Mary Corrigan established her business Noo Chocolates in December 2017 with her husband Damien. As well as being chocolatiers, the couple have a herd of Dexter cattle and are based in Ballina, Co Mayo.
Mary explains that living on a farm keeps her in touch with food production.
“If you’ve grown some vegetables or you’ve raised an animal and cared for it, you do start feeling more deeply about where your food is coming from,” she says.
Establishing Noo Chocolates
In 2011, Mary and Damien received a gift of a half-day chocolate making workshop that “sparked the fire” for their current business.
“After the workshop, I realised that it is possible to make chocolates that look professional at home,” she recalls. “You don’t need a big factory and lots of automated equipment.”
Mary felt she had the perfect opportunity to start a business as there wasn’t another chocolate company supplying retail locally in Ballina. She had been making chocolates for years and in 2017 felt there was a potential gap in the market to be filled.
“I took over a unit in Ballina down at the Quays that was previously a chocolate factory,” she explains. “All the equipment was there so I literally just took over the lease, bought all the equipment and was ready to go.”
Supporting the local economy is important to her business and Mary prides herself on using ingredients from Irish suppliers and producers as much as possible. Her local artisan suppliers include Achill Island Sea Salt, Cuinneog Butter, the Connacht Distillery and Bean West Coffee.
Mary explains that she couldn’t buy better produce elsewhere.
“I think supporting local is what should make the world go round. Communities need to work together and the first thing you should look towards is what’s around you.”
Although she is originally from Meath, Mary has an evident passion for the west of Ireland.
“With my business, I want to represent Mayo and be part of the beacon that brings people here,” she says,
“There is huge support for anything local. Mayo is a phenomenal county, people are so friendly and so passionate about everything – not just football!”
Mary says you don’t have to be born into a county to share that pride and passion. “I often tell people I have the adoption papers ready for Mayo!”
Running a business
Running Noo Chocolates has been a liberating opportunity for Mary, who says she never had a head for business growing up.
“Anyone can run a business and if there are people out there thinking about it, I would definitely recommend giving it a go,” she says, “It is so important to believe in yourself."
Mary says that it is fantastic to see companies making big profits and employing many people, but acknowledges that there is significant value in smaller businesses that trade locally.
“There is a lot of airspace given to how successful a company is,” she explains. “I think this might be what puts a lot of people off starting their own enterprise as they feel like they can never reach these heights.
“When you buy from local businesses, you're seeing the direct impact of the value of your money. You meet the owners on the street, or at the match or your kids go to school with their kids. Success can be having a positive impact on the community, just as much as making a profit is.
“Believe me when I say that if I can run a business anyone can,” Mary says. “It's just about taking the opportunities that you have, and getting as much help as possible when you need it. There's great support out there from Local Enterprise Offices and the likes.
“If you have an idea for a business then look into it, do your homework and take the chance!”
More information about Noo Chocolates is available on Mary’s website here.