Manus Heenan is a Fifth Year student here at Cistercian College, and he is celebrating his first year in business with his company Abbey Bread! This time last year he embarked on a journey that was one of the highlights of the College and Monastic Community.
Manus’ journey began when he made the decision to enter a Transition Year Mini Companies Competition at Cistercian College. He approached the monastic community at Mt St Joseph Abbey, here on the same campus as the College, with the intention of building his project on the famous fresh bread that they baked for over 100 years in the Monastery Bakery. The Monks involved were only too happy to share their knowledge, and with their help, especially that of Dom Malachy Thompson and Brother Oliver Tyrrell, Manus perfected the recipe and began production of the Bread Mix for distribution.
What quickly emerged was that there was a huge amount of nostalgic interest in the project from many quarters, from the past pupils of the College, to the local community, to parents of students at the College, many people interested in artisan food around the country, and more.
Manus dedicated a huge amount of time and effort into promoting and up-scaling the venture. He showcased and sold the Bread and Bread Mix at as many markets and artisan food demonstrations as his time would allow. He then set up a dedicated Website, www.abbeybread.ie, and a Facebook page to promote Abbey Bread to a wider market, and started taking orders for the product online.
On March 8th he entered the County Offaly Student Enterprise Competition, along with other Cistercian College students, and their products, which he subsequently won, receiving a cheque for €500, and qualification for the National Finals in Croke Park. Manus’ next step was to find local stockists for Abbey Bread. He set up merchandising stands in Milltown Garden Centre, Shinrone; SuperValu, Roscrea; Country Choice and O’Connor’s, Nenagh; The Milk Market, Limerick; Lorrha Community Shop, The Derg Inn Shop, Terryglass, and Crawford’s Borrisokane.
He also gave demonstrations in making the Bread at Gaelscoil Aonach Urmhumhan, his former primary school, and expanded his product to include a White Bread Mix in addition to his Wholemeal version, this being the First Wholemeal yeast Bread Mix in Ireland! All this time, Brother Oliver, the oldest living baker at Mount St Joseph Abbey, was enjoying and supporting Manus’ progress.
With continued support from Catherine Smyth, the Transition year Co-Ordinator, all the staff at the College here, and Offaly LEO staff, especially Geraldine Beirne, Manus’ Abbey Bread project became more streamlined in preparation for the national finals.
On May 2nd Manus brought Abbey Bread to Croke Park for the National Student Enterprise finals where he joined over 1,000 other students competing for the top award. Over 23,000 students from 480 schools all around Ireland participated in what is now one of the most prestigious student competitions in Ireland.
So impressed were the judges in the story, the taste of the Bread, the packaging of the Mix with an instructional video for making the Bread, the Twitter feed and Facebook promotion, and the dedication and level of excellence displayed, that Manus was awarded the Social Media Award and the overall Winner’s award in the Senior category. Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen presented the accolade. Manus, with Abbey Bread, was praised for the excellent standard of presentation, the very rich food heritage aspect of the product, and the hands-on approach taken by Manus in developing the business over the previous 6 months.
To scoop the top prize at the National Student Enterprise Awards was a super achievement and a first for Cistercian College.
In the last number of months Manus has continued to develop Abbey Bread. He regularly puts up suggestions on social media as to how Abbey Bread can be varied; to make bread rolls, garlic bread, a base for pizza, focaccia bread and more!
In July, Abbey Bread qualified for the Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards, and at the beginning of this month, at the Awards Ceremony in Dingle, Co. Kerry, Manus was given special recognition for being the youngest ever Blas na hÉireann National Finalist.
As If being Ireland’s top young entrepreneur isn’t enough, Manus is also an keen rugby player, hurler, musician and performer, taking one of the leads in the College’s upcoming presentation of Les Miserables.
We wish Manus, a now accomplished Breadmaker and Businessman continued success with Abbey Bread. Find out more about his journey at www.abbeybread.ie