At Mykidstime, we love to hear stories about people who started their own business and particularly about mums who start businesses, we all know what a juggle work life and kids can be! Meet the business owner of Pip & Pear, Irene Queally:
The Seed of an Idea
Irene Queally’s family just love good food in their home! So when she had her children, she found it frustrating and near impossible to find a healthy alternative to home cooking for baby food.
All that seemed to be on offer was over-processed, long shelf life options which seemed a million miles away from anything she would make herself.
And so the idea of Pip & Pear was born.
Irene began her journey by making small batches in her restaurant (No.9 in Waterford City) which went down really well with her customers and soon they had people coming from far & wide to stock up on dishes for their little ones. Encouraged by all the positive feedback, Pip & Pear entered the Blas na hEireann awards and won the baby food category outright!
We asked Irene a few questions on starting out in business with Pip & Pear
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
There have been so many its hard to choose, I came to the decision one day that I wanted to bring a chilled baby food range to the market, I had a pretty good idea what the technical challenges were but to be honest I totally underestimated them. To do what we have done is as technically challenging as food science and food technology gets, it turns out that the simpler and more natural a product you want to make, the harder it becomes. Finding people with the understanding and knowledge of how to do it well has been key to our success.
Believing in what I am doing, having the passion for what I was trying to create and being able to communicate that passion has helped me, when trying to find solutions to all the challenges we have faced. Not being afraid to ask people for help and guidance along the way was vital. I started Pip & Pear not having a clue about ingredient sourcing, factory standards, design, packaging, national marketing & advertising, distribution and I have learned so much.
What advice do you have for other parents thinking of starting a business?
Having your partner behind you and backing you all the way is vital. My husband believes in me and Pip & Pear and has helped me so much, preparing presentations, helping with research, doing the heavy lifting but most importantly picking up the slack at home. Like every mum I suffer with constant guilt, but knowing that their Dad is spending time with the kids when I cannot relieves some of this pressure.
When I am with the kids I try to be fully present, no phone or emails so that I’m fully tuned into them and hearing about their day. I’ve realised that the work will still be there after they go to bed and that’s when I start into it again, sometimes until late at night with the help of a babysitter!
What supports did you find helpful along the way?
There are many supports out there and as part of research they should all be explored as you may not fit the category for one but they in turn can point you in the way of another.
Enterprise Ireland have been very enthusiastic and the Local Enterprise Board have been very supportive and have helped in any way they can. Our entering the Blas na hEireann awards was one of the supports for our brand itself as it validated it as a quality product and gave us some weight behind our brand.
What were the challenges of getting your product distributed?
It can be very difficult to get in the door of the supermarkets, but Pip & Pear has been very well received and it has been easier than expected to get the attention of supermarket buyers, turning that into a firm contract however takes a lot more work. Every supermarket wants to know if you can really deliver on what you promise. We have put a lot of work into knowing what we can manage and whats involved in scaling up to the next level. It is better to be realistic than to promise the world and fall flat.
ALDI came on board right at the very beginning and have given us an amazing amount of support. They believe in what we are trying to achieve and have given us a lot of time and attention. They have put a lot of work into supporting the launch and have been incredibly honest and direct in their feedback. Dealing with them has been one of the easiest and most pleasant parts of the whole process.
The biggest learning experience for me over the past year has been realising that people are really glad to help if they can. I have literally had people hold my hand and walk me though the various parts of the business that I didn’t understand, they have been patient and have given me a lot of their time and I am so grateful for that, it is no longer that I want this business to be a success for me but for all those who believe in it and given me so much support.
And now in May 2015 Pip & Pear are launching across Ireland at the end of this month and products will be available in ALDI Stores from May 28th and in Super Valu stores from June 10th.
Irene says, “We are delighted to be offering all parents the chance to avail of a guilt free alternative to home cooking and although we are now doing larger volumes, the process is still the same as I was doing at home, whilst adhering to the safest health & safety controls. It’s been a great journey to this point and we are looking forward to growing along with your little one!”
You can find Pip & Pear on Facebook and at www.pipandpear.ie