In this radio interview Ger talks about the history of Goatsbridge, farming trout, fish processing and of course the end products – paté, caviar, smoked trout and fresh fish
In this radio interview Ger talks about the history of Goatsbridge, farming trout, fish processing and of course the end products – paté, caviar, smoked trout and fresh fish
We launched in Sainsbury’s last week after a year of hard work putting all the processes in place. Now that we have made it to the shelves with four of our amazing products, we must sit and wait and see what Brexit brings. Let’s see how the UK public react to our Eat Trout product range.
Donald Trump said, “You have to think anyway, so why not think big?” And now Goatsbridge is a small company thinking big. For the record that is about the only inspiring thing I have head Donald Trump utter!!!
We met with the buyers almost 10 months ago for the first time and that meeting went very well indeed. A big thanks to Purple Basil and its founder Joanna Walker who worked with our team to make this happen. As a former buyer in some of the biggest retailers in the UK, Joanna believed in us from the beginning. Sainsbury’s loved our products, our branding (thanks to Slater Design) and they loved The Kirwans which is always a help. People do business with people and I must say I have found the personnel in Sainsbury’s to be nothing short of supportive.
I believe destiny isn’t a matter of chance, but a matter of choice. Have we made the right choice? Who knows! We will never find out how far we can go if we don’t take risks? If we win, we will be happy and if we lose, we will be wise. I’ll take either.
photo credit: Sainsbury’s Supermakets
Strategy is a word I have been using constantly over the last few years. It all began one day in Dublin at a Bord Bia workshop when we gathered to explore the strategic thinking of several food companies from across the country. While we had no documented strategic plan in place at the time, I was astounded at the number of large companies who seemed to have no idea of where they wanted to go. I decided there and then to put a plan in place.
Our new found strategy is now a high-level plan which is helping us to achieve our goals under conditions of uncertainty, and boy do we have many uncertainties in the business of fish farming! After the summer we have just experienced no one could have predicted the high temperatures over such a prolonged period of time. On a positive note no one could have predicted the huge surge in demand for our fresh fish in Ireland and across the globe. This demand is something we see going from strength to strength.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm is at a very critical stage in its life and we are aware companies that grow for the sake of growth, or that expand into areas outside their core business strategy, often stumble. On the other hand, companies that build scale for the benefit of their customers more often succeed over time.
I feel the most important thing is to build a compelling vision, a comprehensive strategy for achieving that vision, and then a relentless implementation plan. The biggest strategic risk that is guaranteed to fail is not taking any risk.
So, what is the plan?
Goatsbridge Trout Farm have worked relentlessly over the last number of years building a very strong recognisable brand and reputation. We have developed a range of high-quality products that have won many awards. We have tested the Irish market to build growth, working with all the major retailers in Ireland, including the two largest so-called discounters.
The reality in Ireland is the prize is small in terms of market share because of the small population of fish eaters. On top of this we have discovered that the cost to service the Irish people, in a market that has too many shops per capita, is extremely high. As a result, we will allow the sale of retail products to grow organically in this country, minimising the financial support to grow this market.
I am therefore happy to announce we will take the risk and launch into Sainsbury’s, the 2nd largest chain of supermarkets in the UK, on 14th of November to test this high-volume market for our added value trout range. Time will tell whether we have a place in mainstream retail at all and we will make the brave decision to pull out if this is the case.
We now look towards our newly acquired production sites and investigate the many possibilities to grow production in a sustainable manner, having identified a world screaming for high quality fish.
One such project is taking place in Mount Lucas, the biggest wind farm site in Ireland owned by Bord Na Mona.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm believe this is a truly sustainable and innovative method of fish farming modelling itself on the production of Catfish in The States. We hope to grow Duckweed to act as a natural biological biofilter, use air to move water around the pill ponds, and run these airlifts using energy taken from the nearby wind turbine. How cool is that!
Will it work? In the words of Samuel Beckett:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Watch this space!
I simply don’t want to pinch myself in case I wake up from this happy dream.
Goatsbridge is on a roll. It seems to be one food award after another and so much positive recognition over the last few years. How, I ask myself, have we been so lucky as we drive on to build a sustainable business?
It began early in the year with our big win in China for our fishwives book where we won two prestigious awards. Since then we have received recognition from The Food Guild Writers of Ireland and were also inducted into the Hall of Fame at The Food and Wine Awards a few weeks ago in Dublin. Last weekend we won an Innovation Award sponsored by BIM at the Blas Awards.
