Back for Business: Laura Bonner, Muff Liquor Company

In a new weekly series, we talk to emigrants who have returned to Ireland and have started businesses. This week we talk to Laura Bonner who founded The Muff Liquor Company in Co Donegal.

Back for Business fosters entrepreneurial activity among emigrants recently returned or returning to live in Ireland through a peer learning approach.

The initiative is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Thirty-eight entrepreneurs from across the country have just completed the second cycle of Back for Business.

“Once I made a bit of money, I knew it was time to return home and follow my dream”

We will profile a number of them over the coming weeks. This week we talk to Laura Bonner who returned from London to set up her business The Muff Liquor Company in Co Donegal.

How long were you away from Ireland and what did you do?

I was away for six years in London where I worked in property. I started off in lettings and climbed the corporate ladder to become director of the UK for an Australian company selling to the Chinese.

What attracted you back to Ireland? Was it for personal or professional reasons?

I love Ireland – if the recession didn’t hit us back in 2008, I don’t think I would ever have left. I knew since I was a teenager that I would do what I am doing now. I always knew I would own The Muff Liquor Company and produce Irish spirits, which is part of my family heritage. Once I made a bit of money, I knew it was time to return home and follow my dream.

What is your business all about?

The Muff Liquor Company produces premium potato-based Irish spirits. It was inspired by my grandfather, Philip McClenaghan, who used to make poitin. We launched the business in February 2018 with Muff gin and followed that with Muff vodka. We are now selling in multiple countries worldwide.

Was it hard starting up again in Ireland? What caused the most problems?

Yes, it was difficult at the beginning, mainly for personal reasons as my friends and a lot of my family were still abroad and my banking was still in the UK. I also needed a new driving licence but apart from those issues, the transition was fine.

What needs to change to make it easier for returning emigrants to start businesses in Ireland?

There needs to be better access to funding. It has been the hardest obstacle for me. I’ve wasted so much time with certain organisations, going through a lot of meetings and paperwork with no results.

Anyone interested in receiving an application form for the next cycle of Back for Business – the call for which will be launched in November – should register their interest here.

Written by John Kennedy (

Published: 21 August, 2019