We spoke to Love a Little founder Susan McLaughlin about how she uses business courses to stay motivated.
We've teamed up with Vodafone to launch business.connected – an online initiative that's helping 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses boost their digital skills.
Small and medium-sized businesses signed up to the programme are supported via e-learning modules, digital workshops delivered by business.connected advisers, fortnightly Lunch and Learn webinars and a free consultation with a Vodafone V-Hub adviser.
With the programme firmly underway, we've been catching up with the businesses taking part to find out how they are getting on.
This month, we spoke to Love a Little founder Susan McLaughlin about how she started the dessert sauce brand and what she’s learnt since.
To access the business.connected e-learning programme: if you’re already an Enterprise Nation member, . If you’re not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the business.connected for free.
“I love doing courses – and learning new things! I found the business.connected programme on Enterprise Nation when I was looking for a course that was going to help me with social media.
“I started from scratch as I’d never used social media in my life, so starting to use Instagram for my business was a huge challenge. At first, I didn’t really like it, which is why I never started my own account. But I’ve learned to like it because it can help you get a better impact; it has a big audience and the pictures on there are great.
What did you get from taking part in business.connected?
They were great sessions and I learned a lot. I learnt about the Instagram ads and promotions.
I've started sharing competitions that relate to big days like Christmas or St Patricks Day. You get a great response from promoting posts in terms of getting new followers. They’re well worth it.
Can you tell us more about your journey with Love a Little?
“I set the business up a year and a bit ago. Everything was put on hold when the pandemic started, but I did loads of courses during that time which was great. They help to keep you motivated when you’re not able to go to meetings.
“I experimented with the flavours and textures of my sauces, then had to check out the jars and labelling. It’s hard to get that all right, especially the branding.
“I did a lot of research which helped me make sure I knew the steps I was going to take with the business. For me, it’s been about moving slowly but surely – each of the decisions I made worked, which meant I could move onto the next steps. That meant I could work a bit quicker on some aspects.
“You have to really want it and you have to believe in your product 100 percent. I never once doubted the product I had because I learned so much from my research.
“The sauce works well with so many aspects, from coffee to ice cream, so they appeal to a lot of people. The most important thing is it’s all natural and high quality. It’s also recyclable, gluten free and it works with [fitness group] Slimming World’s guidance – it ticks a lot of boxes.
“I’m selling quite a lot to cafes and restaurants. I’ve also approached chefs and people in the food industry. I just plucked up the courage to say ‘Hi’ to them. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
What’s your support system like?
“My family had a retail business and my two brothers are both in business. I come from a family where business isn’t alien and I’m used to dealing with customers and suppliers.
“There are a lot of groups I’ve joined , like Donegal Women in Business. It’s great to see that women do support other women. We also have a Local Enterprise Office, who put me in contact with the supermarket SuperValu.
“SuperValu runs a programme called Food Academy, which includes mentoring and support. It’s a great opportunity and you get so much publicity.
“Otherwise, I’m a one-woman show! It’s just me, so everything’s in my head. You think, if one ball drops, please let it be one I can pick up.”
What about the future?
“I’m planning to take on someone to help with the Christmas season. After that, I want to export my products to the US. Hopefully I can get everything organised this year in time for next year.
“I’m also thinking about getting my products included in hampers, so next year we’ll be able to supply to hamper companies in the US.
“It’s important for us to remain a high-quality brand. People have said you can get the cost down by using lower-cost ingredients, but we are not willing to compromise and use ingredients like Derry’s Gold Butter. It’s a high-quality ingredient and chefs use it around the world.”
Any last tips for other founders?
“You have to follow your passion! With me, it was baking. And I would say take as much help as you can, especially if you’re running your business on your own.
“You need someone you can go to with problems, so look at organisations and courses that are available to provide help and support. Even if I came out of a training course learning one new thing, it’s a huge advantage for my business.
“Sometimes it can be tough going, especially if you are running the business on your own. But I wouldn't change it for the world.”
Enterprise Nation is partnering with Vodafone Business to equip 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses with the digital skills they need to take their operations to the next level.
The free training programme – delivered exclusively online, and consisting of workshops, webinars and e-learning modules – will empower businesses to kickstart digital change, adopt new technology, and stay safe online.