Up next in our series of Upstarts case studies is Simon Stenson founder of Cherry Blossom Bakery which produces quality artisan breads and confectionery made with natural ingredients in Castlebar, Co Mayo
After working in the construction industry for a number of years Simon returned home to Mayo from Dublin, after finding himself made redundant and decided to move into a totally new arena, inspired by his love of healthy foods and a successful past in hospitality.
Recently Simon celebrated a huge success after appearing on the RTÉ show Dragon’s Den, where he was given a €200,000 investment from dragon Sean O’Sullivan.
What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
I was involved in the construction industry for many years and with the demise of that I spent 2 years unemployed.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
Cherry Blossom opened on the 1st of December 2010 after a three month course in Ballymaloe Cookery School. I spotted a gap in the market for freshly made, healthy artisan breads.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
We received a grant for €18,000 from Leader, €37,000 of personal funds and this went primarily on equipment and the fit of commercial kitchen in my father’s closed down pub, just outside Castlebar, in a small village called Ballyvary.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Our biggest obstacle was securing finance as banks were very unwilling to lend to startup businesses. Another obstacle was getting our brand recognised in an already crowded marketplace.
Who supported you?
I had the support of my whole family and friends and also businesswise the Kavanagh Group of supermarkets were very good to us.
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
Everything happened reasonably quickly and we were up and on our feet in approx. 4 months
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
The creativity of the job and the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment of creating employment locally. As the business grows so does the responsibility and the amount time needed to
Where do you work from and do you have employees?
Our Bakery is based in the Retail Business Park, Breaffy Road, Castlebar, Co Mayo. At present we are employing 11
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
Michael O’Leary, Warren Buffet, Margaret Heffernan and Sean O’Sullivan.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I took a 3 month cookery course in Ballymaloe and really it has all stemmed from there also having previously owned my own business I used my experience from this to make this business venture successful. Always testing new products and we are continuously making new contacts and getting advice about growing the business.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
There is not much I would change if I had to do it again.
What is your best selling item/service?
Cherry Blossom Crusty Spelt Loaf
Are you a LookWester and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?
I previously lived in Dublin City and had to move west again due to the decline in the construction industry.
What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?
Try it before you buy it!!! Get out there and meet the people you never know what’s around the corner. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.