Who Is…? Karen O’Neill, Founder, BEEKON Batches
Checkout talks to Karen O’Neill, founder, BEEKON Batches
Tell us about your company
BEEKON is a newly created category of alcohol called ‘honey refresher’ that is targeting conscientious consumers who seek cleaner products in their lives.
The batches of brewed honey infusions have a light refreshing taste profile comparable to a 5% alcohol honey prosecco.
Served in a distinctive beehive shaped bottle, BEEKON is lightly carbonated and brewed using honey, water, and yeast.
It contains no sulphites, gluten, additives, or preservatives. It is currently available in two flavours – Classic Honey and Ginger/Lime.
How would you describe your role?
As the founder of BEEKON, particularly as such an early stage of our journey, I see my role as being that of a mother with a baby that needs to be nurtured.
I strive to balance working in the business, which involves selling, marketing, and meeting customers, with working on the business, which involves crafting the strategy and planning for growth. I am always selling.
No matter who I meet or what I am doing, I am always selling BEEKON!
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
My first ever ‘proper’ job was working in Gilbeys back in 1999, where I launched Smirnoff Ice to the trade in Ireland. It was a total baptism of fire and an incredible learning experience.
The most important thing that I learned, particularly when launching new products, was to engage and understand the needs of the trade, particularly those of the business owners, who understand the trade dynamics better than anyone.
If you do not listen with intent and apply what you have heard, the likelihood of success is low.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
The entrepreneurial challenge. I left the corporate world to create a product that injects energy, excitement, purpose, and differentiation into a drinks industry that I felt was very linear.
I wanted to create a product that fulfilled the changing needs and desires of consumers, needs that I believed were not being captured by the established drinks companies.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
BEEKON will be available globally. We will have initiated one of the largest urban pollinator programmes to support the bees as we grow. I’II be continuing to bring about positive change with purposeful intent in the drinks industry across the world.
What do you think the government could do to help business in the current climate?
As a start up in the drinks business I get incredible support from Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia. At an industry level, Irish alcohol products represent a large percentage of Irelands exports globally.
As a brand, this is massive. We must continue to sell brand Ireland on a global stage, it is what we are brilliant at and it is what will unlock opportunities for Irish producers.
Secondly, I applaud the Public Health Alcohol Bill, especially the low-cost selling controls, such as minimum unit pricing. When beer is cheaper than water, you know as an industry that it has gone too far.
What three businesspeople do you most admire, and why?
Aoibheann O’Brien and Iseult Ward from Food Cloud. These ladies inspire me. They matched a genuine problem with a societal game changing solution and made it happen.
Anne Heraty, CEO of CPL recruitment. I have heard Anne speak quite a bit recently at female entrepreneur forums. I really respect Anne’s resilience, pro-female entrepreneur support and encouragement, and her incredible business leadership.
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
Brennans Bread’s ‘Born and Bread’ by JWT Folk, which really highlights this iconic gem of an Irish brand to great effect. Their timing is always impeccable too.
The Brennans ad really captures the Irish humour and approach to life.
I also have a real soft spot for the recent Barrys Tea campaign by Thinkhouse - we make tea, you make the moment. It represents the strong emotional connection that brands can achieve with their consumers.
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up, and why?
Do you remember 5,4,3,2,1 bars? It was a daily must in my lunchbox! How great was the jingle that we all used to sing along to? It always put me in a good mood and still does!
Did you know that it represented the five different and delicious ingredients? Now you do!
Who would come to your ideal dinner party?
Dinner parties should always be fun, at least mine are. I would love an Ab Fab dinner party with Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders in character as Edi and Patsy.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Imperfect progress - just keep moving forward. Perfect is the enemy of done.
With which fictional character do you most identify?
Alice in Wonderland. I dare to dream. I am a curious adventurer who uses ingenuity to overcome obstacles.
© 2020 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Maev Martin. Click sign-up to subscribe to Checkout.