A Tale of Chocolate, Pizza, and Entrepreneurship in Dublin

Programs for this blog post

Global Entrepreneurship

Authored By:

Hannan Ahmed

Week two on the CIEE Dublin Global Entrepreneurship program was a flurry of classes, site visits, and activities— here’s a brief look at just a few.

Students standing in front of the Butlers Chocolate sign, decked in their white warehouse coats.
Students standing in front of the Butlers Chocolate sign before the factory tour, decked in their white warehouse coats.


Our visit to DublinTown answered questions we didn’t even know we had like: who installs holiday lights across downtown? Or organizes city-wide festivals for local businesses? Or even cleans busy city streets outside of standard business hours? While it is easy to assume this work is undertaken by municipal governments, in Dublin and many other major cities across the world it is often spearheaded by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). Like DublinTown, BIDs represent and support businesses across a district in order to mitigate collective pain points and increase visibility for the retailers, shops, and service providers in that area.

As students have been tasked with filling gaps in the Dublin food scene as their final project, the DublinTown team was able to identify helpful publicly-available resources for students to reference to gather important data like trends in consumer habits, popularity of online shopping versus in-person, and common challenges for Dublin businesses. They emphasized the importance of conducting research and asking the right people the right questions before starting a business venture. 

Although this three-week program will end in a contest with each group of students presenting their restaurant ideas for “investment,” meeting with BID emphasized the necessity of collaboration over competition. In Dublin’s city center, a landscape which has changed drastically in just the last three years due to the pandemic and online shopping, businesses must work together to succeed together. 

Pizza Pizza Records

The first order of business when meeting with a founding member of Pizza Pizza Records on Wednesday was clearing up the confusion about the name. Despite referencing the food (not once, but twice in its name), Pizza Pizza Records is an indie record label born and bred in Ireland.  

Founding member of Pizza Pizza Records speaking with students in a classroom.
A founding member of Pizza Pizza Records speaking with students in a classroom.

Since its inception in 2018, Pizza Pizza Records has worked hard to center artistry and community in an industry that is designed to prioritize profit and fame. With around ten artists to manage, carefully selected to ensure alignment with the company’s brand and sound, Pizza Pizza continues to champion Irish musicians worldwide. Learning about the vast opportunities on the business side of the music industry certainly fascinated students, and some are definitely on track to be future entertainment lawyers and business-folk, producers, and even musicians themselves.

Butlers Chocolate

Disclaimer: This chocolate factory is in no way related to any other infamous chocolate factories. All participants on the tour exited just as they entered.

After meeting with some of Ireland’s great local businesses, the Butlers Chocolate Factory experience provided fascinating insight into what a larger-scale enterprise might look like. Founded in 1932 by an Irish woman, Marion Butler, the company has grown significantly from local delight to a mass exporter of chocolate to destinations across the world. Despite the scale of Butlers’ production and the general advancement of cooking technology, many of the steps taken by the factory today are manual—as they might have been nearly one century earlier— to ensure quality and customer satisfaction.

A few GE students decorating their chocolate elephants with melted white chocolate at the Butlers Chocolate Factory.
A few GE students decorating their chocolate elephants with melted white chocolate at the Butlers Chocolate Factory.

While touring the production lines across the company’s only factory from a viewing deck above the warehouse floor, we learned the extent to which planning in advance is important, beginning production of holiday chocolates well over half a year in advance to meet anticipated demand. We were kindly given mini chocolates to test while learning about the history of chocolate, from its discovery to usages today. Finally, we ended the trip with an informative, hands-on attempt at painting our own chocolate elephants. Needless to say, we have collectively decided to leave this to the professionals.

Keeping up the momentum after a busy week, both CIEE Dublin groups headed north to Carlingford for a fun and exciting weekend full of adventure that you're sure to hear more about in our next blog.