By Emma Connolly
TEN years ago Newcestown’s Betty Smith was enjoying her retirement – now aged 80 she’s too busy with her hugely successful marmalade business to even consider slowing down.
Not alone is she supplying around 30 SuperValus and independent shops with her range of Poitín marmalades, she’s also looking for a distributor and has just welcomed a business partner on board.
She attributes a huge portion of her success to Age Action’s ‘Getting Started’ computing course and has just been announced as one of the organisation’s 25 nominees for the 2017 Open Eir Silver Surfer Awards.
Now in its eighth year, the awards celebrate and recognise the achievements of older people using technology and the internet as well as the volunteers who teach these skills.
Justin Moran of Age Action said: ‘The Open Eir Silver Surfer Awards are all about driving home the benefit of being online to older people with the aim of getting more of them to give it a go. It is hard to believe but the majority of older people have never been online. Only 3% of those aged 75 and over have used the internet.’
Betty, who moved here from the UK 20 years ago, will celebrate her 81st birthday in May. ‘There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to lose. There’s a whole new world out there – don’t hold back. It can be a bit daunting but the Age Action tutors are so patient – there’s nothing they can’t unravel!’
She signed up for a course in 2012 as she embarked on her Poitin Marmalade business and recognised she needed computer skills to make it happen.
She previously had a desktop computer but admitted to finding it difficult to operate so for a sum of €200 invested in a laptop.
‘The classes were fantastic – they started with how to switch your computer on; how to email; use Google. I learned everything I needed with them – I can’t imagine taking the business this far without it.’
Betty used the skills she learned with Age Action to also complete a course with the Local Enterprise board.
Readers will remember her from her appearance on RTE’s Taste of Success in 2014 which she didn’t win but which saw her becoming a member of SuperValu’s Food Academy which nurtures small businesses through their journey from start-up to getting their products on their shelves.
She uses her computing skills to source her marmalade jars as well as ingredients; communicate with her daughter Catherine and grandson Luke in Yorkshire; for online banking, LinkedIn and even has a Facebook page, ‘A Taste of Irish Spirit’.
Betty is assisted in the business by her husband Jim who celebrates his 84th birthday next month. She is also looking for a distributor which would leave her more time to focus on her product – and another course.
‘At the moment I just haven’t got time for it!,’ she smiles.
The awards will take place on Tuesday March 28th.