In 2016 young company KooKee were a finalist at Blas na hEireann with their Gluten free Coconut & Cranberry Cookie Mix and Oatmeal & Raisin cookie mix. You might know them from the Boyne Valley Food Series or the SuperValu Food Academy, if not you can find out more on www.kookee.ie or find more details on great producers from Dublin and across Ireland in our directory of Irish Food & Drinks award winners & finalists in 2016
When & why did you start your business?
My business idea came about due to my eldest son getting a diagnosis of Autism at the age of 4. This led me to give up my job to become his full time carer. With 3 small kids at home, and 1 who was struggling to interact, I began to bake cookies as a way of us all being together. In the years that followed we baked many, many cookies and gave a lot of the away as gifts. One day I was asked to bake some for a party and I was asked how much they would cost. This sparked the idea that would allow me to continue being a carer and possibly build a career. It is 9yrs since I left my job and now we have 4 fantastic kids and our business is thriving.
Who is your food inspiration?
I grew up in a family of 10. Our garden was filled with every fruit and vegetable that you could possibly grow in Ireland. My Dad thought me to cook and bake. We would watch Delia and Floyd and later as I got older I watched Jamie Oliver and had the opportunity to work for one of his companies and meet him.
What do you love about your job?
As I write this, I am working and also studying Higher level junior cert maths with Cian. Who is no longer 4 but a well adjusted 14yr old who has great potential. The fact that I have been here to support him and that he and my other 3 kids are so proud of our business is the most rewarding thing.
What is your typical day?
I get up at 7am
Call the kids
Call the kids again
Head downstairs and get lunches sorted
And call the kids again. I’m sure you can see the pattern forming.
Anyway, once I get all 4 to school, its straight home, hot coffee and start my clean-down before I begin work.
I then have a school collection at 1.45 and 2.45 and 3.45 and then I start homework, and dinner and general life.
What was your best day since you started this business?
Last year Cian (14) and 8 of his CSPE class mates come over to bake Doggy Bone shaped cookies for a local Dog rescue charity and to learn about running their own business. That made me very proud.
Where do your ingredients come from?
Most of our ingredients are from Andrews Ingredients and Kells Wholemeal. The rest we buy from local stores.
Tell us about the people you work with
Me and my husband Damian run the business together. But I have 3 wonderful ladies who make up our team. I tend to employ mums who want to get back to work but still need to be there for their kids. We start straight after the school run and the girls leave at 2.30 most days to collect the kids from school. We work hard and if more hours are needed we help out and collect each others kids. It difficult to find work with suitable hours when kids are involved, so the girls are really appreciative.
What three words would you use to describe yourself/your business?
I’m very optimistic, I’m driven and ambitious, I’m patient
What do you think is the key to success?
Keeping control and understanding all aspects of your business is key. Taking your time to make important decisions is also of great importance, as is knowing when to say no. But most of all enjoy the journey.
Has there ever been one single moment which has changed how you look at your business?
The defining moment has to be when we got the message that Brown Thomas were interested in our product. Simply by becoming a finalist in Blas na hEireann we immediately were exposed to so many opportunities, but to have such a prestigious Irish company show interest in our humble product has made us see our potential.