My life in the grocery trade

Donna O’Neill, business development manager, McKee’s Foods

BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY

While studying Business Management at Ulster University, I started a part-time role as sales executive with Acheson & Glover. Upon graduation, my post became permanent, leading to a promotion to an internal sales role in January 2018. I started with McKee’s in Summer 2019 as business development manager.

WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?

Primarily it involves managing, liaising and developing new and existing accounts. I am responsible for meeting new customers and talking them through our range of over 150 quality products, along with sampling, right through to setting up new customer accounts and ensuring that their first delivery of our products runs smoothly. I am the customer’s first point of contact so if they have any queries, I am always here to help. It is a very busy and diverse role – some days I could be in stores doing tasting events and other days I could be solely based in the office catching up on paperwork. I also oversee our social media output to promote our activities on channels such as Facebook and Instagram.

WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?

Getting messages sent to us of how glad someone is that a store near them is now stocking their favourite Bacon Wheels they used to travel for is very rewarding. Receiving great feedback from our customers of how well their sales are rising from introducing our product range gives me a real sense of satisfaction too. In recent times we’ve had a lot of successful entries into renowned and respected retailers such as the McBride group and Lusty’s Centra, Larne. A more challenging part is trying to co-ordinate substantial top ups of coleslaw for a hot weekend when production has stopped and lorries are leaving. We pride ourselves on customer service so we’re always able to arrange something.

BRIEFLY OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY

Thankfully every day is completely different for me which is why I love my job. I usually start work around 8am and start with emails. I deal with anything urgent first before reviewing the overnight online and app activity. We’ve recently launched a stand-alone company app that allows consumers who wish to click and collect from our shop or have our range delivered directly to their door. I then spread my time on different projects. One day I could be supporting my office colleagues processing orders. Otherwise, I could be dealing with queries from prospective new shops. I maintain the ‘back office’ on our app. This includes ensuring stock levels are accurate, adding new products and category management that makes it easy and efficient for the end user to shop including a weekly price promotion.

WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED WITH THE LOCAL RETAIL INDUSTRY?

I have to say it would be building relationships with like-minded people. I am passionate about the local food industry and at McKee’s we make all of our products from scratch whether that be pastry for our Sausage Roll range or pasta for our Lasagne. I find most retailers to be very supportive of NI based producers and this is crucial to building mutually beneficial relationships that have longevity.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?

I enjoy exploring. I’m a keen lover of brunch and coffee dates with friends. I love visiting different places for walks and hikes at the weekends. I particularly enjoy beaches and mountains.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW

I once camped out in Belfast from 4am to try and get a glimpse of One Direction at the UTV Studios. Luckily my friend and I were picked to go inside and meet them.

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