Brid and Roger Fahy have been making ice-cream on their dairy farm for almost 15 years. After spending much of that time chasing big supermarkets, they have discovered that less really is more, and have completely refocused their business. And it's working.
Located at New Quay, at the most north-westerly tip of Co Clare, Linnalla Ice-Cream is not exactly on the beaten track. This isolation has proved to be both a stumbling block and their biggest asset.
Having established the company with the aim of supplying supermarkets and restaurants, the cost of transporting their product was threatening the Fahys' bottom line.
But if it's hard to get the ice-cream to the people, then maybe the people will come to the ice-cream.
"Our original idea was to supply ice-cream to others to sell. But people were literally knocking on the door of the farm looking for ice-cream, so after a few years we set up a little kiosk on the farm," says Brid.
"Then in 2011 we set up the cafe and that is our main focus now. In 2016 we let the last supermarket go. We were just too far off the main supply routes to get our product to market - it was just too expensive.
"It seemed crazy to be spending money to bring the product to them, when people wanted to come to us.
"We could have kept supplying the supermarkets - they really didn't want us to go. In fact, we waited for a long time while they found someone who would supply a similar product to them."
This difficulty getting their ice-cream to suppliers wasn't just about cost. Ice-cream is a perishable product and Brid knew that one mistake along their extended supply chain could ruin their good name for ever.
"The supply chain is so important - you couldn't do enough research about that before starting a business," she says. "Just because you can sell something doesn't mean that you should. Ice-cream is a perishable product… we used to have sleepless nights worrying about a courier leaving a pallet out and letting it thaw.
"You'd get over losing a pallet of ice-cream, but if it was refrozen and someone maybe got food poisoning from eating it, that'd be a disaster."
The idea for Linnalla Ice Cream started back in 2005, when Roger was managing their large dairy herd and Brid was working as a nurse in Galway. With low milk prices and three young children to look after, they had to find a way of making their farm work better for the family.
"The commute seemed to be getting longer and longer every day," says Brid. "Milk prices were not very good at the time - they're not good now either - so we felt we had to try something different.
"I knew nothing only nursing and Roger knew nothing only milking so we looked into everything. We took a long look at cheese making before we decided to try ice-cream."
Making ice-cream is relatively easy, but making top-quality gourmet ice-cream takes knowledge and training. Before taking the plunge into their new business, Brid and Roger went back to school.
"Once the decision was made, we spent a good 18 months researching ice-cream, going to courses in Northern Ireland and to Italy until we knew everything we needed to know," says Brid.
"It's an easy process yet it is complicated to get it right. It takes time to really know what you are doing. The health and safety side of it is also very important - there are a lot of regulations that you need to know about."
Since refocusing their business, the Fahys are now producing less ice-cream to make more money. The vast majority of their milk still goes to the creamery, but their cafe and ice-cream parlour have certainly earned their keep.
"We have the market we want, which is people coming to us. We have loyal customers who come back two or three times a week, as well as tourists. We can be creative in the flavours we make and do what we always envisioned doing, which was making a good-quality product rather than focusing on volume," says Brid.
"Our main herd is Friesians but we also have shorthorns, and we use their milk for the ice-cream. The shorthorns have a good butter-fat content and they give good-quality milk and cream."
What level of start-up costs did you incur in setting up the business?
"The start-up costs were high. We had to build a production unit and that had to meet all the standards for food safety and hygiene. I'd say the initial start-up costs were over €100,000."
Was financing readily available from the banks for this sort of business?
"Financing was available at that time. The Celtic Tiger was in full swing and we had no problem in getting money. We also got a grant from Clare LEADER."
Was planning permission required and if so was it difficult to get?
"Planning permission was required to convert farm buildings into a production unit."
Did you need a licence or permission from any other government body?
"We had to get an environmental health number from the Department of Agriculture. Anyone who is using raw milk needs to get this number from the Department, from the big producers right down to people like myself.
"Inspectors come out during our production season and check us every month. There is an annual check as well. So it is highly regulated.
"Ice-cream is not like bread, there are more risks involved. If something goes wrong, people can get seriously sick."
Are you required to pay rates or any other charges?
"We do have an annual rates bill, both for the production unit and for the cafe."
What grant aid or other assistance was available?
"We got a grant from LEADER through the Clare Local Development Company which was a big help when we were starting."
What supports bodies/state agencies were able to help?
"We got a lot of other support. The Clare Enterprise Board provided mentoring in lots of different areas from Start Your Own Business courses to help in costing our product, which was very difficult to do. They were very helpful.
"I also got involved in Bord Bia and they provided a lot of marketing support and training. Bord Bia were great as well.
"There is plenty of help out there for new businesses if you look for it. It is unbelievable."
Was insurance required?
"Insurance was required from the very first day. We have an insurance package which looks after everything from the buildings, the product and public liability."
How did the new business affect your tax dealings?
"From a tax point of view we ran the business as a separate entity to the farm. So it has its own set of accounts entirely.
How much time was needed to get the business off the ground?
"It took a lot of time. From the initial idea to eventually opening the door was about three years.
"By the time we developed the ideas, did our research, got planning permission, converted buildings - it was a lot of work and a lot of time."
Did you encounter any unexpected pitfalls or challenges?
"The supply chain and the challenges of getting our product to market was the big thing.
"We didn't expect it to be so much of a challenge.
"I imagined I'd be making ice-cream all day long - I never realised all the other responsibilities that I would have, from managing staff to paperwork to planning. All sorts of things.
"When you're in business for yourself, you have to be good at everything. You have to be able to do everything."