Finn Ní Fhaoláin is a cook, blogger and creative entrepreneur living in Bundoran, Co Donegal.
Most of us start our day with coffee and a commute; Finn starts hers with surfing. With her twin passions of food and the sea, Finn’s philosophy is that as long as she is never far from either, it’s been a good day at the office!
When she was 19, after a period of debilitating illness, she was diagnosed with coeliac disease, and a radical overhaul of her vegetarian diet was required. As she started to experiment with food, her interest in food and in cooking grew, and she began cooking gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan food for events at her father’s business, Gyreum Ecolodge in Sligo.
She recently completed a culinary course, but her background is actually marine science. In university she completed a BSc in Earth and Ocean Science and an MSc in Marine Biology and worked for some time afterwards on scientific research ships.
In 2017 she released her cookery book Finn’s World: Do what you love. Love what you eat featuring gluten-free recipes.
We are delighted that Finn will be speak in the LookWest.ie Marquee at SeaFest at 4pm on Friday, 30 June.
What do you do?
I’m an author, private chef and freelance marine scientist. I studied oceanography, geology and marine biology in college, but now mostly write and cater for events.
Where do you live? Why do you like it?
I live in Bundoran, in South Donegal. Its an amazing little town. I moved here originally for the surf but there is also an amazing community.
Where were you previously located (if outside the West)
Dublin via Cork & Galway
What were your main reasons for moving to the West?
To be able to surf regularly, to be closer to good friends, for a better pace of life, a lower cost of living and no commute!
What is your employment status?
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
I started my business in 2015 determined to make healthy eating more affordable, enjoyable and less time consuming as I was doing unpaid internships at the time and paying off my MSc debt.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
I was lucky my start up costs were very low. The main expenses were my Mac laptop and a DSLR camera that I got second hand on done deal (but in great condition) and I’ve built on that slowly over the last two years.
Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?
Currently my main market is Ireland, but the book is also available online from kennys.ie making it available with free shipping worldwide. For catering I am mainly in the northwest, specifically Donegal and Sligo. But I like travelling around the country for weekend long jobs (like catering for yoga weekends).
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
It was a few months at the start getting the website off the ground, writing the cookbook proposal and getting my name out there for catering.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?
I’ve always worked part time since secondary school and generally my part time work involved food in some way, prepping, serving or even working as a baker so while I’ve only been running my business for two years it feels like I’ve been in the food business since I was young. I have my own personal experience with gluten free food from being a coeliac and I completed a culinary arts course last year. On the ocean side I studied marine science in college for five years, worked on Irish and British research vessels and worked as an aquarist in the National Aquarium in Galway.
How do you promote your business?
Online via social media, through press channels and on radio where possible
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would ask for help and advice sooner! No one is an expert in everything.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I love the flexibility of working for myself, I’m happy to work long days if I know other days I can surf or arrange travel around my writing deadlines. The downside is not having a team of people to buzz off! Though I’m lucky I have an agent and the great crew from Gill Books, my publishers.
What should happen in the West of Ireland to support self employment / entrepreneurship?
Better broadband cover would be great, in my old cottage I used to work from my car so I could get signal. More rural co-working spaces, there are some great ones in Carrick and Sligo, but it would be cool to have them in smaller towns too.
If you previously lived outside the West, how does the cost of living compare with where you previously lived?
I pay roughly a quarter of what I would pay for the same space in Dublin.
What are the main advantages and disadvantages of relocating / living in the West in terms of working and living?
Quality of life is phenomenally different for me. No commute, I live by the beach. All my friends live close by (most of my friends in Dublin had emigrated) and the cost of living is considerably lower.
How do you find accessibility to where you live and access to public transport / road networks / airports?
It’s easy enough to get to local cities but no direct link to Dublin
Why do you love where you live? What are your top tips for any visitors to where you live?
I absolutely love Bundoran. The community is great really supportive of interesting endeavours and great at welcoming new people.
The area is beautiful with a rugged coastline and stunning mountains as the backdrop.
I think it’s great to have a friend in the place you’re moving to when you arrive so you have advice on the local area and someone to introduce you to new people. I think it will be less lonely that way.
What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West?
Don’t wait for the “perfect moment”, take the leap! A stunning place, a warm welcome and plenty of burgeoning opportunities.
Check out Finn’s blog at finsfitfood.com