In the midst of all the doom and gloom there is a veritable boom in small-business enterprise. It's a 'we can do it' philosophy and, as small-time entrepreneurs soon find out there is absolutely nothing like working for yourself in business.
Many people test their ideas at markets and are almost overwhelmed to find that people love their bread and cakes, oils and chutneys, or handmade chocolates. As a result, the markets are booming and there is a waiting list to get into the top ones. CoCo Markets, which run the markets in the People's Park, Dun Laoghaire, and at Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, south Dublin, has just launched a new Sunday market in Cabinteely Park, which has seen some new traders being given the opportunity to bring their produce to the public arena. There is also a rather good cafe on site where you can enjoy your coffee overlooking a very pretty Japanese garden.
On the first Sunday of the new market I met a mixture of both new and well-established traders who were enthusiastic to be there.
Aideen Hardiman, based in Maynooth, set up her new range of Doogan and Duffy Irish handmade chocolates four weeks ago. "This is my first weekly market. I did a baking course first of all at the Baking Academy in Palmerstown which is run by master baker Derek O'Brien." Derek O'Brien was previously Head of the National Bakery School at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street.
"I followed up at the same place by doing a handmade chocolate course and I've since been over to London doing courses. I use Callebaut Belgian chocolate and they have an academy in the UK which I have attended, they provide support, so it has just taken off from there." Aideen was selling a box of 12 handmade chocolates at €8. I rather liked her pretty caramel hearts and hazelnut pralines. Look out for Doogan and Duffy chocolates in their silver and purple packaging. Tel: 087 2628727
Gilbert's Orchard & Farm Shop is at Quinagh close to Carlow town where for generations the Gilbert family has farmed. They diversified into apple farming in 1990 and run a farm shop on site also. Susan Gilbert is a regular at Farmleigh Market and markets in Carlow and was pleased to be invited to take a stall at Cabinteely.
She told me that for their wonderful Apple Barrel Irish apple juice "we grow them, we squash them, we add absolutely nothing, they are pure apple juice". They also do lovely farmhouse marmalades, chutneys, jams, and apple tarts "made with real apples as opposed to the stuff that comes in a tub". Large bottles of Apple Barrel pure apple juice were €3.50 or you could have three small bottles for €5. www.applebarrel.ie
Sam Brown was manning the stand of his mother's business The Corner Bakery in Terenure, Dublin. It was set up in 2005 by husband-and-wife team Cara Lloyd and Dave Brown and is a very popular spot, open seven days a week. Sam was displaying lovely big traybakes of chocolate fudge brownie, apple bar, and apple and cinnamon as well as beautiful butter croissants and cupcakes. "I do the traybakes myself but we have three other bakers in Terenure. One of them makes the breads and the others the pastries and cakes and stuff. I am doing my Leaving Cert next year but during summer holidays I work most days." It really is a family business with a love of good bread and cakes. www.cornerbakery.ie
Cheery Scotsman Kenny Rorie and his French wife Armelle set up Armelle's Kitchen in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, almost three years ago. "My wife's French so what we do is all French baking. I am from Livingstone near Edinburgh but I have been in Ireland for the past 10 years. I met Armelle nine years ago and we got married last year." They certainly got married in style with a huge 1.7-metre Eiffel Tower cake constructed with 310 macarons, which they made themselves. "Armelle's dad made the metal structure for us from scratch in France. He wrapped it in polystyrene and we fixed the 310 macarons with cocktail sticks onto the tower."
It's certainly a statement piece which you can see on their website and if you fancy The Spire for your wedding perhaps this enterprising couple could come up with something. "We also made our own three-litre butter cream sponge cake so we basically cut that cake."
Kenny says he left his career of 20 years as a maintenance manager in May 2011 to join Armelle, a former restaurant manager, in the food business. You will also find Armelle's Kitchen at the Stillorgan market on Wednesdays and in Newbridge. "I am quite excited about the Cabinteely market as I have been on a waiting list for the Dun Laoghaire and Marlay Park markets." Try the almond financiers and amandine tartlets at €2.50/€3.50 or the extra special macarons gourmand which are €1.50 each or 6 for €8. www.armelleskitchen.com
Launching their three-week-old business were best friends Suzanne Lynch and Catherine Buggy. Boutique Bake is a range of ready-to-go cake mixes prettily packaged in little brown bags with colour coded ribbons for each variety. A yellow ribbon heralds The Zingy One – lemon drizzle cake, turquoise The Gooey One – brownie mix, magenta The Classy One – a Madagascan vanilla cupcake, and lilac The Rustic One – seeded bread mix. The cake mixes are €5 and the bread mix €4. Hide the packets and your beloved will think you are a true Domestic Goddess.
"I did the Ballymaloe course about three years ago and then, as Catherine and I have been best friends since school and she has always been a keen baker, I just thought then why not join with my best friend," says Suzanne. "We sell natural baking mixes which we do from my house in Donnybrook."
Catherine adds: "There are no additives or preservatives in them. We spent a couple of months trying out recipes. Both of us are huge foodies and love baking so the mixes are tried and tested and these are what we think are the best lemon cake, the best brownies, the best brown bread and so on. You just buy your pack and go home, add in your butter and eggs and it is ready to go in five minutes."
Suzanne says she was working in Treat Deli and Gift Shop in Cabra and at the moment she is working as a private cook for a family in Bray. Indeed Suzanne works for a very famous rock star family. Catherine works in HR but adds she "just went part-time in work last week so I'm hoping to go full-time on this. Over the next couple of weeks we hope to start approaching shops and getting it out there." www.boutiquebake.com
You couldn't but stop in your tracks to look at Aoife Kirwan's Just for You cakes, a picture perfect display of fun cupcakes and cake pops all wonderfully decorated. Based in Killiney, Co Dublin, with her cake business for the past year, Aoife's skill at constructing, creating and making the most amazing special occasion cakes soon became clear.
"I've just set up this business in the past year and I've been trying to get into the CoCo Markets so this is my first venture with them. I was a retail manager but I also have a degree in model making from IADT, which I finished in 2008. There was nothing workwise in the animation business. My sister got me a cake course and I went along and the teacher just said 'Oh my God you should be making cakes'." Aoife's cupcakes are €2 each. Cake pops were €1.50 each. www.justforyoucakes.ie
'Felt by Sheena' is the new handcraft business of Sheena Walsh who is based in Drumcondra and is not like anything I had ever seen before. Sheena has been doing her colourful creations ranging from jewellery to 'felt soaps' since just before Christmas.
"I did fine art in Belfast and after that worked in insurance for a few years. I always had a calling to come back and do something more creative so I started this up about last October and did a few Christmas markets."
Pretty multicoloured squares of felt covered soaps caught my eye. "I developed the 'felted soap' which are handmade soaps covered in Merino wool which you leave on as you use it." Sheena explained. "The suds come through the wool, which hardens, and it acts as an exfoliant. It turns into a scrub." Smashing different gifts. www.giftfeltwork.com
So what do you like to do that could become a business you love?
Cabinteely Park Market, Cabinteely, Co Dublin. Open Sundays, 10am to 4pm. www.dlrcoco.ie