Olive and Pat have a product to relish
THIS WEEK: ‘The Birds and the Teas’ chutneys & relishes
ALTHOUGH MUCH emphasis has been put on Ireland’s high-tech potential in recent years, the country’s entrepreneurial landscape still has much room - and revenue - for smaller cottage industries attempting to work their way into the market. Over the last few months, Wicklow town couple Olive and Pat Germaine have been attempting to do just that with their business The Birds and the Teas, which specialises in producing authentic Irish homemade chutneys and relishes.
Olive and Pat’s story is similar to many entrepreneurs in modern Ireland who have found themselves having to create their own work in times where jobs can be hard to come by. They worked in banking hospitality and retail respectively before being let go within a week of each other a year ago. But far from wallowing in their misery, the couple conducted a thorough inventory of their skills and interests and from this conspired to launch a new business venture together.
‘I was let go and my husband Pat lost his business,’ Olive says. ‘We said we could either dig a hole and bury ourselves or see what sort of skills we had. My family would always have been into home cooking - making chutneys and jams - and my husband is good at sales, so we said lets put those two things together and see what we come up with.’
Olive decided to polish up her home cooking skills with a bit of training before they couple went about creating their own range of products. They have since started retailing these at car boot sales and farmer’s markets across the county and have a regular stall at Kilruddery House in Bray, where their homemade produce has really gone down a treat!
‘ The chutneys and relishes seemed to really take off,’ Olive enthuses. ‘ There seems to be a yearning out there for the old handmade stuff - people say to me ‘ that really brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen!’ What we’re trying to do is take those basic products, develop them and give them a modern twist.’
The couple hope to expand their range into mainstream retailers, but producing the quantities required has proved a challenge, and so to remedy this they have acquired a commercial kitchen in Kil- coole where they now produce their chutneys and relishes.
‘What we need to do is get the produce into a retail environment and try to produce the amount that you need to produce to make a margin from it,’ Olive explains.
And if they succeed in this regard, she is confident that their range - built around nostalgia and an authentic taste derived from the purity of the ingre- dients and rustic production process - can go on to cultivate a place in the hearts of consumers across Wicklow and beyond.
‘Some of these chutneys take three hours to make with hand-chosen ingredients,’ she says. ‘ That’s what makes the difference and makes the taste very different from something that’s been mass produced that you find on a supermarket shelf. I’m very encouraged by the way people are responding to it.’
Olive and Pat Germaine of ‘The Birds and the Teas’ with some of their produce at the Kilruddery Market.