Agriland talks to Kevin Sheridan about the small beginnings of the well renowned Sheridans Cheesemongers.

Brothers Seamus and Kevin Sheridan (pictured) channelled their passion for high-quality Irish produce into turning a profit when they began selling Irish farmhouse cheese in Galway Market in 1995. Following an enthusiastic reception the first shop was opened in Galway and by 1997 Dublin welcomed the South Anne Street branch of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers. Not surprisingly, farmhouse cheese is their key product, but they also produce crackers and chutneys.

Expansion is something the Sherdians Cheesemongers are very comfortable with and the business now includes four retail outlets, market stalls and purpose-built premises, with warehouses, offices and maturing rooms in County Meath. From two brothers at a stall in Galway they currently employ 45 staff, half of whom are full time.

As is evident from its meteoric rise, the comapny is not resting on its laurels. “We have our own retail outlets which represents 30% of our business. Outside of this we supply independent retailers around Ireland and we have begun to export with our crackers distributed in the US, UK and Scandanavia,” says Kevin.

“We are launching a new website including an online shop in the next month so that has huge potential. Growing our market in the US is a big challenge but we are really enjoying it.”

Sheridans introduced crackers to the US market last year but intend to bring a range of cheeses over the next two years. However when asked on advice for artisan companies, Kevin illustrates the practical business acumen that has brought the company its success. “Don’t expand for expansion’s sake; small can be more profitable and mean a better quality, more sustainable product.

“I would prefer to see a thousand new micro business than 100 or 10 bigger businesses.  Remember the old saying… turnover as vanity profit is sanity. That is a message our whole food and agriculture industry should listen to”.

Kevin also emphasises the importance of social media as a key part of marketing strategy. Sheridans Cheesemongers Facebook page is an eclectic mix of fun, light-hearted posts, event notifications and recipes.

With over 6,000 Facebook Likes it’s clear that Sheridans have got the balance right when it comes to social media engagement. “It is a fantastic way to communicate in an informal way with our customers; it is also a very good way to keep in touch with other members of the Irish food community. No company should ignore social media as a marketing tool; it is extremely cost-effective and can also introduce an element of fun!”

Customer engagement is second nature to the company who started off at the Galway Market and Kevin feels the rise in markets is a benefit to both business and the community. “Markets are very important for a number of reasons, particularly as an incubator for new businesses; there are very little set-up costs for the food producer and they get to meet their customers face to face. I also think they can be a very valuable resource for a community, somewhere to meet up and meet your neighbours and be aware of local businesses and support them”.

Keep an eye on for information on the soon to be launched online shop.