Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear Foods
23rd September 2019
Launching a business can be daunting and exciting in equal measures. For our Women Who Launch September candidate, we hear from Loretta Kennedy of Mama Bear Foods. https:// https://www.mamabearfoods.ie/.
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
At MamaBear Foods we create healthy, nutritious and tasty family foods, providing a range of condiments and snacks for the busy family. Our first product is a healthy ketchup.
We are based in Cork and are a small family business. We currently work with a manufacturing partner and employ 4 people, including part time consultants. My aspiration for 2020 is to have a new office space, to employ a full-time sales person and to begin exporting into Europe and the US.
I was fortunate to be offered a place on the new Frontiers Programme Phase 2 which greatly helped with my day-to-day costs. Financing initially came from personal loans which have since been paid back. Bootstrapping for the first year really but now we have better cash flow through sales. I have an overdraft facility and a credit line facility on my business account. To date we have not received any investment and have managed (just about!) so far. This year is our busiest year and it is a relief to see cash flow issues ebb a little!
Health conscious families and millennials. People who want to eat healthier versions of everyday foods. Doing in store tastings I find a lot of mothers come up and talk to me about what a fussy eater they have, about how much ketchup their child uses. Generally, it is parents who buy my products for their children and families. I am my own target market and when working on new products I always ask myself: “Would I buy this?”
BRANDS YOU LOVE
I love Beth Kirby from Local Milk for her styling and food photography, Susan Jane White who is hilarious and an amazing no nonsense cook and storyteller.
BIGGEST ‘WIN’ TO DATE
Getting a listing with Aldi in June was a huge win. We launched in Cork in December 2018 with 6 stores and 6 months later were in 138 Aldi for a week. That was really cool.
BIGGEST ‘SLAP IN THE FACE’
I did a mock Dragons Den type pitch earlier in the year. At the time I was so proud of my product, my messaging, my hard work but at the pitch I got a lot of (constructive) criticism which I found really difficult to take at the time, in the moment. I started crying in the middle of the pitch and couldn’t stop. Mortification. The next day one of the “dragons” phoned me and said how that’s the difference between me and a big international brand. I’m not just a salesperson, I am my brand. I care and take it personally because it is my baby. This person offered me mentoring and support afterwards because I guess they saw how overwhelmed and burnt out I was getting. Not able to see the woods from the trees. So, a silver lining came out of a really horrible experience
ARE YOU SOCIAL WHEN IT COMES TO MEDIA?
Social media plays a huge part for my business and brand. I really saw how effective it was during the Grow with Aldi campaign back in June when I needed to reach potential customers nationally and now internationally. I love instagram for its visual and storytelling content. I’ve also found wonderful camaraderie and support on social media. When you don’t have a massive marketing budget or a sales team, social media is crucial for getting your message and brand out there. I use it for information, connection, storytelling and fun but I do try not to get sucked down the rabbit hole on a Friday night.
ON TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION
Without my phone my business wouldn’t run. I use my phone for everything; emails, photography, calls etc. Responding to emails on the run (sitting parked in the school yard, collecting kids for instance). When starting out and trying to grow my business I felt I needed to be available for calls and responsive to emails and messages at all times. Now my business has expanded and I have more blocked off time and structure to give to it, the crazy juggling is becoming less intense. Or else I’m just managing it better!
A lot of my work is spent researching; new ingredients, packaging, equipment etc. I love innovation. I love what is happening in the packaging space right now. My brand stays away from single use plastic as much as possible. I am loving the new materials coming down the line for instance, beet starches. I can’t wait to try them and see how I can use them in my business. One of the difficult things about having your own business, and nearly everyone says it, is the constant being on, emails coming in at all hours. I once got a call at 9 pm on a Sunday night from a woman in the US looking to buy my ketchup. Technology keeps me connected but it also enables me to connect with experts in their field.
IS THERE A BUSINESS MODEL YOU WOULD LIKE TO EMULATE?
Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters have business models I really like. I love the diversity of what they do in terms of products; cook books, pod casts, product ranges. I heard Ella Mills speak at Wellfest last year and loved how honest she was about the difficulties of running a business
IF YOU HAD A BLANK CHEQUE
Hire and amazing team of creative and innovative people who are the best in their fields. Take my family on a month long holiday, far from wifi. Book myself a massage!
YOUR TRAITS – BEST AND WORST
I can talk to anyone and do!
I am flexible and move on quickly
I am curious and follow whatever path that takes my interest which makes life interesting!
I am a perfectionist
I am pretty sensitive and take criticism hard
I am a procrastinator
BEST BUSINESS LUNCH
Maud Gonne and Peggy Shelby from the Peaky Blinders
IDEAL BUSINESS PARTNER
Arianna Huffington. I think she would have a tip or two for me!
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE
Do your costings before you get too attached to something. If you have a business idea and it keeps poking you, act on it, be curious, give it a go. thhoinvestigate.Without remortgaging