Sarah O'Connor - Co-Founder, Cool Beans
Queen Bean Sarah O'Connor, co-founder of award winning Irish start-up food company Cool Beans, chats to us about her student days in UCC.
Course/subjects studied in UCC
I studied a Bachelor of Commerce (because I always wanted to own my own business so thought I had better study up)...I majored in management and minored in HR Economics and sustainable development and gender equality.
Best memory of UCC
Oh God, that is such a tough one. I think academic wise it would be in final year the day we won best business plan for a healthy food delivery service for kids (even then I had a passion for healthy food) and best fun memory would be hanging out with my friends in the old bar during battle of the bands…...also I met my boyfriend of 10 years in the Boole, waiting for a computer!
How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
UCC was an amazing grounding in education but it also offered so much in terms of personal development. I was auditor of the Suas society, travelled to Kenya two summers, made life-long friends and got to complete a work placement where I learned so much about how business works in the real world. My favourite lecturer Lawrence Dooley also connected me with my first job after college where I connected with my now business partner, Isolde.
What is your advice to current UCC students?
You know when people say college is the best years of your life but you are too carefree to appreciate it? That is so true!! Have fun and enjoy the college experience, find some balance between all the study and extracurricular. Some great advice I got (too late) was to plan your summers out early, if you want to do J1, volunteering, summer work, interning, study abroad you only have limited summers so think about the free time you have available and how you want to use it to maximise not only your academic learning but your personal development and life experience. Speak up in class and get into some debate, this is your only chance to live this college experience so try to learn everything you can.
What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
So personally, that’s an easy one because the best person I know, my mum, Susan O’Connor worked there for 25 years. She worked across lots of different departments and was always there for me with a positive attitude or an encouraging word (and to buy me lunch if I was low on funds!). Academically it has to be Lawrence Dooley, he was a great lecturer but he really took an interest in students and what we wanted to study/achieve. I know he referred not only me to my first job but countless others. That kind of passion and interest in students’ futures is commendable and had a huge positive impact on me. I still go back to him for referrals every year as he sees the best students coming through.
Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
I was heavily involved in the Suas society and was auditor of the Suas Soc for one year, I was a member of the Commerce society and played in the annual Commerce Cup. Other than that I got involved in lots of societies in a fairly ad hoc student way...trampolining, film, drama, snowboarding (that was mainly for the annual trips let’s face it! I had two great ski trips with the UCC snowboarding Soc)
Favourite UCC legend or superstition
You cannot walk through the centre of the quad before you graduate…..and I did not, until I graduated!