Sarah NicLochlainn from Aruna Sauces in County Louth says getting more women into business is key to our economic recovery and says childcare can be a woman’s main obstacle.
WHEN MY HUSBAND and I decided to run with our business, it was no easy task. We already had a business first of all – a restaurant, Fuchsia House, which we opened in 2005. In its first year we received rave reviews and won many major awards, but as the economy went down so did the number of people dining out. We knew our product was good, so we focused on that.
Ma Aruna’s Chicken Curry – a recipe given to Sarajit by his mother, Aruna – was the most popular dish on our menu. In 2009, due to popular demand we started making Aruna’s Traditional Curry Sauce. We started small, selling directly to the public and at farmers’ markets. In 2010 we developed four more varieties and the range was officially launched by Tom Doorley. From then, it went from strength to strength, winning many awards.
In 2012, we pitched Aruna Sauces in Dragons’ Den, winning an investment from Gavin Duffy. The business has grown substantially since and in May won bronze at the National Start-Up Awards.
As a woman in business, I know for a fact that there are loads of women, probably mothers, who are sitting there with an idea for a business stewing around in their minds. They might have had the idea for many years, but they just don’t think they could see it to fruition. My mother, for example, had a business idea for years and years. It was only until she was in her 50s did she feel she could dedicate the time and thought to setting it up. This is something that I feel is widespread around the country: women who believe they are just mothers or wives, who have great ideas but who don’t have the support to see them through.
Being a woman in business I know I am very lucky. I had a business with my husband, so I had support, but I understand the difficulties faced by women in business, particularly when starting out. When I was at a women in enterprise event people began listing all the obstacles that women face when in business. I was shocked that childcare did not feature on the list. For me, this was ridiculous, as it is the number one reason for women not taking the step into creating their own business or even investigating it.
Childcare costs are astronomical and if you are thinking about opening your own business you better be very aware that it will take up the majority of your time. Childcare is essential if you are a mother who is seriously contemplating it. Enterprise Boards are great at offering women support, and they will even help out with some funds towards childcare, so that you can at least hammer out your idea in peace for a few hours a week. But it really is only nominal. If we want more women to enter into business, a national childcare scheme is needed.
The government are constantly talking about job creation – this is how it can be achieved. Women have great ideas, many that are very unique. If we want to create more businesses that will employ more people, they need to invest in childcare. The country is made up of 50 per cent or so of women. Are their skills and talents being utilised? Not as much as they could be. The need to have your child taken care of, even for a few hours so that you can nurture your business idea and see if it is a runner, is so important.
In my own business, I employ a woman part-time. She is an invaluable member of our team and she is a mother. I know that the business is better with her in it and we are flexible, but if we are to get more of these talented business women into work we need to make it a little easier.
For anyone who thinks they have an idea for business I would definitely suggest they get in touch with their local enterprise board – that was really my first port of call and they were so helpful. I would say that business isn’t easy, especially now, but don’t just sit on your idea for years, there is nothing worse than wondering ‘what if’. Just go for it, try and find a support network and see where it can go from there.
Sarah Nic Lochlainn of Aruna Sauces is from Donegal but living in Louth. In 2012, they won bronze at the National Start-Up Awards and since then the business has grown substantially.
If you are a woman with a business idea and would like more information about how to get started visit Women in Business Networks and IrishBusinesswomen.com. For more information on Enterprise Boards in Ireland click here.