Hiring right people is key in Meath liqueur firm

Family-owned cream liqueur company is based in Tatestown near Navan in Co Meath

Mary Sadlier, Coole Swan chief executive: “Not enough hours in the day to catch all the opportunities out there.”

Mary Sadlier, Coole Swan chief executive: “Not enough hours in the day to catch all the opportunities out there.”

 

Coole Swan is a family-owned cream liqueur company based in Tatestown near Navan in Co Meath.

What is special about your business? Coole Swan is made from the highest-quality, all-natural ingredients including fresh cream from our own diary herd. To this we add a soft single Irish malt whiskey and white Belgian chocolate from one of Belgium’s oldest chocolatiers.

What sets your products apart in your sector? The superior, melt-in-the-mouth taste of Coole Swan. I think it’s fair to say that you will never taste anything like it.

What has been your biggest challenge? Learning to understand and navigate the international marketplace. Every market has its own rules and regulations, customs and styles, and you have to understand each one of them to operate effectively. The route to market is very complex. It is easy to underestimate how difficult it is to enter a market.

What has been your biggest success? Being listed by Musgraves was a huge feather in our caps in Ireland. We have also been very successful in Russia and our rollout in the US is going well. On the product side, we have won a number of significant international awards, including best in show at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2009, a gold medal at the Selections Mondiales des Spiritueux in Canada in 2013 and Gold at the WSWA Awards in Las Vegas in 2014.

What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting a business? Ideas are easy to come by, but the key is to hire the people who know how to implement that idea. Always work with people who are willing to take ownership. Mistakes are inevitable and can be the greatest of lessons, but only if people want to learn.

Who do you admire most in business and why? I admire people who go into business and survive all the twists and turns. Neven Maguire is one of those people. Somewhere like McNean House does not happen by accident. So much work and effort goes into making it work. You have to admire a commitment like that to business, customers and staff.

What two things could the Government do to help SMEs in the current environment? Keep it simple. From Revenue to the Companies Office to the CSO – gathering, collating and reporting information is a material cost to any business big or small so please don’t add any more requirements.

Also please do not cut back on support to agencies such as Love Irish Food and Bord Bia. They really do great work for Ireland and Irish businesses abroad, and their support and encouragement over the years has been a huge help to us.

In your experience are the banks lending to SMEs currently? In our experience, no. Other companies may have had a different experience but overall our experience is very negative. Online banking for SMEs is particularly frustrating – please update your systems guys!

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business? When we launched in 2007, we didn’t state our expectations and requirements clearly enough to distributors. Now we are crystal clear about what we want. The lesson we learned is that not all business is necessarily good business.

What is the most frustrating part of running a small business? Not enough hours in the day to catch all the opportunities out there.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it? Coole Swan is a family business with strong roots in our local community. As such, it’s priceless. Running a small business is difficult and demanding, but the buzz of success is hard to replicate. Just watching the brand become more recognised and entering new markets on a weekly basis is amazing!

In conversation with Olive Keogh

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