Diary of a student entrepreneur, Vol. 3

In this series, three student entrepreneurs on the LaunchBox programme at Trinity chronicle their adventures. Here, in their third diary entries, they talk about lessons learned and the people they admire in business.

Anika Riley – Work Smarter
During my MSc of Entrepreneurship program, we covered a lot of ground, but we didn’t focus on many of the technicalities of founding a business. Founders’ agreements, vesting shares and some of the legal points around investment might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of being an entrepreneur, but messing up any of them can kill a company regardless of how good the product is. The speakers that have come into LaunchBox have really pushed us to think about these things early and manage many of these legal necessities on a startup’s budget.
Someone who I very much admire is Céline Lazorthes, the founder of the fintech companies Leetchi and Mangopay. As a female CEO in the financial services sector, she and her female CTO heavily emphasise company culture and are a welcome glimpse into a more diverse future. And, while she is an impressive woman on all accounts, the fact that she founded Leetchi straight out of university resonates with me in particular.
“Work Smarter exists because we sincerely believe that freelancing should not come at the cost of financial security.”
Jumping over to an entirely different sector, I am consistently impressed with the ethics and transparency of the company Dr Bronner’s. What I find most inspiring is their refusal to accept the status quo and their unwavering commitment to a vision. In pursuit of this vision, they hold themselves to high standards such as by capping the CEO wage at five times the lowest paid warehouse employee.
Building such a vision-driven company is what my co-founder and I aspire to.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/diary-of-a-student-entrepreneur-vol-3-trinity-launchbox/ on thinkbusiness

‘We left Dublin to follow a dream, and it’s working’

The founders of Mullicháin Café in Carlow describe how they left Dublin behind to pursue a dream along the banks of the river Barrow.

The Mullicháin Café

In 1999 at a local auction, Martin and Emer O’Brien decided to purchase an old 18th century, four-storey, canal storehouse that was in need of repair. A decade later they converted the bottom two stories of the building into the Mullicháin Café, a unique and now well-established café, located on the quayside at St. Mullins in Co. Carlow.

It was an auspicious time to invest a redundancy package and start a business, in the economic shadows of 2008. The village of St. Mullins is located in the southern-most tip of County Carlow, on a quiet stretch of the river Barrow, between the towns of New Ross and Graiguenamanagh. Martin and Emer recall how they left Dublin, to follow their dream of starting a cafe, just a stone’s throw from the centre of this ancient and historic settlement.

“I can remember saying, ‘If the opportunity arises, I would like to buy something down here’.”

Where we started 

I started off my career working in the Gresham in hotel management, followed by a period in racecourse catering management and finally as sales manager in the pharma sector. Emer had graduated from Cathal Brugha Street with a background in catering and teaching. Along the way both Emer and my sister were also quite innovative, selling Aran Island sweaters, during six-week sales trips to US retailers, back in the 80s.

In our twenties, we both enjoyed playing hockey and rugby and took our respective sports quite seriously. At the time I was playing rugby, but I really wanted a job where I could work and still have time to train and play matches. I was fortunate to secure a position as a sales manager with a German pharmaceutical company, where part of my brief was to organise medical conferences around Ireland.

“We canoed, paddled and camped all the way down, eventually ending up staying with Maggie O’Dwyer in her B&B.”

The Mullicháin Café

Why open a business in St. Mullins?

The main historic route into St. Mullins has always been by the river, along with being a vital access route to the local monastery, founded by St. Moling in the 7th century. Both of us enjoyed down-river canoeing, and when our kids were small, we would start off on the Barrow River at Maganey in Carlow, with our Canadian canoes. We canoed, paddled and camped all the way down, eventually ending up staying with Maggie O’Dwyer in her B&B, which was our first real introduction to St. Mullins. I can remember saying to Emer, “If the opportunity arises, I would like to buy something down here”. Then in 1999 serendipity intervened, a derelict property appeared for auction in the local paper – and so began the fulfilment of a dream.

People always thought that St. Mullins was a bustling place, but when camping out on the first floor of our derelict building, we could see the reality with our own eyes. Generally, it was hushed, except on our saint’s patron day which is still held every July. Nevertheless, we believed that St. Mullins had real potential.

“We spent the entire package creating some self-catering apartments, as well as doing up the coffee shop.”

