Lolly Strahan of Lolly & Cooks discusses crowdfunding, following a passion, hard work and not reading newspapers.

Churpy & Laragh Strahan Lolly & Cooks

Your business journey so far?

I moved to London in 2005 having worked in various areas of the food service industry for the previous ten years. Over there I got a job, in charge of operations, opening a chain of bakeries and learned an enormous amount about the business side of food retailing. I wanted to bring something similar back to Dublin and so moved home to open the first branch of Lolly and Cooks in 2008. Right at the start of the crash!

What’s in the name? 

The name was simple, I am Lolly, and the cooks are the incredible team I have working in our production kitchens. Although back then it was just one other baker and me. 

Getting the prices right 

Pricing is tough in our area, we only use top ingredients to produce our artisan-style products and yet need to achieve an operational margin to stay in business. I knew we would have to expand to keep the prices affordable for our customers.

Would you do differently if starting again? 

Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have changed much from the starting point. I am a cautious person and didn’t want to test my idea having undertaken a huge amount of debt, so starting out small and expanding very slowly was okay with me. I’d change a million things I’ve done since then regarding further expansion and am still learning from mistakes I make on a daily basis. 

“Once I started out on my own, Bord Bia was incredibly helpful, as was Enterprise Ireland. But you can’t go back to your old school and tell students it’ll be all okay if you flunk your Leaving Cert.”

What will be served next? 

We hope to expand further over the next 24 months. After that, I’m unsure. I’m a single mum and would like to take a more back seat position at some stage.

Morning, day or night? 

I’m a morning person, and I get my best work all done by 3pm. After that, I’m finishing up bits and pieces before collecting my daughter. Often I’ll finish off some work when she has gone to bed, but I’m a better person the next day if I can switch off at night.

Supports and funding 

I never went to college, and hold no qualifications but I did follow my passion and went into the food business. If I was in my 15-year-old shoes, I guess that in school bringing back previous students with similar stories might have inspired me.  

Once I started out on my own, Bord Bia was incredibly helpful, as was Enterprise Ireland. But you can’t go back to your old school and tell students it’ll be all okay if you flunk your Leaving Cert. 

However, in recent years things have changed regarding securing loans to progress SMEs. We have successfully used crowdfunding to raise finance (LinkedFinance). It’s a progressive way to help our area grow.

Are there any blogs, newsletters, newspapers, magazines or social media pages that you read every day?

No.

What’s your ‘death row’ meal?

Lamb Moussaka. 

Interview by Barry Walsh. Images from Lolly & Cooks. Pictured are owners Churpy and Lolly Strahan.

READ MORE: How to start a food business.