Start-up support for female entrepreneurs
Starting a business as a female entrepreneur - DELI LITES
DELI LITES Ireland is a food-to-go producer of sandwiches, wraps, salads, and artisan bakery products that uses local ingredients. The business was founded in 1998 and currently employs 300 staff.
Jackie Reid, the Co-Founder and Sales Director of DELI LITES, explains how she used her skills and expertise to develop her business idea into a successful, well-run business.
Finding my business idea
"My husband, Brian, and I founded the company in 1998 after I had spent a summer working in New York. I came back full of inspiration from the amazing colours, textures, and flavours I had witnessed in the vibrant New York scene."
"We originally ran the business from my sisters' café of the same name. People loved the food we were making, so we decided to make the most of these products and start a pre-packed sandwich business, which today is DELI LITES Ireland."
Developing my idea
"When the business was beginning to form, food-to-go was not a familiar concept to people in Northern Ireland. After having been inspired by the futuristic food trends of New York, and in noticing this gap in the market for quality food-to-go products, we wanted to offer customers a product that is quick and easy to consume, without compromising on taste."
"I have always had a passion for food and for fitness, so a goal throughout the journey was to create a product offering that was honest feel-good food. As such, since the beginning of the business we have been able to invent innovative products that are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, high-protein, and low-calorie, as well as the more traditional options."
"I found that research was everything. I had to look into every aspect of my idea so I knew what the market was lacking and how I could provide answers to consumer needs. I wanted the focus of our products to be about the quality Irish ingredients that we use. As we began securing those initial deals with local suppliers, it got easier to network our way through the food industry and make a name for ourselves."
Believing in myself and finding hidden talents
"There are many preconceptions and expectations of women in business, but I use those doubts and fears and turn them into my driving power. Exceeding expectations is a powerful motivator, and one that I use often."
"Apparently, women are half as likely as men to start their own business, which is a shocking statistic! Aside from the obvious benefits of working for yourself and doing something you love, putting yourself out there in the business world can help you learn more about yourself. You will come to realise just how resilient and strong you are, as well as finding out how far you can push yourself. It's a real soul-searching journey."
"When we originally started the business, I don't think I had realised just how passionate (and good!) I am at sales. All my entrepreneurial skills came out when we were deep into the process."
Finding the right support
"I understand how overwhelming starting a business can be, especially if you're starting the venture alone. I also think that many women are not aware of the financial, advisory and networking resources that are readily available to them. For example, you'll find there are numerous financial schemes, LinkedIn support groups, and local events that will provide help and guidance which are great for women that need to find their supportive crowd."
"Make sure you take the help that is offered. I often struggle with always wanting to do things myself, but you have to realise (and I have to remind myself sometimes) that you can't do everything yourself. Surround yourself with a positive crowd and take advantage of the help they offer."
Inspiring and supporting other women
"I would love for potential and current female entrepreneurs to be inspired by the successful work done by not only myself, but all of the talented female employees of DELI LITES. Innovation is a key value to us, and I'd like to think that the work we do is revolutionising the idea of women working in business."
"As a woman, I also believe I am somewhat more in tune with the family needs of my employees. In order to work on employee wellbeing, we allow flex-shift patterns and are open to working closely with our team to allow employees to accommodate to family needs, as well as any other internal or external support they may require."
Prioritising progress and improvement
"I am always seeking ways to improve the business, from working closely with our Product Development Team to implementing training and tactics to help encourage employee morale. This drive to constantly push the business to its absolute limits in all aspects has helped us go from that small venture in the back of my sisters' café making 30 sandwiches a day into a thriving powerhouse of food-to-go products."
Jackie's top tips:
- “Focus on development - You can’t stand still in this ever-evolving market. Ensure that you are ahead of market trends. Always plan and seek out future opportunities. Never allow yourself to stagnate.”
- “Maintain a good work/life balance - Allow your passion and business to work alongside your personal life and not take over it."
- “Go for it and enjoy it - It may be overwhelming to start a business, but I would say to go for it! It won’t be an overnight success, but if you put the graft in and keep working, you’ll reap the rewards of it in time.”