How Covid-19, home cooking and Instagram changed Mayo business woman's life
A book on home cooking by Castlebar woman Sarah Butler is recording impressive sales online and in local bookstores and supermarkets on the run-up to Christmas.
She attributes much of her success to her Instagram page which has built up a big and loyal following over the past number of years.
Sarah's life changed significantly when the pandemic struck in March 2020 as her graphic design and printing business, specialising in wedding invitations, came to a standstill.
She recalled: “With nothing but 'cancelled, postponed and rescheduled weddings', my work was gone so I had lots of time to spend in my favourite place, the kitchen.
“Having posted a picture of a lemon meringue pie I made on my Instagram business account one day, the interest in my cooking began to grow.
“I was inundated with requests for a demonstration video to be posted to my Instagram page so I posted my first recipe video to social media in October 2020.”
Her account grew to 10,000 followers by the following February before being hacked ‘and losing everything’.
But with renewed determination and resilience, she set up a new page, 'Sarah Butler at Home Official', on February 10, 2020, with three followers.
By the end of the day, her following had risen to 16,500 due the support of people of her previous page.
She recalled: “It was an incredible day and I will be forever grateful for the support and kindness of people. My page continues to grow and now has over 33,000 followers.
“People are really enjoying learning to make the simple and delicious food I post. Lots of little tips and food hacks to make life as easy as possible when it comes to food. Simplicity is my motto.”
The popularity of her page is reflected by the fact that a number of firms have signed business deals with her to promote their products.
They include G's Gourmet Jams, Jack and Eddie Sausages, SuperValu, Kavanagh's SuperValu, Energia and Carraig Donn.
Sarah also holds regular cookery courses online, to which members of the public can sign up. Her forthcoming Christmas course is attracting immense interest.
Due to constant requests from her followers to put her recipes in a book, she has now done so.
“I never thought I would be an author. I am absolutely loving this crazy, whirlwind journey that shows we have no control over our path in life – but we can have a truly great one.”
A daughter of Pat and Breda Flannelly, Moneen, Castlebar, Sara lives in Manulla with her husband, Dermot, and their children Grace and Thomas.
Her love of food and cooking is very much a family trait.
Sarah elaborated: “When growing up in Castlebar, my father, a fourth generation butcher, would arrived home to my mother with a bag of meat for dinner and she would, in turn, manage to make something delicious to feed all eight of us.
“My parents and grandparents were great bakers and cooks, so baking and cooking was always very important at home.
“My mother consistently amazed me at how she could, out of her head, rustle up something delicious without even trying and she never got stressed in the kitchen.
“She was as cool as a breeze cooking for a group of eight or 80. As we got older and spouses and children joined our table, food became an important part of our time together as a family.
“From the time I had my own kitchen, I always had my head in a cookbook trying new recipes.
"I learnt quickly how to make food wisely, use leftovers for lunch and eat great food without the stress of meal planning and by batch cooking to avoid food waste. This is something I love to teach people to do in the busy lives we lead.”
Sarah designed the book herself and it is published by Bookhub Publishing.
It can be purchased at SuperValu supermarkets at Castlebar, Claremorris and Westport, Castle Book Shop, Castle Street, Castlebar, or ordered online at www.sarahbutlerathome.com.
It's the perfect Christmas gift for a good friend.