Belfast Telegraph

‘I have learned that the power of nice can never be overcome’

Small business focus

By Lisa Smyth

When it comes to business, Jim Moore is adamant that being nice is the secret to success. The 67-year-old east Belfast man is aware that it may not seem a very business-savvy approach but it has always worked for him.

"Anyone can stitch someone else up to get business, but they will only do it once," he said.

"The secret of our success is being nice. It isn't about being smarter because we're not, it isn't about being sharper because we're not, it isn't because we're clever, because we're not.

"I absolutely believe in the power of being nice."

Jim is the proud owner of Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory, which manufactures and sells all kinds of sweet treats.

The company has recently expanded and now takes up five units along the Castlereagh Road, where customers can watch products being made, take part in workshops, buy sweets and even enjoy a hot drink in the coffee shop.

It also provides the honeycomb for all the major ice cream manufacturers, as well as supplying most of the best-known tourist attractions across Northern Ireland, so it's fair to say that Jim's approach to business has worked.

"I can give you one great example in particular," he said.

"This is going back many years, it was back in the day where we would just take the art work to the printer on behalf of the company for which we were making sweets.

"As soon as I arrived at this printing company I could smell the money from the place.

"Anyway, when I went in they were all sitting watching the World Cup on the television and I had a bit of craic with them and went out to the van and came back in and dropped in some fudge and other bits and pieces for them to eat while they were watching the game.

"Fast forward about 15 years and it was now the time where we would have to cover the cost of the printing.

"So I took the artwork requested by the company we were working with and I just thought it looked too expensive for us.

"The person I spoke to told me how much the job would normally cost and I told her there was no way we could afford it.

"It was for a contract with the Giant's Causeway and we really wanted the business, but I just knew we couldn't afford it so I told her not to go any further.

"She insisted she would get me a good price and I told her not to as it would just be too embarrassing as we still wouldn't be able to afford it.

"This went back and forward for a while until she asked me if I remembered being there 15 years before.

"I vaguely recognised the place and she reminded me of me being there and giving them sweets and she said two of the guys were now the owners and they wanted to repay me for my kindness.

"They actually said they didn't care how long the job would take, that all they wanted for it was 10 bags of fudge.

"It actually makes me emotional thinking about it and proves that the power of nice can never be overcome."

Of course, that isn't to say that Jim does not follow a no-nonsense approach when it comes to winning business.

He refuses to chase companies for contracts and is upfront about this when dealing with them.

After finishing a meeting to secure a contract to stock Aunt Sandra's products at Titanic Belfast, Jim warned that he would not make contact again.

"I told them they could ring me with as many questions as they wanted and I would do my best to answer them, but I told them they would never hear from me again," said Jim.

"I don't like people chasing me, so I'm not going to do it myself.

"Three months went by after the meeting but they did contact us and we have been supplying them ever since.

"As long as you are reasonably priced and your product is good enough, then people will pay for it."

So, given the fact that Jim left school with no qualifications, he is particularly proud of his professional achievements.

But there have been some problems over the years.

He had to take on a second job to make ends meet when he first started out and the firm was particularly badly affected by the flag protests of 2012/13 and the unrest that followed.

As a direct result, Jim bought and kitted out a van. "I decided that if people couldn't come to us, we would go to them," he said.

"I wasn't going to allow anything like that happen to us again."

The company started out in the 1940s, set up by a close family friend that Jim knew as Uncle Willie. He opened his first shop on the Albertbridge Road, followed by a second on Templemore Avenue.

As the business grew, Uncle Willie decided he needed help, so he employed Jim's Aunt Sandra.

When Uncle Willie retired, Jim was devastated to find out that he had sold all his equipment, as he had hoped to take over the business.

An offer to buy the equipment from the new owner was declined, but one year later to the day Jim contacted them again.

This time, he was in luck and he agreed to sell the equipment for the same price he had paid, and Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory was set up as a result.

Jim has worked hard to keep alive the old traditions involved in making sweets.

"I grew up when there were thousands of people walking past the back door to go to the shipyards," he said.

"I remember the rope works and I want to keep the traditions going."

The firm has launched a website to allow customers on the other side of the world to make bookings and purchase products.

His son, 32-year-old Michael, also left his job in recruitment to work in the business and is working in areas such as negotiating contracts and building its online presence.

Ultimately, Jim wants to take a step back from the business.

"Ideally I would still do the shows because I love the people, I love the interaction," he said.

"I've always had ambition and I've always worked hard.

"My wife, Anne, who I've been married to for 42 years, our first dates would be spent with her helping me getting window displays just perfect."

He added: "I had planned to retire until my son came up with the idea to expand, but the time will come for me to take a step back."

Belfast Telegraph

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