‘If I could do it again’ – Sharon Fitzpatrick

Sharon Fitzpatrick set up event catering company Fitzers Catering in the 1980s, initially providing catering services to the film industry. She went on to win catering contracts for such venues as Leopardstown Racecourse, Lansdowne Road and Croke Park, catering to crowds of more than 80,000 people. Today, she employs 90 people full time and has casual worker database of 2,000 for major events.

If I could do it again, what would I do differently?

In 2006, I bought a hotel in Kildare, The Ardnode. I bought it because at the time I felt that being in a contracts business didn’t provide enough certainty. In this line of work you win contracts that last five or ten years, and then you might win them again, or you might lose them. If you lose them, you could be talking about losing 30% of your revenues. That’s quite dramatic. So I thought I’d buy a hotel to have a different strand to the business – something steady and not prone to ups and downs. I then spent a lot of money restoring it.

It turned out to be a very costly mistake. We did okay performance wise, up to 60 weddings a year, but we couldn’t make it work financially. In the end, I had to sell it and lost a lot of money on it.

 

“I wish someone had advised me to stick to the core business. Don’t venture too far outside what you know.”

 

I also wish they’d said to me – ‘Contracts come and go. That’s the nature of the business, and when you lose one contract, you win another and, over time, it all balances out turnover wise’. I wish I had realised then that a contracts business is a good business model. It works for us.

But it wasn’t the end of the world thankfully. As my husband said, if I hadn’t bought the hotel I might have bought something that could have turned out even worse. Let’s call it a nice, expensive, lesson.

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