SlowFoodCo is located in Newtowncunningham and Donegal Diaspora contacted them to share their experiences of doing business in Donegal

Name of your business and description of what you - We are a Wood-Fired Artisan Bakery based in Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal. We use the best local Donegal produce & organic whenever possible. There are only two Wood-fired bakeries in Ireland so we are selling a very unique product from Donegal.  In keeping with the Slowfoodco. ethos we have followed classic, centuries old wood-fired methods to bring Real Bread back to life. Our craft breads range from rustic country whites and overnight sourdoughs to traditional Irish wheaten and sodas, French- style baguettes to spelt and gluten free. All are healthy, local and fresh.

Our aim is to reintroduce an understanding of the importance of pure, freshly baked breads, and in doing so try to satisfy our customer's ever increasing requests (and rightly so!) for authentic, carefully made products, far removed from the mechanisation and mass production of today's baking industry where additives, improvers and preservatives are standard.

Our breads have few ingredients, the best available and as local as possible. All our loaves are hand formed, risen for long periods to develop flavour, and baked to wood-fired perfection in our brick oven. Many of our breads are made using only natural yeast which is harnessed over time using just Stone-ground Organic flour and natural mineral water. This enhances further the complex flavour of our breads. We use only hardwood, mainly from our own managed sustainable stocks. We produce only small quantities, approx 100 loaves a day which we supply to local shops, restaurants and farmers markets. Home delivery is also available by advance notice. 

What is your connection to Donegal?  

We moved to Donegal in 2008, to be closer to my wife's family who are originally from Derry & to my wife's job.

When did you set up your business?

We set up the business in 2011

Who or what is your main market?

Local Farmers markets, local shops, deli’s & restaurants.

How do you run your business from Donegal? Give us a feel for how it all works.

The bakery works 24hours a day, our breads & pastries start to come out of the oven from 4am onwards, deliveries start at 9am, baking days are currently Thursday, Friday & Saturday.  The hours are long but rewarding when you are passionate about your product. We make good use of Twitter, Facebook & have a web site shop set up all of which enables us to keep in touch with customers & fellow bakers not only in Ireland, UK & further afield.

Why choose Donegal as a place for business?

We chose Donegal to be closer to family & as a great safe place to bring up our children. My wife also has had a business in Donegal for the past several years. 

Does doing business in Donegal differ from doing business elsewhere?

Yes, it is hard work; any business has to be scaled to local needs & surrounding population. Donegal is a tourist destination and we have found that during the summer months business is stronger.

Describe your work / life balance?

 It was my intention in setting up this business from home in Donegal that I would be able to spend more time with the family compared with my previous job as a full time chef. Some days it is difficult to get away from the bakery being on my door step but the plus side is that I always get to put my children to bed.

What has been the biggest challenge you faced and how did you meet it?

The biggest challenge was setting up the bakery & establishing our first customers with no income.  At the beginning there was no question of employing any staff so the work load was extremely heavy. We now employ 3 members of staff but still rely on the goodness of family when things get busy.

What are your hopes for the future here and for your business?

We hope to develop the business to a level that will allow us to open a bakery shop/outlet in Donegal to sell a wider range of our hand-crafted artisan products. We are hoping to employ two further full time members of staff this summer with the expansion of our Wood-fired Pizzeria Business.

Any advice for someone looking to set up a business in Donegal?

I feel that when starting up any new business the key is to start small, put your passion into it, do your research, check that there is a market for your product & take loads of advice. Donegal Enterprise Board has been extremely helpful to us as we have grown