On introduction, Sarah Jane Foster’s passion and positivity are immediate.
The 30-year-old entrepreneur’s experience in broadcast and media has been very much innate, with her teenage years spent in studio, by her grandad, Mick Foster’s side.
“The first thing I am asked when I say my name is, ‘Oh my God are you related to Mick Foster, of Foster and Allen?’ And yes, he is my grandad, but I am definitely not musical!
“Funny enough, my childhood was on the farm, on the horses and feeding lambs. I started going up to the TV studios with Grandad as I got older and I remember thinking it was amazing. From the very first time I stood in RTÉ, I knew my life would be in this industry.”
During the final year of her TV and film studies degree at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Sarah Jane accepted a job offer from a company called Irish TV, which would kickstart her professional career in the filming and broadcast industry, she continues.
“I started out as a presenter, then I did some editing and camera work. I learned so much from them over three years and I loved it. After a couple of years though, I remember feeling stagnant, like I wasn’t learning anymore. I had never understood people saying, ‘Oh my job isn’t challenging anymore’, until then.”
Equipped with a gumptious spirit, a head full of ideas and solid industry experience, Sarah Jane launched her own business in 2017. Revisiting the starting point of SJF productions, she recalls the challenges.
“I bought my first camera and I set up SJF productions in 2017. I was so ambitious and excited to have my own business.
At first, they didn’t see the value in it at all. But I could see the potential
“I was used to introducing myself as, ‘Hi I’m Sarah Jane Foster from Irish TV, would you like us to feature a piece on you?’ and people jumped at it, because they were going to be on TV. Then, I was suddenly explaining that the content would be for their website and Facebook.
“At first, they didn’t see the value in it at all. But I could see the potential, I knew video and online were the way forward. I had to educate a whole new market and I feel like I have done quite well.”
The community support and encouragement that comes with a rural business location is something that is often lost in the big city lights, she continues,
“I was 26 when I set up SJF Productions and I cannot describe how good the people of Mullingar have been to me – supporting me with advice since day one. Rural people are so approachable and genuinely spur you on. Having a community that know you and want to help you grow and learn is a massive advantage.”
Rural business women joining forces, supporting each other and fusing ideas, has been a saving grace for Sarah Jane over the past year, she explains.
“I was very lucky to get on the ACORNS (Accelerating the Creation of Rural Nascent Start-ups) programme last year. It has impacted my business in such an incredible way. My ACORNS group has really helped us through difficult times and has answered some tough questions.
“For example, I don’t have children at the minute, but I would love to in the next few years. To see all these women managing their businesses while being mothers is really is inspiring and empowering. It shows me that you can be a beautiful mother and an amazing business woman, at the same time.”
It’s vital to put your opening hours and operating procedures up on social media
Touching on the inevitable, the entrepreneur reminds business owners of the increasing importance of having a strong online presence.
“I think most people already know, but now more than ever, an online presence is so important for business. If I want to pop into town for a takeaway coffee, I Google the café first to make sure that they are open. It’s vital to put your opening hours and operating procedures up on social media. You need to let people know that despite COVID, you are still present and will be there when this is all over.”
With online workshops and a brand new website on the way, SJF productions is in safe hands.
“SJF Productions is my priority. I absolutely live and breathe for it. I want it to do so well and I am so excited for the future, I have so many ambitions and know exactly where I want it to go,” she concludes.
Find SJF Productions on Instagram and Facebook.
Look into the ACORNS programme for women in rural businesses.