It seemed like a good idea at the time and a sure-fire way to earn some extra cash. The concept was simple. Buy fresh Wexford strawberries and raspberries at wholesale prices from his local fruit farm, set up a little table and chair by the side of a main road into Enniscorthy and make his fortune. That was the theory. But as 13-year-old Mark was to find out, there is a huge difference between theory and practice.

With limited resources available, Mark’s little table stand, and handwritten sign went largely unnoticed by the passing motorists who chose to stop at the much larger horsebox-based trailer stands and signage of his more experienced and affluent competitors. His first business venture looked doomed from the start.

It seemed like a good idea at the time and a sure-fire way to earn some extra cash. The concept was simple. Buy fresh Wexford strawberries and raspberries at wholesale prices from his local fruit farm, set up a little table and chair by the side of a main road into Enniscorthy and make his fortune. That was the theory. But as 13-year-old Mark was to find out, there is a huge difference between theory and practice.

With limited resources available, Mark’s little table stand, and handwritten sign went largely unnoticed by the passing motorists who chose to stop at the much larger horsebox-based trailer stands and signage of his more experienced and affluent competitors. His first business venture looked doomed from the start.

A Marketer is born

What he lacked in financial resources, Mark made up for in sheer cheek and innovation. He commissioned a large sign loudly proclaiming “100% Organic Wexford Strawberries!” Business began to pick up. 

All was going well until a passing Motorist stopped and challenged him one morning demanding written proof and certification of the “Organic” status of his strawberries (they weren’t certified organic) and threatening to report the young salesman if the sign was not corrected immediately. Young Mark had received his first lesson in labelling regulations and descriptions of goods. On the following morning the same motorist stopped and stormed up to Mark’s stand demanding to know why he hadn’t changed the wording on his sign. It was then that Mark asked them to read the sign again, carefully. What looked like Organic Wexford Strawberries had been carefully and cleverly edited to now read “100% Orgasmic Wexford Strawberries”.

Mark had invented his very first tag line. Soon word of the cheeky young salesman reached the local papers and radio station and days later, the story had gone viral in the national media. Mark followed with other creative and successful signs including “Support the Small Man!”; ironic as the small man, aged thirteen, was already over 6 feet tall. Business boomed and soon Mark had earned enough to buy not just one, but two new trailer stalls. It was Mark’s first successful business, and he ran it each summer until he left school to go to college in Dublin.

The Vodkapreneur

His final summer of operation was plagued by continuous bad weather. Sales were poor for all roadside strawberry sellers and Mark was left with unsold, perishable stock on an almost daily basis. Some went into jam making, some he froze, but Mark soon ran out of shelf and freezer room at home to store the product. Then a flash of genius. Why not infuse the remaining strawberries in alcohol to create a strawberry infused spirit drink? He bought a large container of vodka and added unsold fruit each day. At the end of summer, he bottled the strawberry infused vodka for family and friends. They all loved it. The idea for Wexbury was born.

Wexbury

The first product developed was Wexbury Strawberry, followed a year later by Wexbury Raspberry. These have already achieved huge sales in Wexford based hotels, bars and restaurants.

In recognition of his vision and success, Mark became a finalist in the Irish Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Wexbury will shortly enter nationwide distribution and has already been listed by both Super Valu and Dunnes. A “Wexbury Cream” Strawberry Cream Liqueur is already in development and export sales are already being planned with the support of An Bord Bia.

Who would have imagined that in a few short years, the enthusiasm, passion and ambition of a 13 year old roadside fruit seller would develop into Wexford’s leading alcohol brand for export all over the world.