Meet the Mumpreneur: Ruth Deasy of Bear Market Coffee
Being the total coffee-addicts that we are here at Herfamily HQ, we were more than a little excited to catch up with Ruth Deasy, founder of Bear Market Coffee, this week.
Deasy, who founded Bear Market alongside her mother and husband, spilled the beans on how to balance business and babies – and what it takes to start a successful company based on passion and a desire to do something different.
How did the idea for your company come about?
Both myself and Stephen graduated from architecture in 2009. We spent a brief period as aspiring architects before the realisation that we would need to emigrate if we were to continue the search for an architecture career. So we decided to look at other options that allowed us to set up a career for ourselves in Ireland and stay around family, which is a big part of our life.
I set up a gluten free bakery with my mum, Mary, which was a great success, from there people were asking for coffee to accompany our bakery range. Thats when we started looking into artisan speciality coffee and trained as baristas. Always quick to see an opportunity we came up with the idea - Bear Market Coffee following on from our passion for all things quality.
The named ‘Bear Market Coffee’ was just a cheeky nod to the financial phrase to which our architecture career had fallen victim.
When did you start?
I opened the bakery with my mum in 2011 and grew that business over three years, supplying some of Irelands top shops such as Avoca, Donnybrook Fair and Supervalu's nationwide. We added the coffee arm to the business in 2013, after seeing a gap in the market for quality coffee in Ireland.
We noticed that Ireland was behind the global trend with regards speciality coffee and wanted to bring it to our customers. It has taken a lot of hard work and some sacrifices along the way to get to where we are now. Businesses are not a success over night, but thankfully all the work has got us to where we are now, opening four shops in just 4 years.
Any hiccups in the beginning?
At the beginning of the company we fell into the trap of trying to doing everything ourselves instead of concentrating on areas we were strongest in. Turns out, it's impossible to be a director of the company, the marketing manager, barista, sales and food production. We slowly learnt that outsourcing some areas of the business was key to moving forward and focusing on areas that are really important that we don't necessarily have the right skills in.
The most pivotal decision we have made to date has been to partner up with other specialists. Bear market coffee is first and foremost a coffee retailer. We very quickly realised that if we could create strategic partnerships with other complimentary professional businesses that this would allowed us to block out external noise and focus on the customer 100 percent. So instead of trying to do everything ourselves, we have outsourced a number of products and areas within the business.
On the front end the most obvious example would be our partnership with our primary coffee roaster Brian Kenny from Silverskin, as well as a number of other specialty coffee roasters. It gives us great confidence to know that our key products are being supplied to us with rigorous quality controls. On the design end we work with fellow class graduates DUA architects who have come up with the unique designs that make Bear Market coffee shops so unique and successful in their design, presentation and work flow.
We pride ourselves in offering the best quality products across the store. By partnering with specialised companies in each sector such as food, coffee and equipment we always have a huge selection of new artisan Irish products to offer. This in turn providing a sustainable local interlink, supplying local jobs and resources.
The same can be said for the back end of the business. We found that we fell into the same trap as a number of small businesses, trying to run your day to day business while at the same time attempting to do all your accounting and bookkeeping work. We finally succumbed to a mountain of paperwork and discovered how invaluable a good bookkeeper and accountants really are.
Biggest high to date?
Expanding Bear Market from one store to four in four years. We started the business with no debt and are expanding a profitable business based on cash flow. From the beginning of the company we worked hard to get the business profitable as early as possible by working our first store in Blackrock ourselves before employing any staff. This was challenging but in the end allowed us to expand a successful model using cashflow.
How easy is it to combine motherhood with running a business?
I recently became a first time mum which is a huge change to my life and the work-life balance has never been so important. Up until now work was definitely the driving force and I would give up nights out to open the shops early in the mornings. However with the birth of Elise I'm learning how to become a working mum.
I have such fantastic support around me with Stephen and our families too, being a huge helping hand. Now that Elise is starting to get into a routine, I work around her and her needs. She usually sleeps for about two hours in the morning and evening, and I use these precious slots to get down to work. I focus on things that are essential to do and try not to sweat at the small stuff as I have limited time.
This has freed me up to do the parts of business I am strongest at and love, such as growth and expansion planning, marketing, social media, customer service and hiring. These are the areas I feel I can bring most to the table. It still keeps my day to day very varied but with a focus. Running a business and being a mum means no day is the same, it's very diverse and thats what I love about it. It’s definitely challenging but I hope with time I’ll find a rhythm that work for both work and family life.
Any lessons you have learned the hard way?
You can’t do it all, so focus on what’s the more most important aspect to do and start with that. Before I became a mum this only highlighted in work as some times the list is endless of tasks to do and I don’t know where to start. It can be very frustrating and you’re not sure how you will get on top of things. Now with being a mum, I find I can be torn between work and Elise’s needs. So I have to take a breath and not beat myself up if I don’t get everything I wanted to get done in a day, with the baby their demands are always greater than you think. I have to not put so much pressure on myself and try go with the flow. It’s a learning curve!
What’s next for the business?
We have three stores and an office kiosk at present in Blackrock IFSC & Pembroke Street. We are in the process of looking new locations for 2018, and have two more stores lined up for opening next year within Dublin city, so it is a very exciting growth phase of the business with hopefully more Bear Market Stores across Dublin within the next few years.