QUIZ: Ireland’s amazing entrepreneurs

How much do you know about Ireland’s brilliant business minds? Seven out of ten is a great score here. 

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This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/quiz-irelands-amazing-entrepreneurs/ on

What type of towns enter the National Enterprise Town Awards?

Here is a selection of towns that entered the National Enterprise Town Awards in 2017 and why they made the final judging process. 
A question that is often asked about the National Enterprise Town Awards is what type of towns enter the awards and what qualifies a town to enter?
Below are some examples of town entries from last year (2017).
Please note, these are randomly selected examples from the four provinces and are meant simply to serve as an illustration as to what types of towns enter and why they enter. Over 70 towns and villages entered the awards in 2017. In 2018, over 90 entered. 
The National Enterprise Town Awards showcase how communities around Ireland embrace business and enterprise to help their towns thrive. One of the key pillars of the awards is how a town can demonstrate a collaboration between businesses and community groups that have helped it prosper.
This Ulster town is located in the north of County Cavan on the border with County Monaghan. The population is circa 1,853.
Collaboration between businesses and community groups
The Town Team initiative was introduced in three towns in County Cavan in 2016, including Cootehill. It aims to help the people of County Cavan to create towns they can be proud of with town centres that are prosperous and vibrant.
Membership of the Town Teams is open to all over 18 years of age who live or work in the town and its environs.
The Town Team initiative was founded to create an environment that will support job creation, and encourage businesses, the local community and other relevant stakeholders to work together to energise and reinvigorate their towns in collaboration with public authorities and other service providers.
Stand out and original achievements
As part of the Town Team action plan, a SWOT analysis was carried out which identified town strengths

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/what-type-of-towns-enter-the-national-enterprise-town-awards/ on

A founder’s guide – how to start

Maryrose Simpson, the founder of MyLadyBug, which ships to 23 countries, talks about starting a business using the lean startup model. 
In 2012, Maryrose Simpson graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from Limerick School of Art and Design, with an ambition to start something of her own. Three years later, from her hometown in Stradbally, Co. Laois she launched MyLadyBug, the first online subscription box model for feminine products.
MyLadyBug celebrates three years in business in July 2018 and is currently delivering to over 23 countries worldwide. Maryrose describes how research and prototyping her product offering, helped her on the path to launching a successful startup.
“I soon realised I had taken what I learnt in college for granted.”

Growing up I developed a strong love for technology from an early age, which probably started when my dad brought home, a Windows 95 computer. It wasn’t long before I began negotiating extra time with my siblings, for their allocated slot. I have always been a visual learner with a flair for art, design and problem-solving, and within my family and friends I’m ‘tech support’.
I get my motivation, determination and resilience in life from my Mum and Dad. In 2012, I graduated right when the recession was alive and kicking. I worked three days a week, for a design company that provided a one-stop shop for branding and product design. My time there gave me the knowledge and digital experience of working alongside creative individuals and clients.
I remember one particular client saying to me that, ‘If I had your skill set – I’d set up a business in the morning’. This stuck with me, and I soon realised I had taken what I learnt in college for granted and in a way always looked at it in a way that would get me a

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/myladybug-maryrose-simpson-founders-guide/ on thinkbusiness

The fruit of hard work is the sweetest

What does it take to run an Irish fruit farm that’s one and a half times the size of Croke Park?

Just over a decade ago, Greenhill Fruit Farm was set up by dairy and fresh fruit farmer, Eamonn Crean in Davidstown, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. The fruit plantations of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries have a footprint of almost one and a half times the size of Croke Park, comprising of twenty-four acres of polytunnel fruit with a staff of up to 150 during the peak summer season. Eamonn recalls how it all began and shares the challenges and lessons he has learned along the way. He retails to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and to all essential agricultural shows. He also sells directly to consumers across the country via a network of roadside stands – where consumer feedback is the vital food of champions.

“The trade in fresh Irish strawberries has grown significantly to over 7,700 tonnes per year.”

greenhill fruit farm

What motivated you to start the business?

