When trained chef Rebecca Scott decided to open her own catering business, she looked no further than the family farm on the Wild Atlantic Way in Kilbrittain, West Cork.
In 2015, the Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate opened her business between Kinsale and Clonakilty, and Rebecca's Kitchen & Farm Shop has gone from strength to strength.
Rebecca got her love for cooking from her mother Diana.
"Our family home, across from the farm, was a guest house for 12 years," she says. "My mum was known for her beautiful baking and home cooking in the business, and I learned a lot from her. The house closed as a guest house just before I opened the business."
Given its idyllic setting, she knew the farm would make the perfect base for her new business. Rebecca started by buying a large prefab and turned one side of it into a kitchen.
"I kitted it out with an oven, a hob and a few essential things for a catering business and I started making ready meals for some elderly people in the area," she says.
"This was something my mum had done for a few years before. I also started doing occasion cakes. People could place their order and then either collect it or have it delivered."
Things went so well that after two years of business, Rebecca converted the other side of the prefab into a farm shop.
She says: "I had been using fruit and veg from my father's large organic, walled garden on the farm and it was clear that the demand was there for this type of fresh, organic food."
Rebecca's father Guy helped with converting the other side of the prefab, which had been used for storage, into the farm shop.
"Dad was a great help. He had the time to dedicate to the project as he had recently become a silent partner with a local dairy farmer who he has leased the land to. Before that, Dad kept about 120 sucklers and had tillage. He had no time to himself, so the partnership was a welcome change for him," says Rebecca.
Fast-forward another two years and Rebecca established her café.
"Customers often commented on how nice it would be to have somewhere to sit and enjoy their food, and we have such beautiful views from the farm that I decided I would extend and open a café," says Rebecca.
The café was built using as much recycled material as possible.
"Dad also built the café and he even recycled the floors from fallen trees on the farm," says Rebecca.
Opening the café was hard work, but it didn't feel like a massive change.
"Apart from the structural changes that had to be made, I also had to source tables and chairs and get everything I needed for the inside of the café. I needed extra staff too, but it all felt very natural," says Rebecca.
She makes a lot of her food from farm-based ingredients and even makes her own ketchup and chutney from fruit and veg from her father's garden.
"I make my own elderflower cordial from our farm ingredients and it is really popular. I make my own jam and homemade granola from our own ingredients too.
"It's great to have all of these on my doorstep. I love being able to utilise the beautiful farm," she says.
Although situated in a prime tourist destination on the Wild Atlantic Way, Rebecca says that the majority of her customers are locals.
"I've got great support from the people in our locality and although I love welcoming tourists, my main customer base is local," she says.
Rebecca's decision to open her own business has been vindicated.
"I knew there was a niche in the market for something like this, but I was genuinely surprised by how busy we were from so early on. I didn't anticipate that the business would take off so quickly or that I would be in a position to extend, as I have."
"After I graduated as a chef I worked in a local bakery for three years and I also worked in a restaurant kitchen. Although I loved the work and I enjoyed my time in these businesses, I knew that the long evening shifts were not for me.
"Now, it's very different. I work set hours most of the time and the business is in a beautiful location, on our home farm. I feel lucky that this is my job."
Rebecca's Kitchen and Farm Shop normally opens from March until November, but this year has been a little different.
"I was only open again one day in March when lockdown hit and so I had to close again. This meant that I lost a lot of stock which was a challenge but I'm really happy to now be open again," she says.
Prior to locking down, Rebecca had newly extended her café to include an outdoor seating area.
"With new social distancing measures in place, we will almost be up to our original seating capacity now with the outdoor area which is great. We created it at the right time," says Rebecca.
What level of start-up costs did you incur in setting up the business?
I didn't have a large start-up cost as I was living on the farm where I set up the business. I did have to buy the prefab and the equipment for it, so my start-up costs were about €5,000.
Was financing readily available from the banks for this type of business?
I could have got a business loan, but I chose to use some of my own savings to finance the business instead.
Was planning permission required and if so, was it difficult to get?
I didn't need planning permission as my prefab is a movable structure.
Did you need a licence or permission from any other government body?
I had to register my business with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and I had to create a HACCP plan, as does anyone producing or serving food. I also have visits from a health officer a few times a year.
What supports bodies/agencies were available to help?
I didn't consult any support bodies prior to setting up. I was very lucky to have learned a great deal from my parents and I had done my training as a chef so I felt prepared to begin.
Was insurance required?
Yes, I got third party, public liability and content insurance with FBD.
What methods of advertising do you use?
So far, I haven't done much advertising as I've got a great customer base locally and it's all to do with word of mouth. I do use social media, which is great for posting updates and it's a cost-effective method too.
How much time was needed to get your business off the ground?
It just took a few months to establish the catering side of things originally. I bought the prefab and organised it with the equipment fairly quickly, and from there it was a natural progression rather than taking large steps.
I began the catering business in 2015 and now five years later I have added the farm shop and café. It all happened organically.
Did you encounter any unexpected pitfalls or challenges?
Things have been going great since opening but this year has of course been the most challenging business-wise - we were only opened one day before we had to close due to Covid-19, and so I lost some stock.
I am thankful that we are now opened again and that we have the outdoor seating area so that we can carry on business, with social distancing measures in place from here on out.