Mother & daugher team Catherine & Yvonne Whitty run artisan food business Cathy’s Spelt for Health from their base in Tinahely, Co. Wicklow. Specialising in spelt, Cathy has developed a growing range of ready mix products from cakes to flapjacks to scones to pizza bases! Cathy first approached Wicklow CEB for start-up advice on the Enterprise Bus as far back as 2008, and within the year her business was up and running. Both Cathy and her daughter Yvonne are now heavily involved in new product development, market research and building relationships with key retailers around Ireland and beyond.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business?
Research your market, test the market, do a business plan and have a clear idea of all your costs before you invest money or give up the day job!. Look at all the supports that are out there. It may be a fantastic idea but ask yourself will it make you an income in the long run or will you be a busy fool.
What do you like to do when you’re not running your business?
Cathy: Interior design, going for coffee, gardening
Yvonne: Walking, music, film, crochet, visiting archaeology sites
Have you found the self-employed formula for a work/life balance?
We haven’t found it yet! We try to work 9 to 5 and take weekends off.
What is your favourite ad?
What is your favourite film?
Cathy: Little Miss Sunshine
Yvonne: Cinema Paradiso
How has Wicklow CEB helped you and/or your business?
Wicklow CEB has been a huge help. We attended may of the courses they run, completed a business plan and received excellent mentoring which really helped us to progress the business and get where we are today. We also received a Priming Grant which has enabled us to get our new packaging, freeing us up to allow us more time to grow the business. When we started we were labelling the bags by hand which was both costly and time consuming.
What’s your website?
Do you have a Facebook page?
We do! It’s facebook.com/CathysSpeltforHealth
Are you on Twitter?
We are indeed, follow us @CathysSpelt
What was the best piece of business advice you ever got?
Listen to all the advice in the world, take it with a pinch of salt but at the end of the day you have to be your own best solicitor, accountant and banker.
Can you recommend a good time management technique for other entrepreneurs out there?
No not at all! It’s the best thing and the worst thing in the world being your own boss. It is hard to switch off at times.
What led you to starting your business?
Cathy: My business started by accident in that I had suffered from anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction which left me hospitalised. I was on an exclusion diet and began baking with spelt flour as I was off wheat. Soon I was baking for our local health food store in Tinahely and supplying breads and cakes there weekly. My daughter entered me in the RTÉ SuperValu TV Series, Recipe for Success (2009) and I got to the final with my spelt bread. Following the series I received calls from all over the country and decided to look into the possibility of setting up a business! The publicity form the programme spurred me on to investigate the idea of selling spelt bread.
How did you raise the start-up funds you needed?
Initially we used our own money to pay for packaging etc. but we did not have huge overheads as we outsourced the production of our range. We started off with small orders which we sold to our distributor. Once the paid us, we had more product made. This allowed us test the market without huge financial risk.
What was the most significant lesson you learned in starting your business?
It takes a lot of time and energy to grow any business.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read, business or non-business?
It’s a long way from Penny Apples, Bill Cullen.
Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most?
Gillian Bowler, founder of Budget Travel.
More info on Gillian here.
What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date?
Increasing our sales and breaking into export markets.
What has been the proudest moment in your business so far?
Seeing our product on the shelves for the first time!
What magazine do you never miss each month?
House and Home, Food and Wine, Easy Food
If you could start up all over again, would you do anything differently?
Not really, we would have completed the business plan earlier as it really helped us look at all our costs and establish what volumes we needed to sell in order to make a business a success.
The Cathy’s Spelt for Health growing range of ready mix products are available in Avoca, Dunnes Stores, Donnybrook Fair, Pettits, SuperValu, Londis and Fresh supermarket chains, The Village at Lyons, many cafés and a host of health food shops around the country. Watch out for them overseas this year too!