Erica Sheehan – Homespun Foods
25th July 2019
Launching a business can be daunting and exciting in equal measures. For July’s Women Who Launch we speak to Erica Sheehan of Homespun Food.
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
Homespun creates delicious healthy wholefoods-based products, including our Quinoa Crunch granolas, which are free from gluten, wheat and refined sugar.
We’re small but growing having won a national store listing with Supervalu and export to the UK and UAE. I am based in Dublin and our products are made in an award winning bakery in Co Cork. We work closely with them and make a good team. They share our passion for healthy and tasty food.
To date, it’s been a combination of bootstrapping and re-investing any profits. We have also received relatively small but important grants from Bord Bia and Dun Loaghaire Local Enterprise Office.
Health conscious females who value nourishment and naturalness when it comes to food, as well as great taste. I’m my own best customer because I love our Quinoa Crunch and enjoy it daily. We’re developing new products at the moment. The litmus test for me is – would I eat and buy this myself? Minimising unnecessary sweetener, even honey, using purely wholefoods and baking in small batches in an artisan bakery really makes a difference to the taste of the end product
BRANDS YOU LOVE
Companies that genuinely care about the world we live in.
Reuzi is an Irish minimal waste lifestyle shop. I often collaborate with Pat Kane, the founder, as we share a belief that each one of us can do something to live more sustainably. Our cardboard packaging is made from Forestry Sustainable Council approved packaging and our quinoa is 100% organic. Our new products will be wrapped in compostable film.
BIGGEST ‘WIN’ TO DATE
Launching on Ocado.com, the major UK grocery website was a big milestone. We have also won 5 gold awards for our products. The judges said they combine “amazing taste, real innovation and genuine nutrition.”
Launching in Selfridges Food Hall was also a major standout moment.
BIGGEST ‘SLAP IN THE FACE’
The start of 2019 was fraught with business challenges. A manufacturer due to start the production of new products was unable to deliver and there were problems with the supply of our main ingredient which is quinoa. I also had a newborn baby. In dark moments, I contemplated folding the business but after a good night’s sleep I would wake up the next day determined to find a way through. I’ve come to realise that sleeping is as important as slogging!
ARE YOU SOCIAL WHEN IT COMES TO MEDIA?
It’s important. Instagram, which is so visual, is key for Homespun and other food brands. I heard the Gastro Gays spoke recently and they advised brands to focus on one social media channel and to do it well rather than trying to cover all bases in a patchy inconsistent manner.
However, ‘offline’ activities such as sampling Quinoa Crunch in stores and at events such as WellFest is also really important. Lots of people are surprised that a quinoa granola tastes good, so tastings are just as important as social.
I run Homespun from my laptop and iPhone. I’m in constant contact with the bakery, which is in Co Cork and our customers which include stores like Avoca and Donnybrook Fair. We sell online too now – we launched Homespun on Amazon six months ago which means our products are available all over the UK and Ireland at the click of a mouse.
IS THERE A BUSINESS MODEL YOU WOULD LIKE TO EMULATE?
Not really but there are businesses I admire, mainly for their ethos, creativity and consumer focus. Strong Roots has revolutionised the frozen category, creating healthier plant-based options for people who still want the convenience traditional prepared foods offer. Similarly, breakfast cereals are seen as sugary and full of additives. However, with Quinoa Crunch we’re offering a flavorful, light, nutritious alternative which more and more people seem to like. Strong Roots is definitely inspirational.
IF YOU HAD A BLANK CHEQUE
I would accelerate hiring plans to recruit a full time sales person to assist with merchandising, events and general business development.
YOUR TRAITS – BEST AND WORST
I am optimistic, hardworking and always try to help others.
there are downsides to each
•I have a bias towards optimism and perhaps should be more realistic
•I’m always thinking about my business
•Sometimes I need to be less about other people and more about getting the job done!
BEST BUSINESS LUNCH DATE
I am a huge admirer of Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse, so it would have to be with her. No prizes for guessing the venue!
IDEAL BUSINESS PARTNER
Someone who is a genuine foodie, with an appetite, literally, for good food, and interest in innovation. Ideally someone who would be able to provide not just capital but experience and advice. Also someone with integrity who is motivated not by money but by achievement.
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE
When starting out, apply for accelerators. I was lucky enough to take part in the Supervalu Food Academy, Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers and also Starting Strong, the precursor to Going for Growth which is geared towards female entrepreneurs. Through each, I met friends, peers and mentors who have really helped me move forward and have inspired me. I can’t recommend these programs enough!