Rachel Gaffney's Letter from Texas - From Authentic to Real

Rachel Gaffney

The famous foodie who’s flying the tricolour for us in Texas explains how she’s expanding the travel side of her business and bringing more discerning US clients on culinary and cultural visits to Ireland

I was interviewed three times during the month of December for various publications. The questions made it perfectly clear to me that people were not quite sure what it is that I do. What is Rachel Gaffney’s Real Ireland? In short, it is an Irish lifestyle brand and it did not happen or evolve by accident, but rather by design.

The short version is that I was transferred with my husband from London to Dallas in February 1996. From Dallas to Chicago in 2000 and back to Dallas again in 2001. During that time, I noticed that people’s perception of Ireland was far removed from the Ireland I knew.

When I shopped in places like Nordstrom, Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and Neiman Marcus there was a distinct lack of products, gifts, clothing, accessories and household goods from Ireland.

The media are in a frenzy in March looking for stories and almost every year the same material is reproduced. The dyeing of the Chicago river, the parades, the pub life, the beer sales and the donning of green beads. It was then that I thought we needed a brand over here. A brand that raised the profile of the products and ingredients of Ireland.

Now, 15 years later, this kernel of an idea has grown and evolved with many mistakes, failed partnerships, tireless nights worrying about money and making payroll (I had a bakery business in the early years making Irish Butter Shortbreads) travelling around the United States, tradeshows, cooking demos, filming and writing.

To say I would not be where I am now without all of the aforementioned is an understatement. It had to happen. My company name changed from Rachel Gaffney’s Authentic Irish Goods to Rachel Gaffney’s Real Ireland in 2010. This change came about as I noticed that people were reacting and relating to one very specific word, authentic, in a way that I had not expected.

Authentic to most people meant the old Ireland, dancing at the crossroads, peat fires, lace, traditional music, horse and cart and the perception that we only ate corned beef and cabbage.

And so, I changed it to real. What happened in 1940 was real, what is happening in 2016 is real and what happens in the future is real. This simple change in verbiage then opened up the floodgates of my imagination to create and expand my brand the way I wanted to. RGRI is made up of 5 categories.

• Food & Drink
• Fashion & Accessories
• Media & Communications
• Household Goods
• Travel, Tourism & Culture

I began the travel side of my business in 2013. The first trip was for 4 couples for 12 days. I worked on every detail of their trip and as a result those same people are returning in April 2016.

My client base is expanding rapidly and it is all referral business.

I am heavily focused on growing and expanding the travel side of my business in 2016. To do this, I am looking for partners to collaborate with. My clients trust me to create a unique trip for them so, in return, I have to trust where I am sending them. It is for this reason that I am using the same people in Ireland at the moment. I tell my clients this “If I won’t stay there then I won’t put you there”

My clientele do not want to book their own trips, they do not want to navigate the internet to do research, they want me to suggest places, restaurants, experiences, drivers, hotels, castles and much much more.

When I visit a place in Ireland I spend quite a bit of time taking in all the detail. For example, I visited Carlingford Lough in July 2015. I walked around Carlingford town with Frances from the tourism office for the entire day. I wanted to see and hear everything.

Walked around churches, visited guest houses, Carlingford Design Studio, had lunch in a local pub, wandered into shops and stumbled upon one antique shop in particular where I took numerous photographs, posted them on Instagram and within minutes had people back in the States asking about prices and shipping. This is when I realised that antiquing is big big business in Texas and ladies will want to go scour the country for products to take back to their homes and holiday homes in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.

People from here want to discover people and places off the beaten track. They want to purchase property in Ireland, they want to shop in Ireland and they really want to connect.

I have just wrapped up two more trips for clients and currently planning another group culinary and shopping trip for 12 people in September 2016. In the meantime, I plan on reading everything I can, listening to anyone I can and visiting anywhere I possibly can over the next 12 months.

Any suggestions would be welcomed. Meanwhile, I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous 2016.
Rachel Gaffney's Real Ireland


: Rachel Gaffneys Real Ireland
Follow me on Twitter: @Rachelgaffney

Email: Rachel@Rachelgaffneys.com

Watch 'The Irish Kitchen' now on HULU


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