Shane Neary, director, Nearynógs Chocolate Makers
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I am a 39-year-old man, married with 12 kids and eight grandkids. I live in Carlingford Lough near Greencastle. I like family, good food, music, people, creating things, faith and nature.
I’m originally from North Belfast but have lived in south Co Down for the past 12 years.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?
Waking up, brush my teeth every morning, get kids ready for school, out to work. Feed our chickens, duck and pet sheep. Usually sorting cocoa beans, planning the orders and deliveries with my wife. Cleaning, roasting, breaking the cocoa beans and loading the grinders to make chocolate liquor for orders, followed by phone calls and emails. At weekends we have family over where possible, which usually is 20-plus people minimum and that’s before we invite anybody outside the family. We work very hard to make artisan produce and are constantly thinking and creating better ways to improve our craft, products and services.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
Purchasing a property for the business and watching it grow to become a real dream come true. This year, we managed to help Fortnum and Mason and the Grenada chocolate company create a farm to store 99% emission free chocolate which involved sailboats from all over the western and eastern Atlantic and North Sea. That was fun. Also stocking new shops that we always wanted to and giving chocolate to famous Irish musicians and Star Wars actors.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
Meeting people and working in an environment where the business is helping improve the quality of workers and the industry as a whole. I love making a difference and an impact. Chocolate has given us a platform to make a difference and to be recognised for that is a huge positive. Going forward we hope to be a benefit to our local community and that the local people can share in the joy of our growing business.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT TASK?
Making enough chocolate for demand. Chocolate takes three to four days to do it right and make a quality product. Customers may not see all the work that goes into cocoa production so sometimes are surprised that we charge more and it takes longer. Coffee has about 11 steps from berry to hot coffee cup, chocolate has 26 steps, so it is a lot more laborious. Sourcing ethical cocoa beans is not always easy and also getting a healthy price point where you can keep your business afloat.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
“Take a break, but don’t quit.”
“You can’t see the stars without the darkness.”
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST GRIPE?
Sorting cocoa beans by hand.
WHAT TALENT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE?
To be really good at DIY and also accounting (it takes me a while).
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS/AMBITIONS?
To be able to work ON my business instead of working IN it full-time. To be able to visit cocoa farms and meet the farmers.
WHOM DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Business owners whom I know, that have succeeded with integrity and have a super relaxed composure under pressure when they have heaps of responsibility.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE?
On top of the Mournes or with my kids and family watching a good movie.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD PRODUCT?
Any potato product.
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
Food, music, going for a walk, a drive, watching a new episode on TV (Mandalorian), talking with friends and family, going for a run, playing sport.