Top Tips for starting your own small food business

I’m currently working on the 2nd Edition of my book, Money for Jam – the essential guide to starting your own small food business. It was published in September 2013, and since then, legislation has changed in relation to food labelling, or Food Information for Consumers (FIC) as its known in the trade! So, I thought this might be a good time just to share my top tips for starting out, just to keep you happy until my new book is published that is!

The header image (taken by @annaclarequinn) features a few jam producers I’ve come across – Daisy’s Pantry from Co.Louth, a Blas na hEireann winner; BoPeep Jams from Drumshanbo. Co.Leitrim, relaunched recently and a favourite of many childhoods of the past; Bramble Lodge Foods fro Co.Sligo; Erin Grove from Fermanagh (I love love love this unusual flavour!!) and Murson Farm, also from Sligo.


(1) Do your research – check out the competition! Is anyone else doing what you’re thinking about doing? If so, are they doing it well? Can you do it better? Look at their packaging, prices, where they’re selling, portion size, labels, branding.

(2) Try to fill a gap – make something that isn’t already available locally. While it’s very easy to start baking at home, the market might be saturated with cupcakes in your area. Shop keepers are always looking for something different that will sell.

(3) Work out your costs – how much does it cost you in ingredients and time to make it (and don’t forget to pay yourself!). This will help you to work out how much you can charge for it:

A Cost to produce (raw materials & packaging)
B Cost of processing / baking / preparation
C Cost of transport
D Cost of selling (market fees, store charges)
E Staff costs – starting with your own required income!
F TOTAL
G Sales value
PROFIT (G-F)

(4) Ensure that your kitchen can handle your new food business – ask your local authority / Environmental Health Officer to call and take a look. Most home kitchens are fine for low risk foods like baked goods, bread, jams, vegetarian, but NOT ok for meat, fish, dairy, prepared salads, sandwiches. You might have to extend or move to a suitable premises.

(5) Get Advice – from mentors, advisors, networks, Local Enterprise Offices and others – ask everyone for help, there’s plenty of it out there so you don’t have to shoulder all the burden! Check out www.supportingsmes.ie for potential funding supports.

(6) Leave the Branding / logos until you have your recipes sorted out. People love this part, but sometimes jump ahead to it too soon! Branding is no quick job, it takes consideration. Check out this handy guide.

(7) Labelling is really important – there are very particular legal requirements for labels which you must follow including Allergen declaration, weight, nutrition information, ingredients and so on. make sure you do this properly before you print labels or order packaging. Mistakes can be costly!

(8) Packaging will help protect your food as well as simply presenting it for sale. packaging might also determine the target market – no matter how good the food is, if the packaging is cheap and shoddy looking, it won’t sell to high end consumers.

(10) JUST DO IT – Once you make your first sale – you’re in business!

The photos below feature some producers from Mayo & Roscommon who took part in the Bord Bia / SuperValu Food Academy programme in 2016/17, one day this could be you!

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Recent Roundup

So many restaurants, just not enough time to report them all fully I’m afraid. I hope these photos give you a taste (!) to bring you up to date. It has been a very busy year so far working with more great food producers, visiting new restaurants and cafés, judging baking competitions….such activity in the food community, brilliant!

Finals of the Co. Leitrim Aldi / Foiróige baking competition – the cake won, so light, flavoursome, a great bake as they say – no soggy bottoms!

Lunch in The Oarsman, Carrick On Shannon – Atlantic Hake with a side of the best mashed potato I’ve had anywhere for ages. Thanks Conor Maher for the suggestion!

Duck starter and Sea Bass main course in The Cottage, Jamestown, Co.Leitrim

Beer Battered cod & chips in The Clubhouse Bar, Dromahair, Co.Leitrim – on my doorstep!
The Clubhouse cod & chips

If you haven’t been to the Sweet Beat Café yet in Sligo -why not?! Its just fantastic – tell Carolanne I sent you 😉
Sweet Beat IT feature

Wonderful marshmallow from Donegal, made by Artisan food producer Linda McClean of Mallow Mia! Brilliant for gifts or wedding favours.

KC Peaches, Dame St., Dublin – toasted brown bread with mashed avocado (very tasty even though it wasn’t actually mashed!). Food good though service was a little slow considering the only other person there was only having coffee!

Baba Ganousch in Luna Restaurant, Dromahair, Co.Leitrim – the village is growing its fab food status with Bernadette O’Shea’s incredible food.
Luna Baba Ganoush

Great to see new places opening on O’Connell St., Sligo – Knox is the place to try if you’re in town. Love the style and decor, food good too!
Knox coffee

Dromahair monthly(ish) Culinary Challenge Club – Mexican night!

There’s more to come – and I promise to post a lot more regularly from now on. If you’ve been anywhere great or awful, let me know and I’ll check it out!
Bye for now,
Oonagh