Going for Growth: Beth-Ann Smith, Lismore Food Company

For Beth-Ann Smith a love of food and a family heritage in the deli, bakery and grocery businesses were the perfect combination driving the creation of the Lismore Food Company.

Lismore Food Company is a luxury food brand that produces a range of exceptional delicacies and delicious drinks

The people behind the Lismore Food Company are steeped in a rich heritage of fine food and drink that stretches back 200 years.

“While Covid has been hard on all of us in so many ways, it did allow us to work on developing our business, not just work in the business”

In this new series we talk to women entrepreneurs who have taken part in the Going for Growth programme. Going for Growth is a six-month part-time programme, supported by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG, which assists ambitious female entrepreneurs to achieve their growth aspirations.

Savouring the journey

Two men and a woman sitting on a wall.

Owen Madden, Beth-Ann Smith and Ken Madden.

“It has always been the three of us running the business and we had never had an external influence, so it was a real eye-opener”

Beth-Ann Smith’s family ran a well-known deli in Cork, while the family of her partner Ken Madden and his brother Owen Madden (her two other business partners) ran a grocery in Lismore, Co. Waterford. Both families have a long list of grocers, bakers and wine and spirit merchants in their history.

Beth-Ann initially studied business and politics at Trinity College Dublin but found the pull back to food too strong and, when she was 30, she returned to train as a chef. She went on to be head chef at Lismore Castle and private chef to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Inspired by the impressive afternoon teas at Lismore Castle, she wanted to create her own biscuits which were simple in terms of ingredients but luxurious in their taste and packaging and, in October 2014, The Lismore Food Company was born.

“While I had a background in food, I had no background in bringing products to market, so we had a lot to learn. But I knew that we wanted to create something really special and looked to the luxurious brands in France and elsewhere for inspiration to create our sweet and savoury biscuits,” says Beth-Ann.

When Covid hit in early 2020, the company had a range of biscuits and chocolate confections on the market. But when their hotel and restaurant clients started closing their doors, they had to act fast. And act fast they did, creating an online shop and bringing 15 new products to market in a two-month period.

“We developed a basic online shop and started responding to where the demand was. We were listening to our customers who were buying our biscuits but then pairing them with teas and jams to send to their friends and family during lockdown. We were very much led by the customer,” says Beth-Ann.

“So at the end of September 2020, we launched the Lismore Hamper Collection selling online with a range of own-brand biscuits, jams, teas, coffees, jams, chutneys, cordials and much more – all in our lovely orange luxury hat box.  It just goes to show you what you can do when you put your mind to it. While Covid has been hard on all of us in so many ways, it did allow us to work on developing our business, not just work in the business. We know that not everyone had that luxury and so many businesses are struggling, so we do feel grateful.”

Beth-Ann was on the 12th cycle of Going for Growth with Chupi Sweetman-Durney as her Lead Entrepreneur.

“Being on Going for Growth was really amazing as, while the business was doing really well, there were a number of things keeping us where we were and not allowing us to grow. It has always been the three of us running the business and we had never had an external influence, so it was a real eye-opener.

“Chupi was impressive and incredibly dynamic with a huge understanding of running a company. She helped us all to make tough decisions and cut our costs when Covid hit. The continued support of the Going for Growth participants and friends was instrumental in helping us to pivot during a difficult time.”

The call is open for applications from female entrepreneurs who would welcome peer support to take their businesses to the next level by taking part in the Going for Growth programme. This is the 13th year of Going for Growth and more than 750 female entrepreneurs have so far taken part in the programme. Sixty places will be available for the 13th cycle of Going for Growth, which will run from January to June 2021 and the deadline for applications is Friday 18 December There is no charge for those selected.

Anyone interested is encouraged to register on the website goingforgrowth.com and a link to the application form will be sent to them.

Published: 7 December 2020