Mary O’Neill, founder of Noo Chocolates, has always been intrigued by food and more specifically, food production.
Starting a food production business was never part of the plan for Mary. Business Studies was not her favourite subject in school and having the time to commit to something so massive, was not on the cards.
In 2010, her three sisters bought her a gift voucher to attend a chocolate making workshop. Mary learned the basics of chocolate making; how to temper chocolate, make truffles, and the best ways to pair flavours.
Mary continued practicing at home, making edible gifts for family and friends. In 2017 Mary was offered redundancy and took the opportunity to follow her dream. That is when Noo Chocolates was born.
Noo Chocolates is located in Ballina in County Mayo. They use locally produced ingredients to create unique and exciting chocolates. The name comes from her family nickname, Noo,. This is a term of endearment used for small children in South Africa, where her parents lived for a few years before Mary was born.
Today, Noo Chocolates is based in a small production unit in the Quay in Ballina, Co. Mayo. Hand crafted and packaged locally, O’Neill buys high quality chocolate from Belgium, and hand tempers it. Creating recipes for fillings, Mary uses as many locally sourced ingredients as she can. At the moment, she hand-packs the chocolates herself, and hopes to expand her team to get help with this area of the business.
Mary can then focus on expanding the business as well as dip her toes into the corporate market.
Mary participated in the EMPOWER Start Programme Cycle 1, which is a programme specifically for female entrepreneurs in the West of Ireland.
When asked how the Empower Programme helped her with the process of starting a company, she responded:
“The Empower Programme gave me the knowledge and skills to put a structure in place for my fledgling company. I had no knowledge of how to run a business. The programme covers all the aspects of setting up your own business. This encouraged me to proceed with a level of confidence I wouldn’t have otherwise had. In addition, the networking and support from within the group has been excellent. There is always someone on hand to offer a bit of advice or help, which is really important for anyone like me who mainly works alone.”
Mary has now been selected onto Cycle two of the EMPOWER Growth Programme.
This project is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.