Sunday 23 October 2016

Why run around getting other people’s coffees when we could do something interesting for ourselves?

Published 24/08/2016 | 15:03

For Hannah O’Reilly and Elaine Lavery, their business careers have been short ones so far, but in just three years they have achieved so much with Improper Butter.

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Ireland is synonymous with some of the best butter, cheese and dairy in the world though there is always room for more innovation and creativity.

Working as a chalet chef in the Swiss Alps, Elaine had the idea for flavoured butter to be used in cooking.  Returning to Ireland to contact her old college pal, Hannah, the fledgling idea soon turned into a viable business.

They were only a year out of UCD with business degrees and both knew they wanted to try something themselves.

“I had worked in finance in London when I graduated,” explains Elaine.  “But I knew it wasn’t for me.”

The entrepreneurial spark is in her genes with her father running his own business.

“I grew up with entrepreneurship around me every day, it was tangible and real,” she says.  “I saw my Dad doing it and thought, ‘why can’t I?’”

There’s a self-confidence and self-belief about the generation who came through the recession years admits Hannah.

“Our generation has got nothing to lose so why not do it?  When I was in an internship in a music agency in London I was asking myself, ‘why run around getting other people’s coffees when I could do something interesting for myself?’.  I used to come home from school every week with dreams of different crazy dream jobs and my Mum’s phrase was always, ‘Well someone has to do it so why not you?’ and I think it’s a great motto to believe in.”

Their belief in their product, coupled with tenacity and perseverance has seen Improper Butter grow from selling at the local farmer’s market to selling nationwide with SuperValu and exporting to markets in the UAE and UK. 

Along the way they’ve also picked up a Great Taste award, pitched on Dragon’s Den, and been finalists for Best Young Entrepreneur and Virgin’s Foodpreneur competitions.  And all just three years after graduating. 

Still only 26, the company’s co-founders believe they – and Improper Butter – can achieve so much more.

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