My Career: Aisling Tuck Bakery Owner/Entrepreneur

Have you always wanted to be a baker/entrepreneur?
I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I became very interested in food when I became a vegetarian when I was around 15 years old. When I became vegan at 18, I knew I wanted to start a food business. I saw a gap in the market as vegan options available in 2014 were very scarce. I used to work in a cafe in Dublin and used to make all of their vegan treats, and the owner, Stephen of Tang, suggested that I start wholesale to other cafes. He was really the one who got me started on my journey and I am so grateful. Oh Happy Treats grew very organically for a couple of years when I was just baking in my family’s kitchen and doing farmers markets, some wholesale orders, and selling through social media.

At university I studied… international trade at UCD, but dropped out on a whim on the first day of my sophomore year and went on my own to travel around Asia and Australia. I’ve never had such a strong feeling that I wasn’t supposed to be somewhere, and looking back, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – it made me the person I am today.

My most formative work experience was… I got a lot of hospitality experience working for Stephen at Yogism and Tang. He sat down with me when I started my business and he helped me plan my costs. He also gave me his thoughts on our first wholesale products, how to approach cafes, and what to charge.

My first real job was… I had an office job when I was 18 and dreaded working every day.

The most valuable thing I learned early in my career was… As I mentioned earlier, I knew that the office or corporate life was not for me. I started my business almost immediately after returning home from Australia, so I know that if I hadn’t had a ‘normal job’ before, I would always be asking myself ‘what if?’ I feel so lucky every day that I feel fulfilled and motivated to do what I do, because I know what it feels like to not have that. I think this perspective has also helped with the way I treat my staff and the kind of work environment I do my best to provide for them.

A common misconception about what I do is… that margins are really high in bakery products and the food industry in general… I wish it were so! There are so many other costs involved besides ingredients and labor: rent, fees, electricity, marketing, packaging, delivery/distribution, VAT, waste, accounting fees…the list goes on! Very few businesses are charging much more than they need to, and for all the hard work that goes into running a food business, it has to be worth it.

My main responsibility at work is… run the whole show!

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to or seek advice from?
One of my best friends, Bec, owns a vegan cafe, Kale & Coco, so I used to go to her for advice. She really understands me and all the problems we face as business owners.

The biggest risk I’ve taken in my career so far is… I think our recent rebranding of Naked Bakes was pretty risky. Not everyone is going to like it or get Adam and Eve naked on our packaging! But I’m sure it’s what I needed to do to take the brand to the next level and make it stand out on store shelves.

I wake up at… lately I wake up at 5:30 am to go to a gym class at 6 am. I find that if I leave it until evening I put it off. Also, I feel very energetic and alert afterward, which is a great way to start the day.

The first thing I do every morning is… scroll on my phone to be honest!

My morning routine is… gym at Un1t in Stillorgan, shower, have coffee at Bear Market, meditate, drive to work.

I can’t go to work without… my airpods I almost always listen to something throughout the day, whether it’s uplifting music, an inspiring audiobook, or a deep-focus playlist.

I travel to work for… car, usually accompanied by a podcast or phone conversation with my mom, a team member, or one of my friends in Aus.

On a normal day at work I… it really varies. I usually try to block out time, but by days, so Monday is admin/HR, Tuesday is marketing and sales, Wednesday is finance, Thursday is product, and Friday is growth. Within this, I will block my time on 1-1 with team members from each area, have calls with outsiders, work on projects or solve problems/how to improve in that area.

I start my work day at… 8 am, everything is fine.

The first thing I do at work is… Check in with my team, make another coffee, check my emails and orders and production plan for the day.

I usually spend the first part of the day… have a 1-1 with a team member and get caught up in one of our projects or tasks.

I pause for lunch at… it really depends, but usually around 2 pm and it’s almost always a desk lunch. I love Fiid meals because they are so convenient and healthy. I have a stash of them in my desk drawer.

The most useful business tool I use every day is… Notion. We use it for everything! We recently started using Slack as well. Communication is key.

I save time by… being a good delegator both with my team and outsourcing the things I’m not good at. I must also say that the do not disturb function is essential to focus and limit distractions.

I rarely get through my work day without… at least 3 coffees!

The best part of my day is… get to work with wonderful staff, vendors and business partners. We feel like we’re making a difference in people’s days, whether it’s your morning coffee break, home deliveries to someone sick, or a busy family looking for a hassle-free home baking activity!

The most challenging part of my day is… the feeling that I am putting out fires every day. I’m sure other business owners can relate to that!

I know it’s been a good day if… my team and my clients are happy.

I usually end my day in… I will leave before 5pm or around 6/7pm to avoid rush hour depending on the day and how busy I am or what I have planned for the night.

Disconnected from work due to… go out with my housemates Saoirse and Meabh, see a show or have dinner together. They are the best for a chat.

Before I go to bed, I’m going to… to meditate. I started doing Transcendental Meditation this year and it has changed my focus, creativity and stress.

I often prepare for tomorrow by… hanging out my gym clothes – makes it so much easier for me not to make excuses or snooze my alarm in the morning.

After a long week at work, I de-stress by… catching up on sleep I take a nap every Saturday after I get home from coffee deliveries and it’s such a treat.

Naked Bakes pop-up shop, London

My proudest achievement is… include our cookie dough in SuperValu. It has always been my mission to make plant-based treats mainstream and accessible throughout Ireland, so bringing our products to retail was a monumental step in achieving this. Additionally, we recently entered a pop-up store on London’s iconic Regent Street. I flew with my marketing executive Doireann. Tasting our biscuits in central London was a historic moment for us.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is… If you can afford it, take a vacation first and unplug completely. It is almost impossible to do this as a business owner.

I just finished working on… our Naked Bakes rebranding (wow!), our first UK export and integration of new bakery IT software.

I am currently working on… we just moved into a new office so I’ve been making arrangements as well as trying to deal with the rising costs and their effect on our business. We are also currently working on our catering and corporate gift offerings and have started planning our Christmas menu at Oh Happy Treats. It’s an exciting and busy time of year!

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