Minimising risk

In 2007 I was based in Dublin and the pharma sector in which we operated, was becoming more challenging and beginning to shrink. After twenty-eight years with the company, I looked for and accepted a redundancy package which meant, that I could invest in the business without the need to borrow. We went on to spend the entire package creating some self-catering apartments, as well as doing up the coffee shop. Then in March 2009, we opened up our doors to the public.

The Mullicháin Café

Initially, it was just the two of us and a couple of local ladies who ran the show. At the start, we really had to cut our cloth, as people didn’t have the money to spend or were afraid to spend it. We were fortunate because if we had borrowed, we wouldn’t have been unable to meet the payments.

Our fall-back was that if it didn’t work out commercially, we could always close the door with the option to live here instead. This meant that although we wouldn’t need to sell up, we would be very unlikely to get our money back.

Fortunately, year-on-year business has been increasing, mainly through word-of-mouth and through the use of social media and digital marketing. Over the years we have also been fortunate to be profiled on the likes of RTE’s Nationwide, Tracks and Trails, Carlow Matters and the excellent local ‘Discover Graiguenamanagh’ tourism video from 2014.

“[We lost] €10,000 on applying for planning permission, to develop some of our sheds and convert them into a hostel.”

What’s different about your café?

It is a seasonal business, and we open six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm from the first week in March until the end of October. It’s family-run and specialises in quality home-baking.

Accessibility is essential, in particular for older people. We also provide ground floor wheelchair access to our toilet facilities. It’s also the only café located on the Barrow Line, which refers to the tow-path on Ireland’s second longest river.

“We employ a lot of local students who have been instrumental in the success of the café. People know that when they arrive here, that they will be well looked after and can be sure of a warm welcome from us”, says Emer.

“In general businesses in rural Ireland are finding the going tough.”

Challenges

Recently the biggest frustration we experienced was wasting €10,000 on applying for planning permission, to develop some of our sheds and convert them into a hostel. We felt we were almost there, but unfortunately, at the end of the day, we were turned down. There seemed to be a lack of sufficient encouragement along with too many obstacles appearing in our path.

In general businesses in rural Ireland are finding the going tough and need all the support they can get. A key challenge for us is ensuring that we have consistent customer footfall during the day to allow the business to perform at a constant level. That’s why we support initiatives such as the Blueway, Ireland’s Ancient East, the promotion of local history and the many outdoor activities. Staying at a rural backwater hinders the flow of money that can filter into the local economy; and student summer work can help defray third level college expenses, in an area with limited employment opportunity.

“Five years ago our son Mark joined us, to take over and manage the business, on a day-to-day basis.”

The Mullicháin Café

The next generation

A lot of people in family businesses hope that one day they can pass the business onto their son or daughter. However these days, that appears to be happening less and less. Luckily in our case, it has happened, when five years ago our son Mark joined us, to take over and manage the business, on a day-to-day basis.

“Every day we pinch ourselves, with what we have here right now. It’s the success and enjoyment we experience, along with the fantastic support that we receive from people in the local community and beyond. It’s really what makes, what we do here, all the more worthwhile,” says Emer.

Written by Brendan Byrne

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/leaving-dublin-to-start-a-business-mullichain-cafe-carlow/ on
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WeWork celebrates the Mavericks and the makers

WeWork is hosting ‘We, the Creators’, a startup event in Dublin in the lead up to its global Creator Awards.
 
In celebration of the 2018 Creator Awards, WeWork Dublin will host an event called ‘We, the Creators’ on August, 29. The Creator Awards, run by WeWork, is a global showcase of the Mavericks and makers who “make it their life’s work to disrupt the ordinary in pursuit of the extraordinary”.
The purpose of the Dublin event is to “inspire people from diverse and different backgrounds to do innovative things with startups”. 
The Dublin panel will be hosted by Newstalk’s, Jessica Kelly (pictured bottom left) and will feature investor, Jamie Heaslip; entrepreneur Ailbhe Keane of Izzy Wheels; and the founder of Metalman Brewery, Gráinne Walsh (pictured right).
You can register here to attend. 
The Creator Awards
If you are interested, you can find more about The Creator Awards here and the $360k in funding that the winners can receive.
About WeWork
WeWork’s first Irish location at Iveagh Court quickly filled up and four further locations have been announced in the past months. These locations include Central Plaza, George’s Dock, Dublin Landings and 5 Harcourt Road.
WeWork, the space and services provider, was founded in 2010 in New York by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey. The business currently has over 253,000 customers using over 280 locations worldwide, from Los Angeles to Jakarta.
 

