Women are making their mark in the world of business like never before. In every industry and at every level, we look to women who've made it their own as an example for us to do the same. For our latest series, entitled 'How She Got Her Job', we ask women who have achieved stunning success in their field to tell us how they got there, and their advice on how we can join them.
While working in PR and journalism, Sarah Kiely started having trouble with her gut, and tried every traditional method to relieve it. When she discovered bone broth, she came to the business idea that would change her career forever. Now, she's the founder, managing and creative director of Sadie's Kitchen, Ireland and Europe's first bone broth brand for retail, rolled out to over 200 stores across Ireland and the UK.
What was the first job you loved?
I used to work with L'Oréal in brand marketing and I loved that. It was a brilliant place to work and it taught me so much about branding and running a business. But obviously, founding my own business in Sadie's Kitchen has been a dream come true and nothing compares to it.
What does your daily routine look like?
It's so varied! We have a team of three at Sadie's Kitchen, which I lead, but my main role is probably product development and innovation in the company. It's really important to me that I have full creative control over things, because I know how important it is to keep things consistent. Everything from designing the packaging to sourcing the ingredients to working with manufacturing and food tech, to make sure that the product is the best it can be when it goes to launch. We also have a brand partnership with Freshly Chopped, so I spend time speaking at events and working on new product and recipe development with them too as part of that. Something that also takes up a lot of time is applications for funding and working on pitches for the likes of Bord Bia or Enterprise Ireland, who we work with a lot. We're such a small team that you end up doing a bit of everything!
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I live for creating new products and being involved in every aspect of that. I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of it. We were the first in Ireland and Europe to launch a bone broth brand for retail, so the fact that we're disrupting the industry like that is really exciting. I also really enjoy working with other brands on collaborations and partnerships; getting to work together on the same messages about health and nutrition is amazing.
What’s your least favourite part?
Sometimes, I do tend to get bogged down with administrative stuff. Applications for prizes or funding take up so much time and a lot of it has to come from me personally, so it can be a drain. General admin wouldn't be my favourite thing in the world! I'm lucky to have such great staff who are so organised with it but personally, I don't like to outsource things too much. Obviously, we have an accountant and an adviser, but I believe that you have to own your numbers and you have to be clued in on where your business is at all the time. It's all part and parcel of running a small business.
What are the key skills you need to make it in your industry?
You have to be incredibly driven, and not just in the 'ruthless' sense. You have to be really confident in yourself, and women in business often suffer with that. Whether it's your product or your service, you're always going to get no's, and it will take a long time to get traction, so it's really important to keep believing in yourself and your brand. We're on shelves two years, we took a long time to do everything correctly and you need to have the drive to keep going through that. You have to believe in the product too. People buy into the brand now, not just the product, so you have to back what you're selling 100%. It can be scary but if you have that gut instinct in what you're doing, you'll get there.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned for success in your career?
There's a few, but for me it was how to let people in to help me. I had a manager a few years ago who told me that the worst person you can learn from is yourself. I never really understood it then, but I definitely do now. When I started Sadie's Kitchen, it was just me for the first two years. I did everything myself and was working at a really unsustainable level. I had to learn to delegate and trust in the talent of people that I was employing and that they were as invested in the brand as I was. It's so important to know your limits, because it can turn into a negative for your business if you;re trying to micromanage everything yourself. I think self-employed people really struggle with that. I don't know if it's just something in my generation, that we worked through a recession, but I often feel that if I'm not on the brink of a burnout, I'm not doing my job properly. You work so hard for less money for so long that it gets ingrained! I'm still learning that it's OK to let people in and ask for help, and that it's better for your business to do that.
I definitely regret not asking for help sooner. I found it so overwhelming starting a company and there were probably so many resources that I never pursued because I didn't have the information to do it. Finding mentors or funding earlier would have moved things along so much quicker. I wish I had known how generous the food industry is, and the wealth of advice and help I could have gotten. I should have engaged with local enterprise, Bord Bia and even just other people, especially women, a lot earlier.
What do you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
That it would work out! My mam always says that "no one's going to shoot you if it doesn't work out, so give it a go". I know that it has worked out brilliantly, and I have a successful company which I'm so proud of, but if it hadn't, I would have still been OK. That time wasn't spent doing nothing, I was building a brand from scratch and those skills and that bravery are incredible things to have for any path.
What’s the number one piece of advice you would give to young people starting out who want to follow in your footsteps?
Do your research. It takes a lot of time to launch something and you need to budget for that, both financially and mentally. Get your foundations solid and get the logistics sorted as soon as you can. It's so important to know your strengths too. Ask previous employers what these are - if you're best out on the road talking to potential buyers, do that and do it well, but hire other people to handle the behind-the-scenes stuff. Find your balance.