Sam Swart, owner, Causeway Cookie Company
BRIEFLY OUTLINE YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
In the mid-90s, I qualified as an architectural technician; thereafter working for various architectural firms in Durban, South Africa until relocating to Northern Ireland in September 2007. When the recession hit in 2009, I was made redundant, but a couple of months later I was offered the opportunity to run a bed & breakfast in Portrush. I jumped at the idea. In 2014, I left my hubby running the B&B and went back to full time employment, working for various architectural and fit-out companies. Some of the most interesting projects I have worked on were detailing joinery for luxury apartments and ships. I’ve even detailed a 19th century cathedral for restoration.
WHEN DID YOU TAKE UP THIS POST?
I started Causeway Cookie Company in 2016; baking and decorating cookies in the evenings and pulling all-nighters before artisan markets on the weekends. This became my full-time job after being made redundant in August 2020, admittedly two years ahead of my plan.
WHAT DOES YOUR ROLE INVOLVE?
As an early-stage small business or one-woman show, I’m responsible for getting everything done. The baking, icing and decorating are the easy and fun part; each order, whether private or corporate, is bespoke, designed around the customer’s individual requirements. I am extremely fortunate to have an in-house professional photographer, my husband Tim. He also heads up the quality control department for both taste and aesthetics - he’s a harsh critic! And then there’s the hidden side of things: social media; marketing, packaging and labelling, setting up an online shop and promoting yourself and the business, as well as staying current. Right now, that means learning about the NI Protocol and the various customs declarations. It’s not all edible dough and pretty cookies.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
At the moment, the worst part is not having any artisan markets. In general, the worst thing is approaching potential stockists. I love my products and I believe in them, but wish I had someone else to do that for me. The thing I love the most is decorating the cookies; I prefer to draw and paint the decoration. The best part is customer reactions to both the flavour of the edible dough and the flavour and look of the decorated cookies.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE?
Recognition for hard work is always good, I have won a few awards for my cookie decorating, a few at certificates and medals at Cake International in Birmingham over the years; but the proudest moment was winning my category at the Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey Festival 2019.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED WITH THE LOCAL RETAIL INDUSTRY?
Getting to know my customers and their needs and being able to tailor my products to meet those needs. My original recipe was only gluten free, but over the years I was asked about egg and dairy free as well. The first lockdown of 2020 saw the development of an amazingly delicious gluten, egg and dairy free (suitable for vegans) cookie recipe with three flavours – Vanilla, Irish Black Butter and Dark Chocolate.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
My favourite distraction is my gorgeous black kitten Granny Esmerelda Weatherwax, named after a character by my favourite author Sir Terry Pratchett. I also enjoy TV quiz shows and watching crime dramas.
SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY KNOW
I like big trucks... When I was four, we lived opposite a fire station and I wanted to be a fireman just to ride on the fire engines. My dream car growing up was a military Hummer, but I’d settle for a Kamaz - watching them tackle the dunes in the Dakar Rally is something else.