Posted: Wed 6th Apr 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic forced dairy producer Aisling Flanagan to move her business, Velvet Cloud, online.
Aisling chatted to Enterprise Nation about the switch in her route to market and how the Go and Grow Online programme helped her improve Velvet Cloud's visibility online.
Tell us about your business.
We do sheep's milk, yogurt and cheese on our farm in County Mayo, under the brand Velvet Cloud. Pre-COVID, our two primary markets were retail shops and high-end restaurants. When the pandemic hit, we lost 50% of our customer base overnight, when restaurants were forced to close.
We explored selling online, which has gone really well. But it's a challenge and it's a constant learning journey. That’s what brought us to Go and Grow Online – I'm constantly looking to upskill and see what's changing, and to learn more about the whole ecommerce world.
How did you come across Go and Grow Online?
I'm already on the Enterprise Nation’s newsletter. I'm a member of Enterprise Nation so I get all of their emails.
What did you gain from the programme?
I attended a workshop on search engine optimisation, which gave me really good practical tips on how to implement an SEO strategy. It gave me some free tools online to use.
It also supplied the names of some providers for keyword analysis that I hadn't tried before. It helped me think about my content strategy in a different way and allowed me to analyse my competitors.
What do you find are the issues facing small businesses at the moment?
Increasing costs, and decreasing cash flow. As a result, it's really difficult for business owners to invest in themselves and grow. For some, it's about survival. Because banks aren't lending money to small businesses. It's going to be a very challenging 12 months.
We're expanding the whole time, but we're facing those similar challenges. We could expand a lot faster if we could raise funding, but in a climate like this the traditional institutions don't lend to our model.
What do you feel you get from being part of the Enterprise Nation network?
Practical support that's tailored towards smaller businesses. A lot of the stuff that's available online is very generic – often it's tailored towards larger businesses, or the trainers aren't very good. The trainers involved in the Enterprise Nation network are in business themselves – they're not just brought in from a training company.
Enterprise Nation is working with Microsoft, Klarna and Vodafone to support 20,000 small businesses across Ireland to improve their digital skills.