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/wework-creators-awards-dublin-coworking/ on thinkbusiness

10 habits for highly effective networking

When it comes to creating strong connections, networking is most effective when online and offline activities are combined.
Social postings can help build our profiles, but it can also be difficult to be ‘heard above the noise’ of the millions of daily online posts.
Some years ago I helped build and grow a global online network. To achieve this I used Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and email marketing. However, I discovered when physically launching the network in New York and London, that ‘on the ground’ networking was as important as the online activity.
Each of us has a combination of strong and weak connections within our networks. We all need to work at improving our networking skills. Here are some tips to help nurture your own business network.
Harry, meet Sally
As appropriate, make introductions between your connections. Ideally you should seek the permission of both parties. We all remember those people who made introductions for us which proved beneficial to our businesses.
Pay it forward
Reach out to share information that may help your contacts. It’s good to ‘pay it forward’ and not to be always looking for something for ourselves in return. This attitude has been a key component in the success of Silicon Valley’s start-up ethos.
Give due credit
Engage with your online connections directly (e.g. by congratulating them on new career roles.) This also gives you a chance to update them on your current situation and explore possible synergies that may exist between you.
Ask to get
The old adage is true: if you don’t ask you don’t get. Use the knowledge and influence of your network, by asking for help when you need it. Most people are glad to help, if they can. It is equally good to engage and offer your help to others. After all, what’s the point in building networks if we don’t help

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/10-habits-for-highly-effective-networking/ on
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The startup trying to unearth Ireland’s next sporting superstars

KPOS Sports Management is a startup sports agency set up by four solicitors who believe they can offer athletes unparalleled supports which will help their career progression. Co-founder Stephen Kirwan talks to ThinkBusiness about his vision.
What is KPOS Sports Management?
KPOS Sports Management is a one-stop shop for financial, commercial and legal solutions for individual athletes and sports clubs. We provide financial advice to young athletes who want to play professional sports and we also work with clubs in those areas on an advisory basis.
Why was the company started?
There are four directors on the board and we are all fully qualified solicitors and we feel spotted a gap in the legal market in terms of offering advice on sports law. We’re all really passionate about sport, particularly Irish sport, and when we did the market research we believed there was a void that needed to be filled. There are some really good negotiators out there who deal solely with contracts, but there are very few people who can deal with that along with sorting out visas, financial advice and source commercial deals all under the one roof. By offering all these services together, we can keep our overheads down and not have to outsource different things. So we found that our competitors in the market offer a much narrower product. Also we Brexit coming up, we believe it’s going to offer a fantastic opportunity for Irish athletes.
Is it difficult getting athletes in Ireland on board with what you are trying to do?
The Irish sports market is somewhat stagnant at the moment. When you break it down, there are hundreds of kids moving over to the UK every year to play sports. So we see the UK as one of our primary markets, along with the rest of the continent and the US.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/the-startup-trying-to-unearth-irelands-next-sporting-superstars/ on
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Find the best tradespeople in Ireland

Mick Dillon founded TrustedPeople.ie shortly after he renovated his home. The project gave him his light-bulb moment which he then turned into a business. 

TrustedPeople.ie is a website for homeowners where they can view the portfolio work of builders, interior designers, landscapers, roofers and 20+ other categories of home professionals.
“I had difficulties finding competent and capable people to work on my home, and I felt a website showcasing the previous work of builders, carpenters, landscapers and other tradespeople would be a useful resource,” says Dillon.

What is your USP?
We help homeowners find and assess the most suitable tradespeople for a project. The fact that we’re now showcasing over 50,000 photos of completed projects from tradespeople based in Ireland is our main unique selling point. We also detail how many years a tradesperson is in business, their legal status, qualifications and professional memberships.
How did you fund the business?
We started the company out of blood, sweat and tears and the business is self-funded. We hope to launch in the UK within the next 12 months.
“We help homeowners find and assess the most suitable tradespeople for a project.”
What were the unforeseen challenges?
The biggest challenge is having the discipline to prioritise the user experience of homeowners, over short-term commercial opportunities. This requires saying ‘no thanks, we don’t want your money’ to tradespeople we feel don’t fit the ethos of the TrustedPeople.ie website. Also, staying focused on developing features that are the most important to the user, and not getting side-tracked by sexy, glamorous tech and features that ultimately do little to improve the user experience.
If you were to do it again would you do anything differently?
I wouldn’t do too many things differently if I was to do it all over again. I made enough mistakes in my first business to last a lifetime. Away from work, my two

