A HACKETSTOWN woman has won the coveted CEO of the Year accolade at the Image Business Women of the Year Awards.
Breda Quigley is the founder and managing director of Q Café Company, a contract catering firm that employs 180 staff and has wide variety of clients across the healthcare, business and industrial sectors.
The company, which was established in 1999, has previously won awards at the Hotel & Catering Gold Medal Awards and the Irish Foodservice Quality Awards, but this was the first time that Breda has won an individual award for her inspirational role in the company.
Her daughter and the company’s business development manager Leah Moore, along with director of business Laura Olsen, submitted an entry for Breda without her knowledge.
“I was honoured to be shortlisted,” said Breda. “We are very much a niche Irish business and we work very hard to build our business. We look after growers and suppliers as well. It’s a great accolade for an indigenous business, as the judges look deeply at where you have brought the company from and what you have done to make it a success.”
Breda was stunned to receive the gong at the prestigious awards in the Clayton Hotel last week. There were 74 tables at the awards and she wasn’t optimistic when she was seated at table 74.
“I thought, oh well, that’s okay, we’ll have a good night anyway!” she joked.
Breda’s childhood at the Curragh, Hacketstown greatly shaped her attitude and provides the core values behind the business. Daughter of the late Julie and Denis, Breda grew up in a family of seven.
“It was a warm, fun environment. There was an open-door policy with neighbours calling in for cups of tea.”
Her mother was a great cook and Breda grew up with a love of food.
The Quigleys were hard workers and Breda said she never received anything but encouragement from her family to go and succeed for herself. She studied catering and worked in the sector for a variety of companies over the years.
In 1999, she became disillusioned with the business because of its focus on the bottom line.
“I wanted to look at something that I could enjoy,” she said.
An unexpected opportunity then arose for Breda to go into business for herself, which she seized. Her love of family led her to name the business the Q Café Company.
For the last 20 years, Breda has been taking on the giants of the contract catering industry and succeeding. The business currently operates staff restaurants and cafés for 24 clients in Ireland, including semi-state, healthcare and blue chip companies.
It’s a family business with Breda’s husband Donal also working along with her daughter Leah.
The company has its own special approach, which is not solely motivated by profits and shareholders. It uses local food suppliers and producers at a client’s site, while in recent years it has developed the Q Wellness brand for businesses that want to look after their employees.
“We have taken in some really key businesses based on our healthy approach to food and eating seasonally. We have tips on how people can exercise more. We have blended Q Wellness to deliver a bigger package,” said Breda.
“Our whole basis is to grow carefully so we can protect our brands and we deliver on our promises. We are very committed. It’s a family business. We are in business because of who we are and the style of catering we deliver. Every one of our people … we empower them to be creative. They love what they do,” she added.
Breda has lived in Dublin since the early ’70s but is still a proud Carlovian with a wide web of family in the Hacketstown, Tullow and Tinryland areas. Sadly, her eldest sibling Jim passed away earlier this month and Breda dedicated her award to him.
Reflecting on her time in business, Breda outlined the biggest lessons she had gleaned. “It’s to continually learn and always keep an open mind about opportunities,” she said. “Above all, believe in what you are doing and the ideas you want to deliver. If you don’t believe that, you won’t get your message through.”