Latest in our series of creative female entrepreneur interviews, we catch up with Carolanne Rushe, founder of vegan friendly cafe Sweet Beat. Voted best vegetarian restaurant by the Irish Times and recently best start up in the Sligo heat of Ireland’s best young entrepreneur competition. Here Carolanne tells us how the idea of Sweet Beat came to fruition and shares one of her favourite plant based chilli recipes.
Tell us about your business Sweet Beat?
Sweet Beat is a plantbased café based in Sligo town, along the beautiful banks of the Garavogue River. We offer a plantbased menu of brunch, lunch, take away, tea, coffee, sweet treats, raw cakes, super smoothies, ferments and cold pressed juices. In May 2016, we also began stocking our retail products on the shelves of SuperValu as part of the Food Academy Programme. 2017 will see some very exciting plans coming to fruition after a busy two years in business.
And how did it come about…
After an arts degree in UCD, I ended up living abroad for six years. I had always been interested in food but could never figure out how to turn that into a real job. I began by keeping a food blog documenting culinary inspiration and recipes. During that time I lived in some amazing places which is what inspires alot of my recipes today. I then decided to pursue Ballymaloe Cookery School’s 12 week certificate course. It was an incredible experience. Soon after Ballymaloe, I returned to Johannesburg and set up a veggie salad bar. This is where my Super Salads originally began.
In 2014 I decided to return home to Sligo for the summer and my trip home co-incided with the opening of the Strandhill People’s Market. I spent the summer developing new customer relationships and again testing new products, flavours and ingredients on the local market. I also spent time that summer training as a Raw Food Chef. In early 2015, a premises popped up and it looked like a good opportunity to take things to the next level. It definitely felt like the natural next step for me. We opened the doors to Sweet Beat Café on Bridge Street on April 8th 2015.
2. What has been your greatest achievement to date and why?
Opening Sweet Beat was a huge achievement in itself, but last month will also stand out as major highlight. At the beginning of December, I won the award for Best Startup in Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Competition in the Sligo heat. And just before Christmas Sweet Beat was named Ireland’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant by Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times. So you can imagine, I started 2017 on a bit of high.
3. Your biggest inspiration?
My family. My parents worked extremely hard throughout their lives, with never a dull moment raising four girls. Now I look at them and I want what they have. After raising our family, my Mum became a mindfulness counselor, so we have a gold supply of support and encouragement, grounding advice and breathing techniques. My Dad Seamus had a brilliant career as a camera man with the national broadcaster for years. He travelled quite a lot and had very early starts and late nights, travelling across the country documenting news stories. He went through a lot over the last few years in terms of illness and now I think he’s the healthiest one of the family! I get regular calls about new articles or studies on plant based eating from him. My sisters and I have also always been quite close. One a DJ, writer and photographer in Berlin and the other runs a marketing agency supporting small businesses and creative entrepreneurs based here in Sligo. So as you can imagine, I am surrounded by lots of inspiration on a daily basis.
4. What has been your biggest learning curve since opening your own business?
Delegation. I have become the queen of delegation in my job. Training staff and empowering them in their roles is a huge part of what we do in Sweet Beat. There are so many areas of the café that I need to delegate responsibility to and this frees up space for me to develop the business. When I was running the market stall it was just me, so I didn’t have any employees to worry about. Now I have twelve staff to work with and make sure that they are trained to get the job done.
5. First app you open in the morning?
Instagram, for my morning post.