Relishing the challenge of exporting more

Inside Track Q&A: Florrie Purcell, The Scullery

The Scullery is an artisan producer of relishes, pickles, sauces and Christmas plum puddings based in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. The business employs six, and was set up by Florrie Purcell in 2004 in the food service industry, before moving into retail with Lidl in 2010.

The award-winning products are available nationally and internationally, with plans for further export.

What sets your business apart from the competition? The Scullery is a little taste of edible history. We make everything in small batches and there are no preservatives, no additives, and no MSG or nasty bits in it. They're all gluten-free except for my puddings. It's a contemporary twist to the old-fashioned recipes, and the best of everything goes into it.

What's been the biggest challenge you have had to face? I had a third of my body burned while working in a kitchen in my 20s and the biggest challenge was getting back into a uniform. I embarked on the journey of doing a three-month cookery course with Darina Allen. I was broken as a person and she helped me to overcome my fears and rebuild my confidence. The accident did have an impact on me but you have to get on with life. If you believe in something you have to follow your dreams regardless of what happens. What has been your biggest success to date? I'm in South Korea and England but next year I'll be exporting with Lidl to Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania for definite, and they're planning more. The association with Lidl gives me credibility and it's brought me up to the next level.


I’m also getting involved with food service in Dubai next month, and then to Poland and Germany at the end of January. I’ve come out of the fishbowl now and I’m in the big pond.

What advice would you give to someone starting a business? The best piece of advice I could give anybody is to listen. It's important to make an effort to go out and meet your customers, see what they want and try to deliver that. I've been told never to put all your eggs in one basket and that's something I try to stand by.

What's the biggest mistake you've made in business? Trusting people too much was to my detriment. I was too trustworthy when I began, but I learned from it. We all make mistakes and you just have to pick up the pieces and dust yourself down. Who do you most admire in business and why? It would have to be Darina. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for her. She's so successful but she still has time for everybody. It's fantastic what she's achieved for food here in Ireland. She's an inspiration, and what a legacy she's leaving behind.

What could the Government do to help SMEs in the current environment and stimulate the economy? Since the recession, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices have been fantastic but the Government needs to be more lenient on people starting up, and get rid of the rates and charges for the first while. The food industry is bringing the economy back on its feet, and I feel we should be given a bit more respect and security. Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs? The recession took my house; it took everything. In 2010, when I got the first order from Lidl, I went into AIB but they didn't want to know about me. I had no history with Bank of Ireland but I went to the bank manager and he took a gamble on me which has paid off. I'm one of the lucky ones and long may it last.

How do you see the short-term future for your business? I want to keep growing with Lidl and also under the Scullery brand. I'd also like to work on product development for other businesses. At the moment I'm exporting to four countries, but I hope in 10 years' time that I'm exporting to at least 14 or 15.

What's your business worth and would you sell it? I've been at a lot of crossroads in my life so it's taken me longer to get where I am. I feel like it's only in the last three years I'm starting out in my journey as such. Two companies have approached me this year about investing but I feel the business is worth so much more to me than to anybody else. It's so much a part of me, and I feel I have much more to achieve and conquer.

In conversation with Kirstin Campbell