Read the latest interview from Checkout.ie piece on Who Is... featuring our very own Laura Bonner!
How would you describe your role?
I am the CEO of The Muff Liquor Company. I develop the overall strategy for the business, alongside being responsible for bringing in new business, dealing with our existing customers and coming up with ideas for expansion. I am constantly looking at ways to perfect our current product, whilst developing new ideas. Another core aspect of my role is to make sure my team is happy and motivated on a daily basis. However, it’s an all-encompassing role and I like to think I’m involved with everything!
What was your first ever job and what did you learn from it?
My first job was when I was 11; I asked my dad for a summer job in his company which manufactures windows and doors. He of course said yes. I arrived thinking I was going to be sitting in the office with all the girls, but when I got there he pointed to the door which led to the factory floor and said "before you learn how to sell, you must understand how it's made". I was on the floor every summer until I was 14. My dad has given great advice over the years but this first lesson never left me.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
Everything. Honestly, even during the bad days I love it. Our 3rd anniversary is on the 3rd February and while it's been the toughest 3 years of my life, I'm genuinely so grateful to have this opportunity. One of my favourite aspects of the job is getting to interact with our customers, so I have really missed the gin fairs and other sales events. I would have to say that creating a product from scratch, seeing it completed, then watching people enjoying our gin, vodka and whiskey with friends, is the best feeling. I can’t wait until we resume normal service!
Where do you see yourself in five years? What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
I pray we have our own visiting centre/distillery in Muff, Co Donegal. It’s never been more important to me, following the global crisis, to do my part and want to ensure the creation of jobs locally. However, that’s not to say that I don’t want to have successfully expanded globally, which is what I’m also striving towards currently. I’m very lucky in that I have a very solid and successful team, so I fully expect to reach both goals.
My advice is just do it. Everyone starts with only an idea; but if you believe in yourself and have the passion, you can't go wrong. It’s about self-belief, learning from mistakes and perseverance, you’ll learn from every fall, you just have to keep going. I've surrounded myself with an excellent team. Having good people around you makes great things happen. I hadn't a notion about the alcohol industry when I started and I'm still learning, but I believed in me, my team and my products.
What was your worst job and what was so bad about it?
That's a tough question; I never had a bad role as such, but I did have an awful manager once. Every morning I had the worst anxiety thinking about going into the office. I know now looking back, that this person was struggling with their superior, so it was a great lesson for me to learn. It highlighted the importance of a fair and approachable management style in producing a successful and happy workforce. That’s something I have led with in every team I have managed. At the end of the day humans are just humans and I think a lot of people forget that.
What do you think the government could do to help business in the current climate?
In fairness I think they are doing the best that they can do under the circumstances. It is such a shame that it is nearly a year later and we look to be no closer to the end; but I remind myself that nothing lasts forever and this too shall pass.
What three business people do you most admire and why?
That's a question I get asked all the time. My dad will always be in my top three. He taught me, my brothers and my sister who are all successful entrepreneurs, the value of hard work, the value of money and good ethics. As a female entrepreneur, I'm always on the lookout to connect with and learn from incredible women who have cultivated their own amazing brand, business and name for themselves. I admire Michelle Mone and Karen Brady so much for what they have achieved, perhaps it's because we know so much about their personal lives from the media that I've always rooted for them. I think they are two incredibly inspiring women in business.
Also Sara Blakely, creator of SPANX. She is just an inspiration as she imagined a product and somehow made it a reality, through hard-work and determination. Her drive and work ethic to get her product to the shelves is something I hugely respect, as I know the level of work that goes into creating a product and brand from scratch.
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
There are so many wonderful, clever and heartfelt brand campaigns produced over the last few months around supporting each other and thinking positive. I really liked SuperValu’s Christmas advert, it captured the true meaning of a covid Christmas, as it highlighted how the most important thing is family and spending time together rather than presents and sometimes, we take it for granted. So, it was great to see that come to life from a child’s perspective as everyone has had to adapt their life over the last year.
If you could bring back one product that is longer available in Ireland what would it be?
Fat Frog ice pops! They were amazing!
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up?
Daniel Doherty’s bread from home. The best fresh bread and buns around. Brings back such great memories. I think it’s important now more than ever to support local Irish brands and help drive our economy in the right direction, by making a conscious effort to purchase products produced in Ireland.
Who would be your ideal dinner party guests? Dead or alive?
Ha! I was only asked this question last week. My ideal dinner party would be myself, Michelle Obama, I love her! Sean Connery as he was my ultimate when I was growing up. Princess Diana I adored her when I was little. John Hume, God rest his soul. I knew him growing up and he told such interesting stories. Richard Branson, mainly because he won't reply to my emails (laughing) My dad of course, he is the best storyteller and pianist I know, Gerry Hussey who is Ireland's Leading Health and Performance Coach who is an incredible gifted man. Maya Angelou. As both an author and a civil rights activist, she was celebrated for her honesty. I think that’s such an important trait – I would love to sit down with her and hear her thoughts and views on the world currently. Of course, we’d need some music, so Bob Marley as I love how he viewed the world and also his music, I could totally see us all jamming after dinner (laughing).
What is the best piece of advice somebody ever gave you?
Don't take any advice from anyone (laughing) No, I've been blessed with a lot of solid advice. I think the main piece of advice is trust your gut. When all you hear is noise around you, take yourself away and breathe, ask yourself the question and trust yourself enough to know you're making the right decision.
What do you like to do in your spare time? How much time do you spend on social media?
I'd say I'm 50% extrovert and 50% introvert, so I spend time with the people I love, my family and friends; but I also adore quiet time and enjoy my own company. I meditate, swim in the ocean, I also walk my local beaches. I used to love to cook but I have lost all interest since I started my company so now, I like getting fed. (laughing).
I try and not go on social media too often. I used to when I started the company as I understand the importance it has in targeting customers, keeping up with trends in order to promote our brand and products, engage with part of our target market and analyse our competitors marketing strategies.
What is on your Spotify at the moment?
I'm a creature of habit so I have only a few playlists. I have one my friend made for my birthday last May which has all the classic tunes from the noughties on it. I have an Ayahuasca playlist for my spiritual time out. Steven Bear- Beautiful movie themes for piano solo and a Classical chill-out for self-care bath Wednesdays!
Which fictional character do you most identify as? most likely to say? Least likely to say?
Hmm.. this is pretty difficult. I’d like to say Belle from Beauty and the Beast as she was brave, strong and kind; all traits I hope I have. As for least likely, definitely Cruella De Vil as I would hate for anyone to think I was cruel or intentionally nasty. Cruelty is the worst trait to have in my opinion.