Tuesday 24 October 2017

Waking hours with Ballymaloe Food's marketing manager Maxine Hyde

Maxine Hyde (30) lives in Glanmire, Co Cork. She is sales and marketing manager for Ballymaloe Foods, the company started by her mother, Yasmin - daughter of Myrtle and Ivan Allen - where Maxine has been helping out since the age of eight

Maxine Hyde has been helping out with Ballymaloe Foods since the age of eight. Photo: Keith Arkins.
Maxine Hyde has been helping out with Ballymaloe Foods since the age of eight. Photo: Keith Arkins.

I'm living with friends at the moment, although I'm trying to get my boyfriend to move down from Dublin. I try and get out of bed at 7am, and I get on the road straight away. We make all the relish in the production facility at Little Island, about 10 minutes drive away. Once I get to work, I make my porridge there, every morning, religiously.

I start work at 8am. The first thing is greeting everybody, and getting a gist of everyone's tasks for the day. I have a few interns - I try to take on students, to give them a start in their careers - so you need to check on how everyone is doing. My job is more the sales and marketing of Ballymaloe Foods than the production side. But my mum is very involved with that, and it's really important to her that I know what's going on, and that I can help if needed. We've all been trained to drive the forklift, load a pallet, and so on. The most important thing for my mum, who owns the company, is that production runs smoothly, whereas I try and drag myself away to keep sales going.

There are 20 of us in the company, with just three family members - my mum, me and my brother. We're going 25 years now, and two of our staff have been here 24 years. People tend to join us and never leave. We have 14 products between the relishes, salad dressings, sauces for roast meat, and pasta sauces. My first thing, after we've settled everybody in for the day, is tackling the onslaught of emails that try their best to take over my life. Other than that, I could be doing anything from entertaining clients, calling into a shop, calling to the cafes and restaurants we sell to, keeping relationships going.

My earliest memories involve my mum beginning Ballymaloe Country Relish when I was four. She tricked me into tasting it, and told me I was the first person who had ever tried it. I loved it from day one, and watched as we got a Portacabin into our back garden to cook it, and the excitement of the first labelling machine - I just always wanted to be involved in the business myself. I've been helping since I was eight years old. After school, I went cheffing for a year, because I wanted to know my way around a kitchen. I did the Ballymaloe cookery course, and worked in a restaurant in Cork. Then I studied Commerce in UCC, and the objective was always to come into the business. Working with family is great. I'm lucky, I get on very well with my mum and we're very well able to work together - which I know doesn't always happen. I respect her - this is her company, she's the boss. Sometimes she has these crazy ideas that I don't agree with, but I just go along with them, then convince her of a simpler way of doing things. But I don't argue. We try to have fun. My ethos in business revolves around two things: kindness and fun. I don't think there's any point going into work and having sharp relationships with people.

I usually have lunch in the office. I try and bring a packed lunch. I make my own bread, or bring in some left-over dinner. On Thursdays, we have a farmers' market just 10 minutes away, which is incredible. In the afternoons, we have internal meetings where we go over all the decisions we need to make about new-product development, bottle shapes, pricing and so on. I do a good bit of travelling. I look after people in England, Germany and the Netherlands, and, every now and then, I head to America, because we have a good bit of distribution there too. I love a week at home when you can make your own bread, and cook your own dinners, but I love the travel as well.

Horses are my family's thing. My dad is a horse vet, my sister is a horse dealer and my other sister is a horse surgeon. It's in the blood, I don't know if that's a curse or a good thing. If I finish work early enough, by 6 or 6.30pm, I go riding.

I work loads of weekends because we do a lot of consumer shows, but I love meeting people and talking to our customers. We would have learned the whole hospitality thing from Myrtle, my grandmother, at Ballymaloe. That's how they began Ballymaloe - my siblings and I worked there as teenagers. We are completely separate businesses, but all the one family. There's a Ballymaloe communication meeting every month, so we all meet up. And it's a great place to bring buyers - we bring them to Ballymaloe, tell them the story, then bring them to our production plant.

We don't have any take-over-the-world plans for the moment. We grew slow and steady and never rushed things. Every customer we've gained has been an achievement. Now, to be supplying McDonald's is incredible for us. I think if we can keep things going the way they are going, we won't be doing a lot wrong. Every year, we're growing about 10pc. We're not huge, but it's a well-known brand name for the size.

For dinner, I try and cook. I'll do scrambled eggs on toast if I don't have time, rather than a convenience meal. I might do a bit extra and give it to my housemates. I wouldn't be a great sleeper, so I try to get to bed early, by 10pm, and read books, and avoid the phone. I don't watch TV, I just don't have time. I think it's from growing up with my parents both self-employed and always busy; I just don't see the point.

It takes me a while to get to sleep, that's the challenge. I did a mindfulness meditation course a few years ago and it was brilliant, but to keep doing it -that's hard. I have dreams sometimes that I'd love to be a Montessori teacher, doing something totally different, but I'm very happy really helping my mum, and I'm very lucky to have the opportunity, so I think I'll stick at it for the future.

In conversation with Emily Hourican

Ballymaloe Foods are supplying McDonald's Ireland for their new limited-edition Irish burger - the McMor.


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