Tell us a little about your business. The product, when you first got the idea, when you started, and where you are now.

In September 2018 at the Slow Food Festival in Derry, I launched Lo & Slo with 2 sauces: Sweet & Smoky Barbecue Sauce and Sweet & Spicy Vinegar Mop. We almost sold out on the first day! It was a totally surreal moment of seeing some family recipes in bottles being sold… and it wasn’t just nice friends saying they liked the sauces! This was for real!

The idea for Lo & Slo started back when my daughter was born in 2010. She was perfect and pure and was thriving on just breastmilk. I was an exhausted new mother and saw how I was eating convenience foods and was beyond exhausted, and here was my daughter: pure, perfect, and thriving on natural foods. I hated the idea of introducing foods with additives and synthetic ingredients to her as she grew, so my husband and I decided to start a 10-year plan to become as self-sustaining and responsible as possible. We started with cutting out refined sugars and junk food and began making food from scratch. I dug out family recipes and we loved the creativity of it. We still carry these values with us today: Simple, Sustainable, Nurturing, Nourishing, Creative.

In 2015, my husband became unwell unexpectedly, and that led to losing his job and our home, becoming homeless in Dublin for 6 months before returning to his hometown of Derry with our 5 & 3 year olds. His health was unstable for a year before he began to recover. My way of coping with the trauma was to cook. I began cooking all sorts of comfort foods from my home in America. My brother came to visit and said I should start a food business: he saw a gap in the market and believed the sauces and food I was making would be well received.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to work a typical 9-5 job and still care for him and our two kids. I applied for an innovation voucher with North West Regional College’s FoodOvation kitchen, and they helped me scale up my two recipes and get the product to market.

Fast forward to now and I have a total of 6 products, although due to Covid, only the original sauces are currently available. We also have a street food truck, and I am going to be cooking out of a local bar, Sandinos, in Derry. I’ve gone from myself working in a kitchen alone to now 7 staff in just under 2 short years! It’s been an incredible journey and I’m so thankful to the many people who have supported me — and Women In Business has been integral!

Why did you take part in the Explore It Programme?

I took part in the programme just before it changed names to Explore It! Then, it was Power of 4 and I travelled down to Belfast every Tuesday in November. I signed up because I lacked any business experience. I had accidental success, and with a past as a youth mentor and charity worker, I knew I needed the basic skills and support to make my business grow. I saw Lo & Slo as an opportunity to scrape and claw our way out of a terrible life experience, so I pursued any help that came my way. Po4 had an inspiring and informative panel of experts and real-life stories of women who’d found their passion and were making a career out of it. Between the workshops, mentors, and seminars, there was a wealth of information and support. I still draw on that bank of resources today, whether it’s my notes from the classes or on our Po4 Facebook group.

Looking back, what value do you think being on the programme brought to your business?

The course itself gave me the foundation skills to build my business and create a plan to grow. But beyond that, the Yes You Can and the various initiatives from both Women in Business and our local council, there has been support at every stage of growth. I’ve read different entrepreneurial stories about the arduous battle to fight your way into the market, but honestly Women and Business and our local council have made it an enjoyable adventure! Nothing is without its challenges, but Explore It really helps minimise the risks with a supportive community and begins the conversation alongside resourcing you with the skills to make your dreams a reality.

What would you say to anyone that is thinking of signing up to the next course?

Definitely do it! There’s synergy when women work together and support each other! I loved that no one was there to judge or get ahead: we all were in similar places of starting out and were more than happy to champion each other in each step we took. If you’re lacking the skills or confidence to explore turning your idea into a business, definitely sign up! This is a programme designed to help women succeed — join in and remember to offer your hand to someone a few steps behind you on your journey. We’re better together!

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Yes You Can!