Interview: Newmarket Kitchen founder Shane Bonner
Newmarket Kitchen is a shared kitchen space designed for food start-ups, producers, caterers and independent chefs based in Bray, Co. Wicklow. This week Eoin sat down with owner and founder Shane Bonner to find out what the business is all about and what he thinks the future has in store for Irish food startups.
So Shane, introduce yourself to our readers:
My name is Shane Bonner, I’m 35 years old and originally from Blackrock, Co Dublin. I have an BSc in Business & Management from Dublin Institute of Technology. Before setting up Newmarket Kitchen I worked in the construction industry and as an accountant.
What is Newmarket Kitchen (NMK)?
Newmarket Kitchen is a food incubator located in Bray, Co Wicklow. Basically we offer food entrepreneurs a facility whereby they can come and produce their product in an environment that is HSE approved. We also offer value-added services such as food safety training, food labelling, ‘Meet the Buyer’ type events and general help if needed.
How many food startups do you currently have at NMK?
Currently we have 19 members using the Newmarket Kitchen facility. We expect this to grow to around 22 in the coming few months.
What do you look for in a new business wanting to join NMK?
We don’t discriminate against any kind of food business. That said, we do get excited when we see a product not currently on the market or a company with really good branding.
Do you think there is sufficient supports and grants available from Local Enterprise Offices/Enterprise Ireland/Government for SME food businesses?
There is and there isn’t. We’ve been lucky with support from our Local Enterprise Office (big shout out to everyone in the Wicklow LEO). We were even lucky enough to have An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny visit the kitchen last February which was great PR for us. That said. I think there is always room for new grants and supports, especially for non tech related companies. I think we’re moving in the right direction!
How do smaller artisan food producers compete with much larger multinational companies?
It can definitely be a challenge but I think it is becoming easier. Consumer no longer want your run-of-the-mill product from a large multinational. They want products that are sourced and made locally, products that tell a story. I believe this will become more and more popular as time goes on.
What are the biggest challenges facing new food startups in Ireland?
I guess funding is a big one. I know from experience how hard it can be to raise money with no prior entrepreneurial experience. For anyone coming from unemployment I would highly recommend the Back to Work Enterprise Scheme. This can be very helpful to afford day to day living costs.
If you had one piece of advice to give someone just starting out, what would it be?
Just go for it and enjoy the journey. There will never be the perfect time to start. Make mistakes, learn from them and try not to make the same mistakes a second time. I’m a big believer in ‘Action Learning’.
Is there an area in the Irish food industry that you feel is being overlooked (such as a specific product or service)?
I would love to see more lobster roll joints popping up in Ireland. It’s blowing up like crazy in the US. The likes of EATER.com is a great online publication that covers a lot of up and coming trends, specifically EATER LA. It’s funny, LA is booming with affordable lobster roll restaurants yet it’s 3,000 miles away from the main source of lobster in the US, Cape Cod and New England.
Ireland has some of the best lobster in the world, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t and couldn’t have more affordable, fast-casual lobster restaurants.
Where do you see the Irish food industry in 5 years time?
I think the industry will continually grow to support local produce, farmers and suppliers. It would be great to see more Irish small producers exporting on the same levels as Kerrygold, Guinness, and newer brewers such as Rye River.
Where do you to see NMK in 5 years time?
5 years is a long way away but I’d like to see Newmarket Kitchen with one or two more kitchens. I’m hopeful we can introduce more value-added services for our members too.
Finally – what’s your favorite Irish food startup out there right now and why?
I don’t really have a favorite to be honest. I’m a huge fan of each and every business within the Newmarket Kitchen facility. I get to see the hard work they all put, it’s inspiring, especially those doing it as a side hustle on top of their 9-5.
Thanks Shane – we wish you continued success with Newmarket Kitchen!
If you’d like to find out more about Newmarket Kitchen or apply for space, visit their website by clicking here.