Barra Sweetnam

Why the fruit and veg industry?

My father was in the industry all his life, so I grew up surrounded by it. I first agreed to help my father and cover shifts for a few months in Limerick. I still have not been left go!

What do you believe to be your biggest achievement in this industry as the owner of Allfresh?

Surviving! Over the last 5 years we have grown enormously. For the first 10 years we were financially instable, and it was tricky for us as a company. Now we are the biggest wholesaler in Cork. We are a solid and strong company. Getting Fota Hotel as one of our orders was one of our biggest successes. We got them over the internationals! It helped Allfresh hugely as we went to new lengths to supply for them.

How did you find the challenges that faced Allfresh during Covid-19?

Psychologically and financially horrible to put it short! A very difficult time for us here at Allfresh. Especially the first lockdown as we did not know what was ahead. We donated a huge amount of our stock but still had loads left which unfortunately ended up in the dump. The second lockdown we were a bit more prepared for but the third was just another horrible hit as we gambled the dates wrong. We ended up losing a lot of stock and money for a second time. On a positive note, good things that came from it was the effort I saw my staff go to. For example, our new online ordering system and the extra charity work that we did. Overall, Covid-19 was like a black hole, but positives did emerge from it. Looking back, it was not as bad as we initially thought.

Do you consider Allfresh to be an environmentally sustainable business?

Not yet. We are working very hard to become more environmentally friendly. We need the help of our customers. Allfresh is going to work closely with its suppliers and customers over the next few years to help become more sustainable overall. We have a long way to go but the next few years are crucial. We plan to implement everything we can here at Allfresh.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Always work harder than everyone else. Hard work beats talent (and I definitely lack talent!)