Hello ladies!

My name is Fiona Mc Intyre. My career life actually started over 15 years ago, in the fashion retail industry in Dublin. I have always had a love of drawing, art and anything that involves visual and creative thinking. I fell in love with the artistic and creative side of the fashion world – starting out as a sales assistant, working my way up over the years to management and head Visual Merchandiser for the North of Ireland, and launching my own clothing brand “Pretty Owls Drink Tea” with my then business partner, Olivia Maguire. I absolutely loved my jobs, and gained a lot of experience in how to run our concession store, hit and exceed targets, manage a team of 8 -10 staff members, and have fun doing it! Sadly there is a down side to this industry,long hours and working every festive holiday, which didn’t mix well when my little mini Max came into the world back in 2012. While I did continue juggling raising Max as a single parent and running PODT, by 2015 I came to the realisation that I wanted something more for us both. A simpler way of life… and so Whitehill Eco Farm was born…

Then, after some weeks of researching the market, for both naturally-grown produce and pre-schools for Max, I made the decision to move north west, and relaunch what my father had successfully started over 15 years previously. It was a massive career change from fashion to farming, but one I don’t regret for a minute. I learnt a lot from my father while working on the farm over many summers when younger, but now it was time for me to put it all into action! Max and I moved up in September of 2015; he started in his new school and with the massive support of my partner, family and locals, the farm relaunch project was in full swing. My father had retired and closed the business two years earlier, so there was quite a bit of labour-intensive work to be done to get it back in good working order, before the 2016 growing season started. I set a date on social media, and, by word of mouth, asked for voluntary help in exchange for some tasty organic food and some alcoholic beverages! I was completely blown away with the help that arrived on the farm that morning!This is just one of the many reasons why I love living up here – the community spirit is like no other.

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Then, after some weeks of researching the market, for both naturally-grown produce and pre-schools for Max, I made the decision to move north west, and relaunch what my father had successfully started over 15 years previously. It was a massive career change from fashion to farming, but one I don’t regret for a minute. I learnt a lot from my father while working on the farm over many summers when younger, but now it was time for me to put it all into action! Max and I moved up in September of 2015; he started in his new school and with the massive support of my partner, family and locals, the farm relaunch project was in full swing. My father had retired and closed the business two years earlier, so there was quite a bit of labour-intensive work to be done to get it back in good working order, before the 2016 growing season started. I set a date on social media, and, by word of mouth, asked for voluntary help in exchange for some tasty organic food and some alcoholic beverages! I was completely blown away with the help that arrived on the farm that morning!This is just one of the many reasons why I love living up here – the community spirit is like no other.fi and fi

Since then I have linked up with my partner’s educational business www.irishgapyear.com, becoming one of their volunteer businesses, where the students, or ‘gappers’ as we like to call them, get to learn (in our case) the organic farm working life, how to grow their own food for the dinner table at Bundrowes House, plus many other activities like live willow sculpting, native tree planting, bread, jam and juice making in the 300 year old cottage, local historical walks and, not forgetting the Traditional Irish Sing Song! Now that’s proper cultural immersion!

This has brought a new educational element to Whitehill Eco Farm, which I intend to grow further this year, with digital-free tipi camping packages for groups like scouts and transition year students. Keep a close eye on our Facebook page for more information on this! For me, becoming self-employed again with the farm has been an ongoing project of business plans, grant applications, Back to Work Scheme interviews, etc. Thankfully there is so much help and advice out there if you do decided to take the jump at becoming self-employed. Personally, I like to think of a start-up business as just like my little plants; remember, they need to be nurtured from planting to germination to harvest. It takes time, confidence, perseverance, focus, skill and determination. To some, building a successful start-up can be a daunting task. It was for me, but with the right knowledge and inspiration, even that mountain is achievable.

 

  1. Business Plan

My first, and most important, point to anyone starting out in a new venture would be research, research, research!!! Once you have compiled enough positive information and know there is definitely a market for your business model, then it’s time to put all that down on paper in the form of a good business plan. Never start anything without this, no matter how well you may know the industry or the product. Most government bodies, banks and financial agencies will need one anyway.

Secondly, and also part of your business plan, you should prepare financial projections for at least the first 2/3 years of your business. These are just projections, but it’s best to make them as realistic and achievable as you think possible, from your research.

 

  1. Remind yourself of your desire to achieve. 

A successful business owner or entrepreneur’s No.1 asset, I think, is perseverance. The need to ‘achieve and succeed’ prevents you from giving up, and if you do find it challenging at times, look around you and identify the people who make up your success team. Whether it’s an older mentor who keeps you in line with your goals, or a younger entrepreneur who inspires you and fuels your energy, surrounding yourself with ‘business cheerleaders’ as I like to call them, helps turn every setback into a lesson, not a disappointment. I’ve been so lucky to have had really great ‘business cheerleaders’, both here and back in Dublin; while setting up and running both of my businesses, they were a huge part of what kept me going.

 

  1. Set realistic goals. 

Set several small, measurable milestones so that you can track your progress, and very importantly have realistic business goals on how to achieve them. I set out everything from creating useful partnerships, networking, marketing, ramping up social media, and even hiring good employees. But this all takes time, so create a plan and be prepared to tackle it one day at a time.

Oh, and when you achieve the smaller goals, don’t forget to reward yourself with a pat on the back!

 

  1. Take care of yourself. 

Yes, having your own business means you’re invested 24/7, but invested and overworked are two different things. Make time to take care of yourself. Set regular times during the week to unplug; hang out with family and friends, hit the gym, take walks, read, or do some yoga or a hobby that you love. If possible, maybe even take a vacation! This gives your brain time to rest, re-calibrate and be ready to run a successful business.

 

  1. Have fun.

If you are going to start something it must be something you have a passion about, so even on those exhausting days you will still have something to smile about! Honestly, what could be better than the chance to create something you love to do everyday, and make your living from it…??!!

 

Thanks for reading and I wish you all the very best in your future business ventures. Who knows, maybe I’ll be reading about your start-up business this time next year!!

fi

If you would like to know more about Whitehill Eco Farm then please follow the following links.

Facebook: @whitehillecofarm

Website: http://www.whitehillecofarm.bigcartel.com/