Nougat queen Miena secures new deal after television appearance
A West Wicklow business woman featured in a new television series which aired on RTÉ on recently.
Miena Rust, the founder of Miena's Handmade Nougat shared the story of how she started her business in the Glen of Imaal in 2013 and by taking part, received expert advice into how to manage the financial side of the enterprise.
She was mentored by fashion designer and entrepreneur Sonya Lennon and Pat Keogh of Keogh's Crisps.
Miena and her husband Jeanne moved to Ireland from their native South Africa in 2001 during the building boom.
Their background was in construction, but when the crash came, Miena lost her job as an architect in 2010 and then decided to take some time off to raise their two children Hannah and Ethan, now aged 12 and nine respectively..
It was during this time that Miena turned her hand to making homemade nougat, a sweet treat that is as popular in South Africa as chocolate is in Ireland.
Once the home garage was converted into a small factory, Miena's Nougat was born and soon after, the product was stocked in Avoca and Dunnes Stores as part of their Simply Better range.
Towards the end of 2015, Miena unfortunately received a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis which meant that operations were put on hold while she underwent treatment.
The treatment went well, and after Miena received the all-clear she was back at work and continued to supply Dunnes Stores along with a number of smaller retail outlets nationwide.
However, despite investing in a new larger machine, Miena had yet to pay herself a salary and sought the programme's support to try and secure a new big client which would enable her to do so.
'The best thing about taking part in the programme was the confidence it gave me. That was where I struggled the most. Sonya was so helpful and working with her helped me prepare for my pitch and to move towards meeting with other larger companies. I found Pat great to deal with and the advice I got was so useful,' Miena said.
During the programme Miena was coached ahead of a pitch to retailer Meadows and Byrne which was a great success and resulted in the big order she needed to be able to achieve a salary from her beloved business.
Miena now employs two full time staff, along with herself, and since purchasing the new machine, has been able to increase production from approximately 12kg of nougat a day to 75kg.
'It requires three people to meet our orders and it is quite labour intensive. It takes about six hours to produce a batch then it needs to cool before it is sliced and packaged. I love what I do and I wouldn't see myself ever not doing it now,' Miena said.
While a variety of flavours are produced at Miena's Nougat, she says that almond and pistachio is by far the public's favourite.
According to Miena, she never realised the great support that is available to small businesses like hers.
'I never really sought any advice, apart from a small bit from Wicklow LEO but honestly there is so much support out there, and a lot of it is for free. I would say to anybody starting out to see what is available in their own county and avail of it.'