In the hot seat

Jill McKillop, Founder and Managing Director of Grainola Goddess

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?

When I am not in my production unit in Derry, where I make granola from spent grain from my brother’s Walled City Brewery, a normal day would involve checking emails and social media for customer enquiries and/or following up orders. I’ll also search for new recipe ideas to test in the kitchen though inspiration usually comes in the middle of the night so I keep pen and paper next to the bedside. I’m a busy mum too so I have school runs and home works to look after as well as running the business.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?

Officially launching the Grainola Goddess granola cereals and biscuits brand at the Clipper Maritime Festival in Derry back in July this year. The customer response to the product exceeded my expectations and encouraged me to keep going and grow the business.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?

I am a creative person so I’m continually thinking of new recipes and I really enjoy the satisfaction on the faces of customers when they taste my product and I get positive feedback.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?

Probably the management of stock control. I am manufacturing a product, cereals made from spent brewery grain, that has a shelf life and balancing stock production with sales demand can be an issue. It is a learning curve!

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

Prior to launching the business, my husband said to me, ‘You have to drive this, no one else is going to do it for you’. And he was right. As a sole trader you’re in charge of everything, from production and marketing through to sales. There isn’t anyone else to share the load so self-motivation is the key to success.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST GRIPE?

Having had a previous career as a secondary teacher, I am very particular about spelling and grammar. I am embarrassed to say that I carry around a pen everywhere I go to correct any SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) errors I come across.

WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?

I went to piano lessons when I was younger. I always played music by ear and was pretty good at it reaching Grade 6. However, I was also told by my teacher that I was the worst sight-reader she’d ever come across. So, I’d like to be better at reading sheet music. That would be a great talent to have!

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS/AMBITIONS?

I’d like to grow the business and expand the product line. Spent grain is a highly nutritious and adaptable ingredient for many potential food products. I’d like to see my product in different retail outlets across the UK and Ireland. Down the line, I’d love to export to other continents. There are no restrictions.

WHOM DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?

My parents. Not only did they do a great job raising myself and my two entrepreneurial siblings, (my sister Yvonne has her own Interior design and architecture business and my younger brother James is owner and head brewer of The Walled City Brewery) they are inspirational people. They have been through tough times, particularly in the last few years. They had to cope with my illness in 2013 and more recently my dad’s cancer. Throughout everything, they have remained so positive and encouraging to me. I hugely admire and respect both of them.

WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE?

We are fortunate to live in an amazing country. The scenery and beaches are second to none. If I was to choose one place I’d probably choose the sea or a lake in Co Donegal. I’d be in a kayak on the water as I think it’s the most calming activity. You can completely free your mind from thoughts and stresses of everyday life.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD PRODUCT?

One of the reasons behind starting my business was my passion for granola as a health product. I’ve always been banging on about the importance of eating properly to my family and friends, it came as no surprise to them that I decided to make a business out of my favourite food product. It’s the most important meal of the day too!

HOW DO YOU RELAX?

Kayaking is a great form of relaxation. However, considering our climate, it isn’t a year-round activity you can enjoy. I love playing badminton, swimming and going to zumba classes. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.

 

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