There are probably not too many farmyards in Ireland where you can order a flat white. But at Moher Cottage in Co Clare, Caitriona Considine has transformed a former cow shed and pig sty on a fourth-generation beef and suckler farm into a must-stop coffee and gift shop on the road to the Cliffs of Moher.

“You’re looking down over Liscannor bay, Lahinch beach, Mount Callan in front of you,” explains the engineer-turned-entrepreneur – as Irish Country Living takes in the view from the window framed by a John O’Donoghue quote: “When you really gaze at something, you bring it inside you.”

City to country

Originally from Galway city, Caitriona studied engineering in college and spent most of her career working in consultancy in IT and wind energy in Dublin. However, falling in love with farmer and publican, Kevin Considine, would not only change her life, but her career direction, after getting married in 2012.

While Caitriona moved to St Brigid’s Well, Co Clare, her work was still based in Dublin; and it did not take long for the travelling to take its toll.

“Maybe commuting as far from Belfast to Wexford, depending on what projects I’d be on,” explains Caitriona as an example of the distances involved. “You were leaving here in the morning a lot of times in the dark and coming back in the dark.”

Caitriona Considine of Moher Cottage, Co Clare.

Moher Cottage, Co Clare.

While Caitriona initially toyed with the idea of setting up as a self-employed contractor, she knew that would still involve being “on the road”; so began to search closer to home for an opportunity. And as it turned out, she did not have to look beyond the farmyard, to a disused shed built out of Liscannor stone and slate.

“So solid as a rock, bone dry and that’s where we started thinking: ‘This mightn’t take too much to renovate,’” explains Caitriona.

Renovate for what was the question. Although the farm shed was on a busy road to the Cliffs of Moher, Caitriona knew she needed to provide a product that would make people pause their journey to pull in.

While searching for an idea, however, she remembered something that Darina Allen had said when she had attended a course in Ballymaloe a few years previously.

“In one of her demos, she said, ‘You can be famous or known for one thing: do one thing really well,’” explains Caitriona. “And that stuck with me.”

That thing, she decided, would be coffee, and to complete the package, she would also make her own homemade fudge and sell local baking alongside contemporary Irish gifts.

And after receiving planning permission to change from agricultural to commercial use, Caitriona gave up her job in the summer of 2016, to run Air BnB at home, creating a cash-flow during the renovations. Indeed, every penny came in handy, as the cost of converting an old building soon gobbled up their savings.

“We put everything in. Everything,” says Caitriona, adding that she and Kevin also received support from the bank to complete the project.

(She quotes one architect, who told them that “while you’re at it” are the “four most expensive words in renovation”.)

Caitriona Considine's homemade fudge at Moher Cottage, Co Clare.

Caitriona Considine's homemade fudge at Moher Cottage, Co Clare.

Turning the project around on a tight timeline was a challenge, but one thing that helped Caitriona to stay on track was joining the ACORNS programme for female rural entrepreneurs after a meeting with director Paula Fitzsimons at the 2016 Ploughing Championships.

“ACORNS was superb for me, the peer support from like-minded people,” says Caitriona, explaining the tight bond that grows between the other female entrepreneurs as you share “your heart and soul every month for six months in the initial phase”.

Best little shop

And with that backing, Caitriona succeeded in opening for business for St Patrick’s weekend 2017, and since then has been working towards her ambition to be “the best little shop in Ireland”.

“I want people to come in here and leave with a smile on their face. And I know that sounds kind of twee, but I want them to remember and go: ‘Oh, that place was lovely,’ from the setting, from the service, from the chat, from the friendliness, from the coffee – just the experience, that they go away and they tell somebody,” she explains.

“We’re little and we don’t necessarily want to be Avoca; but we do want to be brilliant at it.”

Employing two part-time staff, Moher Cottage is also supporting other start-up Irish businesses, stocking gifts from fellow ACORNS participants like Sweet Living Kilkenny chocolate, Jo Browne solid perfume and Trish’s Honey Products.

The gift shop at Moher Cottage, Co Clare.

Window view from Moher Cottage, Co Clare.

“It makes such a difference, having that network, and we all understand how hard it is to get off the ground,” says Caitriona, who has also launched an online store using the “Shopify” platform.

While running a business is not short of challenges – particularly on the quiet days off-season – Caitriona thrives on the “positive energy” she gets from the customers who come to Moher Cottage.

“I suppose I worked in IT and it’s inherently problem-focused, you know,” she says. “And suddenly you’re meeting people on their holidays, you’re meeting people out for coffee, you’re meeting interesting, wonderful people who are so different from all over the world, every day of the week.”

For anybody with the ambition to pursue their own dream, Caitriona has this advice: “If something is in your heart,” she says, “you really need to just follow it through.”

And who knows, that dream might come true in your farmyard too.

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