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-to-find-the-best-builders-trade-people-ireland-trusted-people/ on thinkbusiness

One minute interview: Mick Dillon

After selling his car classifieds website in 2016, Mick Dillon founded TrustedPeople.ie shortly afterwards when he was in the process of renovating his home. That was when he had a light-bulb moment.

TrustedPeople.ie is a website for homeowners to view the previous work of builders, interior designers, landscapers, roofers and 20+ other categories of home professionals. “I had difficulties myself in finding competent and capable people to work on my home, and I felt a website showcasing the previous work of builders, carpenters, landscapers and other trades people would be a useful resource,” says Dillon.
“We help homeowners find and assess the most suitable tradespeople for a home related project. The fact that we’re now showcasing over 50,000 photos of completed projects from tradespeople based in Ireland is our main unique selling point (USP).  We also detail how many years a tradesperson is in business, their legal status, qualifications and professional memberships.”
“We started the company out of blood, sweat and tears and the business is self-funded. We hope to launch in the UK within the next 12 months.”
“We help homeowners find and assess the most suitable tradespeople for a home related project”
“The biggest challenge is having the discipline to prioritise the user experience of homeowners, over short-term commercial opportunities. This requires saying ‘no thanks, we don’t want your money’ to tradespeople we feel don’t fit the ethos of the TrustedPeople.ie website.  Also staying focused on developing features that are the most important to the user, and not getting side-tracked by sexy, glamorous tech and features that ultimately do little to improve the user experience.
“I wouldn’t do too many things differently if I was to do it all over again. I made enough mistakes in my first business to last a lifetime. Away from work, my two kids have helped me the most.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/one-minute-interview-mick-dillon-trustedpeople/ on thinkbusiness

ThinkWaterford

What does County Waterford have to offer startups and what supports are available to entrepreneurs in this wonderful county? Ita O’Sullivan explores what’s on offer. 

 

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/thinkwaterford-starting-business-in-county-waterford/ on thinkbusiness

The ThinkBusiness Show – episode two

Pamela Laird is of the most innovative entrepreneurs ThinkBusiness has interviewed. Here, Pamela gives fascinating insights into how to bootstrap a business and then scale it with a global ambition.
 
The ThinkBusiness Show is a business show with a difference.
[SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE HERE.]

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/pamela-laird-moxiloves-thinkbusiness-show/ on thinkbusiness

A Fitbit for farm animals

Richard Hobson set out to build an inexpensive tag to monitor the key performance indicators of farm animals, for the one billion people, who rely on livestock, for their livelihood around the world. 
In 2015, Hobson travelled from Dublin to Eagle Labs in Cambridge to access funds and developed an initial prototype. Here he tells the story behind his ‘Fitbit for farm animals’ vision and the groundwork in opening up new global markets for tagging and tracking, from cashmere goats in China to wild stock conservation of rhino and buffalo in South Africa.
How are you different for the other monitors on the market?
We offer a smart device that helps you to monitor farm profitability, and because of its intelligent design, we don’t need to charge the earth for it. It’s also the world’s first tag that can be used on any animal, making it both flexible and cost-effective. Herdsy’s primary target market is the (non-dairy) dry stock farm which is most in need of affordable digitisation, as current ag-tech is proving too expensive and too complicated for the needs of these farmers.
Herdsy is a unique technology as it only requires a small number of tags (from two to four tags, depending on herd size) to extrapolate the health of an entire herd, radically cutting down the cost of ag-tech, which means that it’s 95% as good as tagging every animal but 98% cheaper. The first Herdsy collar combines a mix of smart sensors featuring GPS, a 3D-accelerometer, temperature sensors, barometric pressure, heart and pulse monitors and body mass measures.
We aim to help the farmer optimise profitability by using our technology to monitor his herd or flock continuously and provide alerts and updates on lameness, weight gain, location mapping and even informing the farmer if a dog is chasing his sheep.
“We have

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/richard-hobson-herdsy-a-fitbit-for-farm-animals/ on
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