I was walking down the high Street in Kilkenny city Friday with my youngest daughter Orlaith. She is a very confident, self-assured and savvy lady. I met many people as we made our way back to the car and every one of them mentioned our latest food award wins; I guess people are beginning to know our Company. When a lady call me by my name I did what I always do and pretended to know who she was, though I was wracking my brain as we chatted. Was she a mother of one of my kids friends, a County Councillor, or simply a foodies and Goatsbridge fan?
As we finally got to the car Orlaith turned to me and asked if I knew that person we had just met. I smiled, knowing she had guessed my predicament. She looked me straight in the eye and brought me back down to earth. She said with a loud chuckle “you think you’re great! Don’t you?”
Nothing like a family member to keep your feet on the ground and the ball moving in the right direction.
Onwards and upwards.
It has taken me 25 years to really understand the difference between my husband and I. It is only in the last two months that I have really begun to understand how that might influence the difference between success and failure in our business.
We all have defining moments in our lives. Like the first time spent away from home or the first kiss (I’ll tell you my story sometime!!) I remember the first time I realised what an amazing product rainbow trout was when I was on a date with Ger and helped him feed the fish. I also remember the first time I visited a marketing department and was told about the value of a brand.
I had another one of these defining moments on a long haul flight a few months ago to China as I began to read a brilliantly written book by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters called Rocket Fuel. I turned to my colleague and told her I was reading a book written about myself and Ger. By the time we reached our destination some 12 hours later I had finished the book with a new found understanding of our relationship, not just in life but also in business.
We all know we have differences, not just a gender thing but also personality types. My husband summed it up nicely one day from his prospective. He told me we used two very different deodorants. He said I used Impulse and he used Sure. It was obvious form that statement that Ger had never read this book or in fact had no real understanding of our differences. I am glad to say that has all changed as a result of my encounter with this book.
While I have struggled over the years to understand and live with differences within our relationship, this book went on to explain how these differences are necessary. If people are clever enough the tension generated as a result of these differences could in fact be used to generate fuel to propel a business to new heights. It worked for Disney. It worked for McDonald’s. It worked for Ford. Could it work for Goatsbridge I asked?
I am a visionary and my husband is an integrator. Visionaries have ground breaking ideas who are focused on big ideas, big relationships and the culture of the company. Integrators make those ideas a reality and are leaders whose natural talent is competently directing all the moving parts of a business.
They say men are from Venus and women are from Mars. How about using these differences and heading to The Moon. See you there.
Thank you to everyone who participated in or supported the Fishwives project last October to celebrate trout, Ireland’s so-called “forgotten fish”. As you might already know, the proceeds are going to Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), a charity that is helping thousands of sick and dying men, women and children in Africa, ensuring they have a pain-free, dignified death.
The Fishwives idea came about because I was frustrated that so many fish cookery books did not include trout recipes. There is a false perception that trout is somewhat inferior to other fish such as salmon and cod. We, at Goatsbridge, have worked tirelessly to educate and promote what I believe is an amazing product so I sincerely hope that users of this exciting new book by now appreciate what a versatile, affordable and delicious fish trout is. It was an idea to celebrate not just trout but also the fantastic wealth of female talent we have in this country.
Recipes in the book, which are beautifully produced by Slater Design in Dublin, range from trout caviar cocktails to fish curries, pies and salads. I had good fun including my four sisters, Miriam, Louise, Joanne and Cathy, who all contributed recipes.
Miriam (Donohoe) volunteered with Hospice Africa Uganda in Kampala for eight months last year and I had the privilege to go out to visit the charity in March of this year to see for myself the tremendous work being carried out by The Hospice.
That trip afforded me the opportunity to spend time with Dr Anne Merriman, an inspirational 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee who founded Hospice Africa Uganda in 1991.
The charity has helped make a difference at end-of-life to almost 30,000 seriously ill and dying patients since its foundation. I learned so much about life. I found love and happiness everywhere I went which made me appreciate a quote I read while I was visiting:
“The Happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything “
That trip is an experience I will carry with me to the end of my days.
The good news is that ‘Fishwives’ has been nominated in two categories in the Cookbook Oscars – the prestigious Gourmand World Cook Awards and is set for global honours on the international stage in China on May 26th this year.
