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 really interested in food when I became a vegetarian around the age of 15. When I became a vegan at 18, I knew I wanted to start a food business. I saw a gap in the market as the vegan options available in 2014 were very lacking. I was working in a cafe in Dublin and making all their vegan treats, and the owner Stephen of Tang suggested I start wholesale to other cafes. It was really him who launched me on my journey and I am very grateful to him. He grew up Oh Happy Treats very organically for a few years, as I cooked in my home kitchen and did farmers markets, a few bulk orders, and sold through social media.
In college, I studied… international business at UCD, but I dropped out on a whim on the first day of second year and went traveling alone in Asia and Australia. I’ve never had such a strong feeling that I wasn’t meant 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 has been… I gained a lot of hospitality experience working for Stephen in yoga and tang. He sat down with me when I started my business and helped me plan my costs. He also gave me his feedback on our first wholesale products, how to approach cafes and what to charge.
My first real job was… I had a desk job when I was 18 and absolutely dreaded the daily work.
The most valuable thing I learned early in my career was… as I mentioned above, I knew the office or corporate life was not for me. I started my business pretty much right after I got back from Australia, so I know if I hadn’t had a “normal job” before, I would still be wondering “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 contributed to the way I treat my staff and the kind of work environment I do my best to provide them.
A common misconception about what I do is that… that the margins are really high on baked goods and the food industry in general… I wish it were that way! There are so many other costs involved other than ingredients and labor – rent, tariffs, electricity, marketing, packaging, delivery/distribution, VAT, waste, accounting fees…the list goes on! Very few companies charge much more than necessary, and despite all the hard work that goes into running a food business, it has to be worth it.
My primary job responsibility is to… run the whole show!
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
One of my best friends, Bec, owns a vegan cafe – Kale & Coco – so I would often visit her for advice. She really understands me and all the issues we face as business owners.
The biggest risk I’ve taken in my career so far is… I think our recent Naked firings Changing brands was quite risky. Not everyone will like or have the naked Adam and Eve on our packaging! But I’m convinced that’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 woke up at 5:30 am to go to gym class at 6 am. I find that if I leave it on until evening, I put it back on. Plus, I feel very energized and alert afterwards, 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 a 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 motivational music, an inspiring audiobook, or an in-depth playlist.
I go to work in… car, usually accompanied by a podcast or a phone conversation with my mother, a team member or a friend of mine in Australia.
On an average workday, I… it really varies. I usually try to block time but depending on the day so Monday is Admin/HR, Tuesday is Marketing and Sales, Wednesday is Finance, Thursday is Product and Friday is Growth . As part of this, I will be blocking my time 1-1 with team members in each area, having calls with outsiders, working on projects, or solving problems/how to improve in that area.
I start my working day at… 8 a.m., all is well.
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… having a 1-1 with a team member and getting stuck in one of our projects or tasks.
I’m taking a lunch break at… it really depends, but usually around 2pm and it’s almost always lunch at the office. I love Fiid Meals because they are so convenient and healthy. I have a spare in my desk drawer.
The most useful professional tool I use on a daily basis is… Notion. We use it for everything! We also started using Slack recently. Communication is essential.
I save time by… being a good delegator with both my team and outsourcing things I’m not good at. I also have to say that Do Not Disturb is essential for focusing and limiting distractions.
I rarely go through my working day without… at least 3 coffees!
The best part of my day is… working with great employees, suppliers and other companies. Feeling like we’re making a difference in people’s day, whether it’s their morning coffee break, home deliveries to someone sick, or a busy family looking for a mess-free home baking activity!
The hardest part of my day is… the feeling that I put out fires every day. I’m sure other business owners can relate to this one!
I know it’s been a good day though… my team and my clients are satisfied.
I usually end my day at… I leave either before 5 p.m. or around 6/7 p.m. to be able to miss the rush hour, depending on the day and how busy I am or what I have planned for the evening.
I quit work in… hanging out with my roommates Saoirse and Meabh, watching a show or having dinner together. They are the best to discuss.
Before going to bed, I will… meditate. I started doing Transcendental Meditation this year and it has been a game changer for my focus, creativity and stress.
I often prepare tomorrow by… hanging out my gym clothes – it’s so much easier for me not to make excuses or snooze my morning alarm.
After a long week of work, I de-stress by… catch up on sleep. I take a nap every Saturday when I get home from coffee deliveries and it’s delicious.
Naked Bakes pop-up store, London
The accomplishment I am most proud of is… get our cookie dough listed in SuperValu. My mission has always been to make plant-based treats common and accessible across Ireland, so bringing our products to retailers has been a monumental step in achieving that. Plus, we recently walked into a pop-up store on London’s iconic Regent Street. I flew with my marketing manager Doireann. Tasting our cookies in central London was a highlight for us.
If you want to get started in my profession, I advise you to… if you can afford it, take a vacation first and disconnect completely. It’s almost impossible to do that as a business owner.
I just finished working on… our rebranding of Naked Bakes (woo!), our first-ever export to the UK, and the integration of new bakery software.
At the moment I am working on… we have just moved into a new office, so I have made some adjustments, while trying to deal with rising costs and their effects on our business. We are also currently working on our corporate catering and gift offering and have started planning our Christmas menu in Oh Happy Treats. It’s an exciting and busy time of year!