How the Sustaining Enterprise Fund helped Oishii Foods reimagine their business

“Enterprise Ireland offers advice to businesses, as well as hard data. They help build roadmaps that allow you to plan ahead. They are a very valuable partner to have.”


Ciara Troy, Founder, Oishii Foods

 

Key Takeouts

    • Oishii Foods is an Irish producer of healthy and convenient Asian-inspired cuisine. Their retail business was hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • As a result of interrupted business, Oishii began to reimagine their business strategy. During this time, they were informed of Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund.
    • Oishii Foods, with the help of their finance mentor and business advisor, were able to qualify for SEF, giving them the ability not only to survive this crisis, but to plan for an even bigger future.

    Case Study: Oishii Foods

    Ciara Troy is the founder of Oishii Foods, a Dublin-based producer of Japanese and Asian-inspired cuisine. Until 2020, they specialised selling large quantities of sushi directly to retail outlets. In March, when COVID-19 reached Ireland, everything changed.

    “Suddenly, stores were closed and the demand for fresh sushi just wasn’t there anymore,” says Troy. “Consumer needs were changing, so we had to shift our focus.”

    When the country first went into lockdown, food production at Oishii Foods was reduced to one main nationwide account which was the only constant during this challenging time. The company applied all the Covid guidelines & remained operating from their approved food premises in Smithfield. With lockdown restrictions and new social distancing measures in place, the business was forced to reevaluate operations. Instead of gathering all of their employees in the factory together, the staff began to work in shifts, through the night as well as during the day. The Oishii team also looked for new ways to distribute their product. Since consumers were not visiting food shops for sushi, they decided to bring the sushi directly to consumers. Using Deliveroo, Oishii kept their brand on consumers’ radar. However, Troy says the team always knew this would not be their long term solution.

    Change of Plans

    Once it became apparent that the global pandemic would transform business as they knew it—for much longer than just the initial lockdown—Troy says her team began to brainstorm more permanent solutions to their immediate problems.

    “We knew it would be important to pivot the business in a meaningful way—a way that would see us into the future.” Troy said.

    Unlike some businesses, transferring the business to an online retailer wasn’t an option for Oishii. Their Japanese food products are fresh and perishable, which means they need to go from production to consumer in rapid succession. Door-to-door sales was not a viable strategy for growth, either, especially because of the extra waste it incurs. Oishii is working toward Origin Green membership, which centres on environmental sustainability and green practices. This commitment to reduced waste is at the heart of the business and was, of course, taken into consideration as the team looked to future plans. The most pressing question: How would the business survive this transition with sales suffering as they were?

     

    Outside Help

    Troy says that, thanks to an ongoing relationship with Enterprise Ireland, Oishii Foods was appointed a Business Advisor, who was a strong support for the company.

    “Our advisor explained the various support mechanisms that were available to us,” says Troy. “This person-to-person contact was crucial.” Troy said.

    Enterprise Ireland assigned Oishii Foods a strategic & finance mentor. Working closely with the Oishii team, reports and forecasting were executed and advice was given on everything from operations to marketing. The goal was to ensure stability. During this time, the finance mentor and business advisor passed along details about the Sustaining Enterprise Fund. They recommended that Troy consider the benefits of such a generous grant and how it might enable Oishii Foods to bridge the gap as they worked to reposition the business.

    “Troy recalled, “We went over the details of the SEF and, although it did involve some work on our part, it was very much worth it. This grant will be a game changer for our business.”

     

    The Future of Oishii Foods

    Oishii Foods was approved as an SEF recipient. Troy says they plan to use the funding to strengthen the backbone of the business. She hopes to evaluate and improve processes, fill gaps in their management team, and, most importantly, expand the business by securing high-spec premises that will allow major growth over the next five years. She expects most of the grant money will go towards fit-out and capital expenditure for their new location.

    “This is really exciting,” says Troy. “This business was my first baby! We have been inching our way forward. COVID forced us to stop and consider what our strategy would be and where we would go next.”

    “This is really exciting,” says Troy. “This business was my first baby! We have been inching our way forward. COVID forced us to stop and consider what our strategy would be and where we would go next.”

    As a result of the global crisis, the Oishii team was able to pause and solidify their vision. They also began to identify and reach out to new customers, discovering possibilities for new retail accounts. In the past, Oishii has been strong in the “food-to-go” space. Troy says they hope to extend the brand into the wider chilled convenience category. If they can achieve fresh, longer-life options suitable for central distribution, she believes they will have opportunities for export, too. Most importantly, Troy wants Oishii Foods to stay true to its roots as a local business focussed on making fresh, quality products for consumers to enjoy.

     

    The Benefits of Support

    Looking back, Troy says this year was full of challenges, but she has found so much support in her industry, the wider business community, and from Enterprise Ireland.

    “I have an entrepreneurial spirit and am very resilient, but I was relieved when we were approved for funding from Enterprise Ireland,” she says. “They believed in our business, which gave us new confidence in ourselves.”

    Troy says she and her team have felt reinvigorated by Enterprise Ireland’s support, pointing out that running a small business can often feel like being out at sea. She and the whole Oishii team found comfort in having a larger enterprise to rely on for advice, support, and funding. As a result, she says they are ready to bring their business to the next level.

    Click here to learn more about applying for the SEF. Contact your Development Advisor or our Business Response Unit to find out more.

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