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Thursday 30 March 2017

Building boss back making dough after losing it all

Enda Kenny, right, with baker
Simon Stenson in Castlebar, Co
Mayo, yesterday
Enda Kenny, right, with baker Simon Stenson in Castlebar, Co Mayo, yesterday

Edel O'Connell

AN entrepreneur who oversaw the construction of boom-time developments before losing it all is back making dough.

Simon Stenson (38), a former project manager turned baker, managed multi-million euro projects -- including Dublin's Convention Centre -- for developers such as Liam Carroll before the crash.

But the Mayo man, who spent two years on the dole after he lost everything, including his six-figure salary, has discovered there is more than one way to bring in the dough.

Desperate to cheer him up, his wife Siobhan gifted him a voucher for a cookery course at the famous Ballymaloe House, Co Cork, as he had always enjoyed cooking. This simple act changed their lives.

Mr Stenson enjoyed the classes so much that, armed with a credit union loan, he signed up for the three-week intensive course. He received top marks and was immediately offered a job as a chef in his hometown of Ballyvary, Co Mayo.

Now he runs an artisan business called Cherry Blossom Bakery which employs 12 people, supplies 100 stores and yesterday announced it was creating a further 15 jobs.

Mrs Stenson said: "When Simon lost his job we were left reeling. Our lifestyle changed completely. It all seemed to happen overnight. We went from two holidays a year to no holidays. I was the only one earning, so times were extremely tough.

"We moved back to Mayo from Dublin so Simon could help out with his brother's painting and decorating business and the future looked very bleak.

"But Simon took to the cookery course like a duck to water. We approached a local SuperValu about providing them with artisan breads and it has gone from there," she said.

"We got a loan from AIB and grants from the Mayo enterprise board. Within four months, the business had grown and we had 30 shops. We were very determined and worked around the clock," she said.

Now the couple provides bread to more than 100 outlets and just this week secured a supermarket giant, creating a further 15 jobs.

"Simon trained up every member of our staff himself. None of them had any experience in baking. He wanted to give people the opportunity he had been given himself," said Mrs Stenson.

The company's premises at Breaffy Industrial Park were officially opened yesterday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Irish Independent

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