Equipped with a butcher, bakery, café, florist and gift shop, Forge Field Farm shop is set in the rural village of Termonfeckin, Co Louth.
Farming for generations, the Kirwan family spent many years selling their home grown produce from the farm shed, when finally in 2004 Forge Field Farm shop opened its doors.
Speaking on behalf of his family, David Kirwan discusses the business structure,
“My parents, Owen and Geraldine, are front-and-centre to the shop. My brother Aidan works on the farm full time and I help out with the background stuff, like marketing and paperwork.
“We finished up dairy farming in the early 2000s and concentrated on growing spuds and crops instead. My father always had great rural connections. He began talking to our local butcher and baker about a potential farm shop in the village and the rest is history.”
As news of shutdowns and cancellations broke last March the Kirwans made changes and fast. From digitisation to doorstep delivery, the adaptations were a success.
“We had to be on the ball with customer and staff communication; so people knew where they stood. We have turned to social media to find out what our customers want and they give us really good feedback.”
Time-honoured manners and customer service are fundamental to the rural business endurance, he explains.
“I think old school values have shown their worth, especially over the past year. My parents are really good at adding the personal touch.
“When you walk into the shop the person behind the till will help you pack your bag and carry it out to your boot, or deliver it to your door if necessary.
“They are paring it back to good wholesome food and customer experience.”
The best advice is often simple and this rings true for the Kirwans, who encourage aspiring rural entrepreneurs to educate themselves, do their research and be self-confident.
Back yourself first and then put the work in
“I advise people to go out and communicate. My father didn’t realise what he was doing all those years ago talking to the butcher and baker, but he was actually networking. Engage with your potential customers as much as you can.
“There is a need for IT, marketing and social media skills in every business, so don’t be afraid to educate yourself.
We took a chance when we went from selling potatoes out of the shed, to starting the farm shop, but it has paid off
“Back yourself first and then put the work in. There are going to be risks, but if you have confidence in your idea and customer base, you will be OK.
“We took a chance when we went from selling potatoes out of the shed, to starting the farm shop, but it has paid off. It has had continuous growth over the last 15 years and now employs 35 people.”
The foundation to every small business is people, which the Kirwans place first.
“Sadly, our longest-serving employee Jimmy Finnegan passed away recently. Jimmy worked at Forge Field for over 45 years. He will be sadly missed by everyone in Termonfeckin. Through losing such an irreplaceable friend and colleague, we realise the value of people is second to none, in every context,” David concludes.