Jinny's Bakery

When Sinead (Jinny) Gillard returned from her travels to her native Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim in 2003 she started baking bread and cakes, and a friend urged her to try a few local shops and see if they’d sell.

Sell they did, like the proverbial hot cakes, and a star brand was born.

Her family was  well established in the hospitality sector as Sinead’s  parents,  James and Moira,  ran the still thriving McGuire holiday cottages on the shores of Acres Lake,  and also for many years  a popular restaurant on the site of the current bakery.

In her first week Sinead sold 16 loaves under the Jinny’s brand, and while miracles don’t happen in the business world, and success is always hard-earned, it has been a roller coaster ride for the Gillards.

“There weren’t so many artisan bread makers or home bakeries then and it took off,” explained Sinead’s husband Pascal who joined the business in 2007 and oversaw many expansions since.

The Drumshanbo shops who supported the Jinny’s brand from the off have been joined by dozens of other clients.

Jinnys Bakery 2

Jinny’s products which range from sourdough and stout bread to the ever popular carrot cake , the recently introduced bread mixes and granola, are  available in shops throughout the west and mid-west while  hotels in  Killarney, Galway, and Athlone are also key customers.

The awards have come flooding in and Jinny’s now produces 15,000 loaves and at least 5000 scones every week. The recently opened Jinny’s tearooms, beside the bakery, has provided a valuable shop window for the products .

The couple now have a staff of 12 helping to run the artisan business.

Three of their products – Irish Stout Bread Mix, Grace’s Granola and the Sourdough Croutons – have been included in SuperValu’s Food Academy Programme.

Pascal says that the help available from the Leitrim Local Enterprise Office has been invaluable as they expanded to keep up with demand from major clients.   

“We took on Tesco and Sligo hospital. We had to expand many times and buy a lot of expensive equipment. From the very beginning we found the LEO was there when we needed them”. Nothing is ever a problem as far as the Enterprise office is concerned,” said Pascal. “If we are worried about talking to a potential client their attitude is ‘tell us what you need’”.

As well as considerable finance towards the cost of ovens, slicers and other equipment, Jinny’s has received mentoring courtesy of Leitrim LEO which has helped them map out the future.

“Winning the County Enterprise Award in 2010 and 2017 was a great boost,” said Pascal. His advice to anyone thinking of starting a business in Leitrim is to approach the LEO first. “That has to be your first port of call . Mentoring is so important and they provide that as well as all the financial help.”

Pascal also thinks doing research is key.  “Get a business plan. Learn from your mistakes. Set goals ,” he urged.

 “Think big but look at the small details. And getting the right staff is essential.  A good employee can add value to the business and you should always encourage and reward innovation. Let the staff know how committed you are to making the business work “.