With this in mind we are hoping to encourage as many retail outlets to stock the book and hopefully help us to achieve our ambitious target of book sales. Goatsbridge are taking no return on the sale of this book. We are giving every penny to The Hospice Movement. I am hoping you will agree to help us spread the word to sell the book. I am conscious many of you have your own charities to support so I completely understand constraints place on you to help us in our quest, so no pressure whatsoever.
The books come in boxes of 10 and cost €20 and I am happy to send a copy of the book in advance if any of you need copies as samples. Just email me firstname.lastname@example.org or ring me on 086-8188340 if you can help or have any further questions.
In the meantime, if you’d like to purchase your own copy of Fishwives, you can do so from our online shop and as an extra thank you, we’ll add a 125g pack of Goatsbridge Trout Pate to your order.
The Fishwives – A Cookbook by Goatsbridge book can be purchased from:
I had a visit from a friend last week asking if she could write a guest blog for my website. I agreed immediately, with a promise that I wouldn’t edit it and would trust her to do a good job.
I presumed it would be around our business but to my surprise she wrote about yours truly.
Tara Heavey was born and raised in London, moved to Dublin aged 12, and attended Greendale Community School (whose teachers included Paul Mercier and Roddy Doyle). Tara practised Law for five years, before turning to writing full time. She now lives in County Kilkenny.
Tara is a quietly spoken lady and one would never think Fifty Shades of Grey in her writing, until I read her first novel!!! Unbeknownst, before I read it, I gave Tara’s novel to my mother, who is an avid reader and boy did I have a laugh when I asked her how she enjoyed the book.
You would think butter wouldn’t melt in Tara’s mouth; I cannot look at her in the same light ever since. Check out Tara’s books for yourself.
Hope you enjoy the guest post.
The first time I met Mag Kirwan, she was part of the snot-wiping, nappy-changing brigade. Not her own, I hasten to add. She was in the throes of early motherhood. A role to which she brought her customary joie de vivre. Paraic was the baby at the time, a curly headed cherub, now a curly haired pre-teen Adonis. And his mother has undergone a similar transformation in the time since I have known her.
Because who could have predicted the business woman hidden within? Like a big cat poised to leap. Possibly those that know her well. Her close friends, many of whom she has retained since their school days. Her enormous, closely knit family. Her formidable mother, in whose indomitable footsteps she follows. It makes me wonder about their female ancestry, those warrior women going back generations. And who and what her daughters will become. The gazelle-like Aine. The impish Orlaith – my own daughter’s oldest friend.
I suspect Mag herself knew all along. Because I’ve rarely met a woman with such unshakeable confidence in herself. Such boundless positivity. It’s almost – and I hate to say it – un-Irish. Even though she loves her country and is every inch the Kilkenny woman. But it’s a lesson to all of us. Not to play it small or play ourselves down. Not to hide our own lights, in the mistaken belief that it will make others feel better about themselves, or perhaps make them like us more. But instead to inspire and lead the way. Spur on others to reach their own goals. It’s what makes her proudly admit that she finds her own children gorgeous. That causes her to say ‘thank you’ when someone admires her dress, instead of lowering her eyes and saying ‘this old thing’. Like I said. Gloriously un-Irish. And it’s that same confidence transferred, that caused her eldest, Ned, to declare to a visitor to their fish farm, at the time of the economic crash, that Goatsbridge Trout Farm was going to make it through the recession. Make it they did. With bells on. Isn’t that the kind of self belief we all want to instill into our children?
It was this self-belief that launched Goatsbridge Trout caviar. Everyone thought she was nuts. But did she listen? Did she hell. Proving once again that she was one of the sanest people around. Because in a world gone mad, it often pays to go against the grain. And leave the naysayers gawping open mouthed in your wake.
But it’s not all business and plain sailing for Margaret. She’s gone through her dark times and more than her fair share of losses, notably the deaths of her father and brother at a tragically young age. She is startlingly and refreshingly open when she speaks about the difficulties that this caused her and her struggles to overcome the pain of this loss. My own opinion is that is taught her at a gut level that life is short and that each opportunity should be grabbed by its you-know-whats. And it also taught her empathy for other people’s pain. It was this empathy which accompanied her and a good friend into a chemotherapy session. So the friend would not be alone. So she wouldn’t be afraid. And it was with her as she minded that friend’s children, as she made her recovery. It is also present when she is there for her siblings. as they navigate life’s inevitable rocky patches.
Am I making her sound like a saint? Because she isn’t. Neither am I. And neither are you.
