Sandwiches might seem a rather stodgy subject for an exciting new launch in a highly competitive market, but that’s exactly what Jenni Timony of Doolittles in Co Donegal has done. She started her firm in 2001 and it has since shown 70% year-on-year growth. It now produces about 110 different product lines, including 21 varieties in the firm’s original sandwich range, and the newest premium line, Bon Vivant, has just been launched.
Timony says her underlying aim has always been for the best quality. All the bread used is fresh, supplied by two local Co Donegal bakeries - Gallaghers bakery in Ardara for bread and O’Donnells in Ballyshannon for rolls and baps.
Timony’s mother is Indian, her father Irish and she has three young daughters. She was born in Ireland, but lived in Australia from ages 11 to 19, then returned home to open a coffee shop in 2001, at New Row in the town of Donegal.
Initially, when she went to the bank looking for a loan, they laughed at her. But on the day she graduated, with a Bachelor in Business Studies degree in 2001, she went back to the bank and got her loan. She started out by doing less than 100 sandwiches a day, as a sideline for local shops. Then, when her sandwich business started to take off, she had a brand new high-tech production unit built, just outside Donegal, in 2003, where Doolittles is still based. All the products - sandwiches, wraps, rolls, salads and paninis - are made fresh every day and are delivered immediately.
The firm now makes around 8,000 sandwiches a day and supplies to symbol and independent shops and many other outlets. Around 80% of the business is in Dublin and Galway, with the rest in the north-west, including Sligo and Donegal. This year, she is a finalist in the Ernst & Young ’Entrepreneur of the Year’ competition. n
=== Going it alone ===
The brief: sandwiches that would appeal because of their freshness and high quality. The same concept has been extended to other lines, such as wraps, rolls, paninis and salads.
Fillings: in the Bon Vivant range - Pesto chicken and broccoli shoots; Smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives; Medley of cheeses & scallion; Salami, swiss cheese & onion.
Typical customers: over 200 symbol and independent retailers, hospitals, universities, contract caterers and forecourts and now, large-scale events.
Finance: firstly, a bank overdraft, then a E40,000 bank start-up loan.
Staff: MD Jenni Timony, plus 34 staff.
Background: Timony worked as a waitress and barmaid before going into restaurant management.
=== The pros and cons ===
Not having a brand or even being known. It was really hard to get anyone to give me a chance, but the Bon Espresso chain took us on, and it started from there. I began the business on an overdraft, but we’ve had private funding put into the firm, so that now, we’re truly profitable. Turnover this year is over E2.3 million and the target for 2009 is E5m.
It’s just so satisfying to see the brand recognition. We are now the third-largest pre-packed sandwich producer in Ireland. Maintaining the integrity and the quality of the products and the brand is my biggest achievement.