I went out walking last Sunday as the rain poured down on the dog and me. The trees, shrubs and overgrowth on the wood path had taken on that lush vibrant green colour that looks almost fake. It was wet rain but not harsh and I didn’t feel cold as it soaked through to my skin. It was 1 May and even the rain was telling me summer is upon us. To mark this jump into what we hope will be the sunny season, we start our “holidaying at home” articles. This travel series was initially inspired by COVID-19. Now, although we are no longer forced to remain in the country, I would like to think many will choose to support local hospitality and spend some of their holiday fund in Ireland as we have come to appreciate what is on our doorstep.

Lookback Holiday from Home 2021: Chris McCarthy from Dooega, Achill, Co Mayo with his Moiled Cows and Janine Kennedy

Last year the Irish Country Living team travelled from Tipperary to Mayo to Carlow, Clare and Kerry. We wrote about accommodation options from five-star hotels to glamping pods on farms, things to do with the kids, museums and water sports and, naturally, food. When the team sat down to plan this year’s focus, we asked ourselves: “Are we travelling a very well-trodden path?” No offence to the Wild Atlantic Way or the beautiful loops of Kerry but in 2022, we decided to go “off-piste” and take in the counties that might not be on the immediate holiday radar.

Lookback Holiday from Home 2021: Ciara hit the Dungarvan Greenway in Co Waterford Photographer-Karen Dempsey

We also decided to make the main features of these focus specials about businesses that are either trying to make a living from the tourism market or hoping that it will provide an income boost. One such business is this week’s cover story – Roots shop and café, a social enterprise in Kilmeedy, Co Limerick, the county Maria Moynihan travelled to for the start of the travel series.

Lookback Holiday from Home 2021: The Leahy family stayed in Faithlegg Hotel while in Waterford.

Social enterprise evolution

So what is a social enterprise (SE)? By definition it is an organisation whose mission combines revenue growth and profit with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholders. Although we may be attracted by the convenience, choice and price point of an Amazon-style model, most of us don’t like it. We do not trust where products are sourced from or the conditions workers are subjected to.

And although it is hard to move from such a model in a time of rapid inflation, indications suggest this is changing. Organisations are no longer being solely assessed on the traditional metrics of financial performance. According to consultants Deloitte, other metrics are becoming increasingly important, such as relationships with workers, customers and communities. The focus of how a business affects society is transforming business enterprises into SEs.

Lookback Holiday from Home 2021: Janine and her daughter took in the Barrow Boat trip on a visit to Carlow. / Claire Nash

Roots is an example of this change in business direction, a SE model supported by volunteers from the community. However, a SE is a collaborative model and relies heavily on the support of “insiders” – locals who volunteer their time and expertise – and “outsiders” who are willing to pay for the product or service. We know that we need to “buy into” rural Ireland to make it work and supporting a SE (they are all over the country) is a proactive way to do that.

So on your holiday at home this year, keep an eye out for SEs like Roots shop and café. Get a coffee and enjoy it knowing that you are supporting more than the coffers of big business.

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