You could be forgiven for thinking that every time you open a business page these days, an image of Margaret Kirwan is smiling back at you, together with her husband Ger, he of the movie star looks. Standing like a rock beside her. As if they were carved out for one other.
They head a household in which family and business are almost indistinguishable, each blending seamlessly and wrapping around the other. And at the heart of this home, a woman of incredible drive and entrepreneurial spirit. A force of nature if ever I saw one.
“Everything happens for a reason they say. It is either a lesson or a blessing “
I certainly think if we live by this quote we will all lead happy lives. Whether something is a blessing or a lesson is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few months. Lots of things going on in Goatsbridge at present, some good, some challenging but all lessons to help us move on to become better and stronger.
I remember a couple of years ago, pitching an idea to a very engaging and successful Dublin business man who I had admired for years. Alas, it did not happen for me, not because the idea was not a sound one or that we would not deliver the idea, but perhaps because the decision not to support the idea was not a business decision. I learned this later but at the time I was utterly devastated. As I look back on what has happened, I now realise that better opportunities have presented themselves because of that failure.
I remember the rejection I felt when a friend of my older brother decided I was not for him. Many years later as I stood beside my husband, I remember seeing this old boyfriend across a crowded room with his wife; he looked like an old man as a result of a bad back. I turned to my mother who stood beside me and declared I had made a lucky escape as I gazed lovingly at my handsome husband. My mother turned to me full of laughter and told me that perhaps I had missed out as that man had just inherited his uncle’s farm worth millions!
If only we had the benefit of hindsight we would all be more accepting of life and all it throws at us.
Never look back, never regret, and do not waste time or energy trying to change the past.
Earlier this year I challenged those around me to help put a recipe book together in four months and we luckily achieved our goal. The end result is a beautiful fish recipe book called Fishwives, available now in our online shop. All profits from the sale of the book will be going to the wonderful Hospice Africa working out in Uganda. They will be channeled through Hospice Africa Ireland, a board in Ireland which fund raises and supports Hospice Africa Uganda. See www.hospiceafrica.ie for more information.
Looking back on it now I suggest it was interesting, and overcoming the challenge certainly made my life meaningful.
I now look on to the next challenge and it is to ensure that every household in the country has a copy of this book under their tree this Christmas.
I challenge you to help me make this a reality.
Why not have a Fishwives themed get together with friends and family, cook something from the book or simply encourage them to purchase the book on the night – a bit like a tuperware party only cooking with fish.
Or perhaps you have a database of foodies or friends interested in cooking who might like a very special and unique book as a present. Would it help that all proceeds are going to a very worthy cause?
We will give free product to anyone willing to put their shoulder to the wheel and our staff are happy to travel the length and breadth of the country to be part of your event. All ideas welcome.
My sister Miriam Donohoe has spent 8 months on the ground in Kampala working with the hospice organisation and reported back first-hand the work being carried out daily to help relieve pain and suffering of those with no access to pain relief in their dying days . We are all weary of the bad media around so called charitable organisations but it does not mean we have to stop caring and become totally cynical. I know for sure where every single penny of the money raised form this project will go.
Come on folks, life is not all about getting and having. How about giving and being?
Ciara Lawlor was suddenly taken from this world on 9th July this year. The daughter of a good friend and a family we spent many happy days together with when the kids were young. To say it absolutely knocked me for ten is an understatement. It was sudden and certainly not expected after her heart operation a few years ago for a minor heart issue, which was not expected to be life threatening.
What is life all about I ask myself? Will they stand over our graves and say how hard we worked? Will they say how much money we made? In Ciara’s case they stood at her grave and talked about a light having gone out in the world. People gravitated towards her and she always, and I mean always had a radiating bright smile on her face and a word for everyone.
As we plough on with life, with the business of making money and achieving greatness we should make sure this success is not an empty victory. The best piece of advice a good friend of mine got form a very old lady was to do small acts of kindness daily in order to get him to the place he needed to get to. He took this advice on board and is now reaping the rewards and continues to do kind deeds.
Blaise Bronson talks about our legacy in his latest book “I Dare You”. He quotes Baden Powell:
“Leave this place a little better than you found it”
It is with this in mind I remind readers of an opportunity to live this message! Do not forget the new book “Fishwives” with will be launched in October at The Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. All proceeds go the incredible Hospice Africa Charity that you can read about in my last blog.
Let us never forget the short life of Ciara Lawlor and take example from it. She certainly left this world a better place.