Kieran Folliard Q&A

December 9, 2019
Kieran Folliard on launching 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, opening Kieran's Kitchen, and loving poetry.

“I like promoting the important work of others, and the care and passion they invest in it, like the farmers who raise pigs and grow grain and milk cows.”

What was your inspiration for Kieran’s Kitchen in the Food Building?

To highlight, build sales and promote our award-winning food brands of Red Table Meats, Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, Alemar Cheese, and like-minded producers and growers in Minnesota.

You started out in the hospitality industry carrying bags for passengers for your father’s taxi business. What principles of customer service did you learn then that you still apply?

That small human kindnesses bring great satisfaction in themselves. Use customer service as a serious marketing tool and key point of differentiation. My father was the only one who had an assistant to carry the bags and open doors; he had as much business as he could handle.

You spent 17 years in corporate marketing, including time in Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. Do you feel like the principles of marketing today have changed much from when you started your career? 

Fundamentally it has not changed in my world. I have primarily been involved in start-ups focusing on solving problems through curiosity, creativity and culture. We start with a general idea of what we stand for and develop clarity by listening to and talking with an audience we believe is interested in what we have to offer.

What brought you to Minnesota from Ireland? What convinced you to stay?

A work opportunity and then getting into debt to open businesses. Minnesota for me inspires creativity, openness and has access to all things large and small when it comes to both human and physical geography.

You named 2 Gingers after your mother Mary and aunt Delia. Did you always know you wanted to pay tribute to them in this way?

I always gave them great credit for guiding and inspiring me but certainly had no plan to pay them tribute with an Irish whiskey. They drank gin.

When you sold your pubs in 2011 you passed along 100 percent of the ownership to the management team that worked with you over the years. How important was that to you?

I believe in rewarding great commitment, talent and the individuals who treat the business as if it’s their own. I’m motivated by bringing ideas to life and ultimately passing the baton.

2 Gingers can be found today in more than 2,000 liquor stores and 1,000 bars and restaurants around the country. What gave you the confidence that this recipe would go over so well?

Nothing. I’m eternally optimistic but most of my ideas are a bit out there so I typically expect them to fail.

You have a framed poem by Seamus Heaney prominently placed in Kieran’s Kitchen. How important is it to you to incorporate Ireland’s literary history?

Poetry was in my blood from an early age and I still get enjoyment and inspiration from its imagery, lyricism and humanity.

Do you still play soccer?

In my head, not with my head.

What is your drink of choice these days?

Finnegan’s and any whiskey from Kilbeggan Distilling Co., Ireland’s oldest distillery and home to 2 Gingers.

Are you still having fun with your career?

I have never had fun as a goal in my work; that’s for my time with family and friends. I’m more interested in challenge, interesting and sometimes important work. I like promoting the important work of others, and the care and passion they invest in it, like the farmers who raise pigs and grow grain and milk cows.

As someone who has started many businesses, what is the best piece of advice you’ve heard about taking the leap and enduring the tremendous hours and sacrifice required to survive?

From my father out in the field: “You’ll be a long time dead.”