In 1990 after finishing secondary school, I worked on the family farm, milking 120 cows along with my brother John and dad Edmund. My mother’s family had a tradition of growing strawberries under contract for jam production which was the primary market outlet back then. EU milk quotas were in place, and the option of expanding the home dairy herd was limited, and so I began looking around for alternatives to help create additional income for myself and the family farm. At that time, I could see that the market for Wexford strawberries appeared to be shifting from jam to fresh fruit and unfortunately since then, the demand for jam production has collapsed, along with grower numbers. In spite of this decline, the trade in Irish strawberries for fresh fruit production has grown significantly to over 7,700 tonnes per year. Ultimately the production of fresh fruit has become more commercial and specialised. For the grower, it can be a rewarding but robust industry combined with its own unique set of production and marketing challenges.

“Irish growers deliberately seek out varieties that sustain flavour.”

Starting out

In the early 90s, I started out by buying fresh fruit from local strawberry growers, for resale at the weekends. Over time I organised new road-side stands across the country in Dublin, Blessington, Kilkenny, the Midlands, Sligo and Cavan. I am pleased to say, that after almost thirty years later we still hold and trade with those outlets. In 2003, John and I planted three acres of strawberries between us, with the aim of achieving a more consistent product. We planted the strawberries in soil under small half-metre high polytunnels, and although the quality improved, poor weather conditions could still impact on consistency. By 2007, I had purchased some land, established my own dairy unit, milking sixty cows under existing quota rules and set up my private fresh fruit company, under the ‘Greenhill Fruit Farm’ brand. Since then we have transitioned to growing our fruit into much larger walk-in polytunnels.

“One of the most significant challenges we faced was, ‘Storm Emma’ when sixty-five of our tunnels collapsed in one night, damaging 50% of the farm.”

greenhill fruit farm

What’s your secret sauce?

On the farm, we still grow about half of our strawberries in the soil, in the traditional way, which from a commercial farming perspective is relatively unique. It’s an added attraction to the farm and makes a real difference to the quality of our fruit. The main reason is that roots that are grown directly in the ground are naturally colder, allowing the fruit to ripen more slowly, adding to the ultimate flavour.

A considerable part of our success has been roadside selling, which had been facilitated by government legislation back in the 90s. This has had a two-fold benefit, allowing us to scale and secondly to get our product directly to consumers with our own label on it. If people like your product, they tell you they like it – and if they don’t, they will let you know within thirty seconds; and for us, that direct feedback is precisely what we needed to know, to help create a good product. The important thing is to make the changes in time before you end up with a titanic situation on your hands. 

In the South East of Ireland, we believe we also have an added advantage in having the optimum climate to produce a sweeter more flavoursome fruit. This in part is due to the number of daylight hours we receive. Along with that, Irish growers deliberately seek out varieties that sustain flavour – however, for the grower, more taste generally equals lower yield. Despite this, it makes more sense to try to create a sustainable business for the future, by providing a product that is in growing demand and that consumers want more of.

“It’s vital to be able to create a team who are willing to buy into the same idea or vision for the company.”

Greenhill Fruit Farm. From left; Sadbh, Dierdre, Edmund, Aoibhinn, Abigail, Eamon Mairead and Annalise Crean.Photo;Mary Browne


There are so many variables and problems when growing fresh fruit, whether it’s competition from Dutch imports, paying the highest minimum wage in the EU and even accommodation costs. One of the most significant challenges we faced this March was, ‘Storm Emma’ when sixty-five of our tunnels collapsed in one night, damaging 50% of the farm. We had followed best practice and guidance and orientated the tunnels in an N-S direction to allow for the prevailing S-W wind. However, the snow came from the East and drifted, causing the tunnels to collapse. It took a hugely dedicated team to be able to come in and redo and fix the tunnels, and it’s a cost the farm will have to carry over the next few years. The workforce is becoming the lifeline of a farm, and it’s becoming more difficult to recruit – especially as most European countries are coming out of recession. Labour costs are at 50% of sales, and top pickers can earn up to €14-16/hr – however, because it’s a six month picking season, working in the industry is not viewed as a long-term career.

