Life in business has been challenging and stressful for the past fourteen weeks but one North Clare enterprise managed to get global recognition during this window of time.
Moher Cottage Coffee and Craft Shop first opened in March 2017, as with every business in the country and indeed many across the world, COVID-19 plunged them into a sense of uncertainty, the clouds of which still remain for many that have not reopened their doors.
Situated 2.4km from The Cliffs of Moher, restrictions on the movement of the public have totally diluted the regular amount of traffic on the stretch of road from the world renown tourist attraction to Moher Cottage. “I’m just looking at that road now because our house is on it, there are no cars on it on a beautifully glorious sunny day in Liscannor and the road is empty,” owner Caitriona Considine detailed.
“Myself and the dog would walk up there on the same road where there is normally all the coaches, it was quite an experience and will hopefully be a once in a lifetime experience to have the Cliffs and the road to yourself. It just seemed that the birds were louder, nature seemed to thrive in the quietness and to be able to experience that was amazing. We’re looking forward to getting the visitors back, it may take a good few years if ever for it to be as busy as it was, we have to adapt to that and learn how to manage in that, we expect it to be significantly quieter. A lot of seasonal businesses here are very concerned about the winter, we won’t have had a strong summer to take us through a quiet winter”.
On Thursday last, Caitriona reopened the coffee shop for the first time in three months. Fortunately, she had targeted the development of their online sales as one of her goals at the beginning of the year, by having it in place Moher Cottage were able to continue trading and did so rather successfully with huge demand for their products. In fact, their first batch of fudge sold out in two days with orders placed from Co Clare and the other side of the Atlantic.
A silver lining in the form of a post by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg promoted Moher Cottage and Craft Shop to her combined over a million followers on Instagram and Facebook. It arose due to Caitriona being a member of the Facebook Leader Network which shares tips on how to get the best out of social media, the amount of advice given increased during COVID-19 and they asked members to share how they adapted which led to the story of Moher Cottage being spread globally on the online community.
“We had no warning, she tagged me in the post and that was the first I saw, it was quite amazing for us, a tiny rural business in the West of Ireland to be picked when she has the whole world to choose from and she spoke of the millions of businesses on Facebook everyday so it was mind boggling to think our little business here was worthy to talk about. It was a great boost not just in terms of business, the lockdown has been hard for businesses, I still worry a lot, the post came and it gave me a lift that was very timely and I’m very grateful for it,” Caitriona admitted to The Clare Echo.
People all over the world read what Sheryl had to say about the Liscannor based business including a certain actress by the name of Jennifer Aniston. “To have an A-list celebrity reading about Moher Cottage gave me and my friends a bit of excitement especially if you are a Friends follower, it was quite the buzz to think that Jennifer Aniston has heard of Moher Cottage. We’ve all been talking about when she is going to call in for coffee with her crew”.
So no one told you business was going to be this way! Factoring in a global pandemic and being known to Jennifer Aniston didn’t feature in the plans for Moher Cottage prior to its opening three years ago. Caitriona was working in corporate roles in IT and wind energy in Dublin, after tying the knot with Kevin, she continued to commute to the capital. “I got tired of that lifestyle. You live in this beautiful place but you’re gone in the morning when the sun is rising and you come back in the dark, you’re not really living properly or settling in a place because you’re on the move the whole time spending hours in a car.
“We were trying to see what we could to do change that, job hunting in Clare there isn’t as many multinational opportunities that you would have in Dublin, I wasn’t seeing roles that I could apply for or that I was interested in, I knew I was at a bit of a crossroads and had to make a change. We had this cow shed on the Wild Atlantic Way beside St Brigid’s Well just before the Cliffs of Moher, that sparked an idea,” one which intertwined with her love of coffee.
More Clare businesses have now realised the value of being online. The Galway City native is glad their website had already been in place with products available to purchase from there and noted it “took a greater sense of importance” during COVID-19. “We reviewed the product we had online, we created new care packages that people could send to people they were missing or that were away, it took off from there and people who hadn’t heard of us began to hear of us and it brought a whole new set of customers to us”.
She also praised Ryan Tubridy of RTÉ, Newstalk’s Ciara Kelly, The Farmers Journal and The Clare Echo for sharing their story. “We are pretty unknown apart from our corner here and you’re competing with the big guys that are able to spend big money, we don’t have a marketing budget, it is just me online trying to get the name out there, all the little mentions while they may be little they mean a lot to small businesses and they really make a difference”.