Gráinne hopes to have the Grá Chocolate Factory built. “With the ever-changing world we are living in, I cannot wait to see what challenges and obstacles will be coming my way as each of these is teaching me and allowing Grá Chocolates to grow and develop,” she says.

Gráinne and her Munster counterparts will be leading the charge on Wednesday for National Women's Enterprise Day to help others bring their bright business idea from their doorstep to national and international markets.

Figures released by Local Enterprise Offices to coincide with National Women's Enterprise Day reveal that 20,551 female participants took part in training programmes with their Local Enterprise Office in the first six months of 2020 — an increase of 58% over the same period last year.

There is also greater demand for mentoring support this year, with 3,567 female entrepreneurs taking up the support between January and June 2020, an increase of 19%.

The interactive events on October 14 for National Women’s Enterprise Day are moving online to LocalEnterprise.ie/NWED and the big themes this year are resilience, self-care, innovation and opportunity. All events in the programme are free of charge and include workshops with experts, panel discussions, a virtual marketplace and facilitated networking to connect more entrepreneurs with each other.

Businesses from Cork as well as Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford have been selected by their Local Enterprise Office for showing strength, courage, resilience and innovation over the past 12 months.

This year’s theme is #StrongerTogether and these companies have all adapted their businesses since the onset of Covid-19.

The Munster companies include Cork's MamaBear Foods, which was established by mother-of-three Loretta Kennedy when she saw a niche in the market for healthy children’s ketchup.

Florrie Purcell, The Scullery. 
Florrie Purcell, The Scullery. 

Meanwhile, The Scullery, Tipperary, was set up by Florrie Purcell who developed an award-winning range of sauces, relishes and condiments inspired by her mum’s traditional recipes and craft.

Mailo Power, Monkey Cups, Waterford. 
Mailo Power, Monkey Cups, Waterford. 

Other Munster businesswomen taking part are Lynda Sheehan of Rockbarton Garden Centre in Limerick and Mailo Power, Waterford. Fuelled by her passion to turn the tide on single-use plastic disposables, Mailo created eye-catching reusable coffee cups.

They will share their insights along with fellow entrepreneurs including Olympian-turned-company founder Derval O’Rourke, Sonia Deasy of the Irish global skincare brand, Pestle & Mortar, Pamela Laird of Moxi Loves who was a finalist on BBC’s The Apprentice and Áine Kerr, the co-founder of Kinzen and RTÉ broadcaster, who is also the MC for the day.

Orla Martin, chair of the National Women’s Enterprise Day Committee and Head of Enterprise with LEO Offaly, said that Local Enterprise Office supports will be highlighted throughout the day to encourage more women to take advantage of them. “Covid-19 has severely impacted every aspect of doing business in Ireland and there are massive challenges ahead,” she said.

“We also want to show how small changes can make big impacts, how we can learn from each other, how small businesses can cultivate innovation and how international markets can offer new opportunities.”

See LocalEnterprise.ie/NWED 

Lynda Sheehan, Rockbarton Garden Centre, Limerick.
Lynda Sheehan, Rockbarton Garden Centre, Limerick.

More in this section

Lunchtime
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails