When Georgia Visnyei was a little girl she used to drain the dregs of coffee from her parents’ cups.

Her passion for coffee was such that when she and her husband Gabor Stefcsik moved from Hungary to Ireland to work as architects, her only disappointment was the difficulty finding a decent espresso. In Hungary even the most rundown pubs had espresso machines, but Georgia could see a void here. A few years on when the recession hit and the couple lost their jobs, Georgia decided to set up a business revolving around her passion and splurged €1,000 on a coffee roasting machine to start a business for a population who had yet to learn about the differences between flat whites and cappuccinos not to mention mochas or lattes.

 About 10 years ago she started roasting coffee beans in her kitchen with the €1,000 machine which could only fit 250 grams at a time. Then the couple opened the Café Lounge in Carrick on Shannon which was the shop window for their Artessa (formerly Art of Coffee) production company.

The first few years were hard but the coffee craze took off and now Georgia sells  freshly roasted  coffee, sourced from plantations all over the world, not just in her own café but to local restaurants and to clients in the UK, Northern Ireland , Hungary and Denmark.

 Art of Coffee 2

The Artessa now roasts ten tons of coffee every year and the company employs six people apart from Georgia. Gone are the days, she says, when Irish people opted for coffee as a stronger alternative to tea and something which was essentially a hot drink made more palatable by the addition of sugar and milk. “Now we don’t even blink if someone orders something like ‘a flat white on smooth blend with oat milk’.  That reflects how discerning how customers are”, she says.

 Georgia takes pride in the fact that the beans which are sourced in such countries as India, El Salvador, Peru, Columbia, Ethiopia or Burundi are freshly roasted, which guarantees the optimum flavour for her clients.

 But the equipment was pricey and that’s were the  Leitrim Local Enterprise Office (LEO) came in , providing finance as well as incalculable advice  through mentoring and courses on every aspect of business .

“I approached them before I started,” explained Georgia. “I dropped in and they suggested I do a Start Your Own Business course. They also put me in touch with a mentor who helped me draw up a business plan. I would never have got a bank loan without that”.

Georgia decided to avail of every single course which LEO was offering whether it was about online marketing or accounts and say she couldn’t have progressed the business without the knowledge she gleaned.

The Probat roasting machines which are made in Germany are, she says, the Rolls Royce of such equipment and they were purchased with the help of various Business Expansion grants from the LEO. The company has recently been awarded a Trading Online Voucher (TOV) grant to help with online marketing.  

Her advice to anyone thinking of setting up a business in Leitrim is to talk to the LEO before doing a thing. “Don’t be on your own. Ask for advice because help is available.”

She says overheads are so much lower in Leitrim than in many cities, and that is a huge advantage while the personal touch also helps to open doors. “I know the people in the bank and in Leitrim County Council and in LEO and I know they are always there if I need them. “I would not be here without the LEO”, she stressed.