Meet Ireland’s own Willy Wonka – grandmother-of-eight Connie Doody
This is grandmother-of-eight Connie Doody – Ireland’s very own Willy Wonka.
The Roscommon native founded luxury chocolate company Lir 30 years ago with a bowl and a mixer on her kitchen worktop.
Doody told the Irish Sun: “People think it’s a dream job — and it is.
“I eat a lot of chocolate. I don’t mind the Willy Wonka label at all. I love chocolate and I love working with chocolate.”
The company was founded with former senator Mary White back in 1986. The name Lir was chosen after the Irish fairytale story, The Children of Lir.
Doody explained: “I had been at home with the kids and I wanted to start a business.
“I got the idea of starting a chocolate business because I had read an article about two ladies in London who started with no prior experience.
“So I started playing around with chocolate while I was at home.
“At the time there wasn’t much chocolate around — Bournville was as good as it got.
“So we went off to Brussels and we saw what kind of chocolates they made and what kind we could make. Our first Christmas we sold absolutely everything.
“I wasn’t really a real chocoholic at all — but I am now.”
It has been quite a journey for the company. They started out with just a six chocolate truffles in the range. Now they make over 100 different sweets including Chewy Pecan Caramel and Dark Chocolate Torte.
Lir is now a regular supplier of luxury chocolates for major brands including Baileys and Marks and Spencer.
Connie said: “As a nation, we’re buying and eating more premium chocolate. Even during the recession, we didn’t find it slumping at all.
“People don’t buy the big things, but they buy something — and they bought chocolate. I think it’s a bit of both self-treat and gifting.”
She added: “Salted caramel is a really big favourite. Then you have ones like the Persian Lime Truffle, which are breaking the mould.
“I think people would buy it as a comfort thing as well in a way because it is an indulgence.”
Of course being the owner of a chocolate empire comes with its own unique expectations and perks.
She explained: “I have to always have chocolates in my house because if anybody calls for a cup of tea you would have to have a chocolate to give them.
“There’s days I would eat a lot. Last week I ate every one of them in the new box — so that’s 180g.
“I ate one of each first to see that they were nice and then I liked them so much that I had to eat the other one of each.
“I don’t work full-time so I kind of think I have a licence because I’m only there two days a week.”