Nevertheless, it’s a growing industry with fresh fruit seen as a very healthy food option. We have also had great help in receiving training and grants from both local and national agencies such as Leader, Teagasc and the DAFM, combined with valued support from Bank of Ireland, grower organisations, Wexford Food Family, Irish consumers as well as wholesale buyers – and long may that continue.

“The workforce is becoming the lifeline of a farm, and it’s becoming more difficult to recruit.”

greenhill fruit farm

What tips would you like to share with fellow entrepreneurs? 

Our excellent senior managers and supervisors who come from Romania and Bulgaria are crucial to running a successful operation and are backed up by a fantastic group of picking, logistic, sales and office staff. As a commercial grower and like a lot of other businesses, it’s vital to be able to create a team who are willing to buy into the same idea or vision for the company and secondly to ensure that you can achieve sufficient turnover to both sustain that team and help develop the business into the future.

The main image is of the Crean family, from left: Sadbh, Dierdre, Edmund, Aoibhinn, Abigail, Eamon Mairead and Annalise Crean. Photo by Mary Browne. 

Interview by Brendan Byrne

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/greenhill-fruit-farm-wexford-ireland/ on

[LEARN] – The art of business design

If you take business design seriously, this event in Boxworks, Waterford on July 19 is for you.
Design thinking is a human-centred approach to problem-solving. The big question is always – how can businesses use creative and design thinking to solve problems and gain more customers?
“Designing a business isn’t a one-time activity; it’s a continuous and evolving pursuit. Every component of a business can be tested, and all components must work elegantly together to successfully sustain your offer out in the world,” says Kerry O’Connor, IDEO design director.
“Creative and design thinking skills are now crucial for any business that hopes to grow.”
Over 92% of businesses now recognise that creative thinking is one of the critical elements of business design.
Businesses need to move faster, network more and be open to a more collaborative approach.
Creative and design skills are now crucial for any business that hopes to grow.
A must-attend event
The STEAMworks team has put together a formidable panel of experts to take us on a journey of thought, discussion and practice for a ‘Design in Business’ masterclass. STEAMworks is a bi-monthly meet up for people passionate about Science, Technology, Enterprise, Arts and Media in Waterford and the South East.

The speakers include:

Diarmuid Reil, owner/architect of Diarmuid Reil Architects – ‘Spatial Design.’
Lesley Tully, (pictured), head of design thinking, Bank of Ireland – ‘Design Thinking.’
Louise Allen, head of innovation and development DCCoI – ‘Ireland – Design Island.’

fuse:d will also present a case study with Yvonne Rath, creative director of Pixelpod entitled: ‘Design Thinking: how to brand a region’.

The chairperson of the event is the journalist, Jennifer O’Connell.
To be part of the #STEAMWORKS journey into ‘Design in Business’ book now. This is a free-to-attend event, and places are limited.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/design-thinking-steamworks-waterford-bank-of-ireland/ on

Diary of a student entrepreneur

Three student entrepreneurs on the LaunchBox programme at Trinity have agreed to chronicle their adventures, the highs and the lows, as they build their businesses.

Cian Fogarty, founder of Greener Globe (Science)
I became an entrepreneur because I want to make the changes I want to see in the world. Too many people say they want something to change but then don’t do anything about it, don’t act. I wanted to be the person to lead that change. I could never see myself in a nine to five job, my goals for life are way too big.
My startup, Greener Globe, is a business that makes environmentally-friendly, innovative products. Our focus at present is tackling the issue of water wastage in the shower through our revolutionary LED timed shower head. We’re working in this market as we believe it’s a way we can help improve the world and still have a growing, profitable business.
“We’ve been in the ‘trough of disillusionment’ for a long time, and it’s definitely a tough time, having your product ready to go but not being able to get it out there.”
LaunchBox has been a fantastic programme for me because at Trinity I study Science, not Business. I wouldn’t change this, because I believe looking at a problem with a scientific mindset is advantageous, but it does mean I have to learn as I go on the business side of things. LaunchBox provides this education, with speakers and seminars, to determine the fundamentals of business which is invaluable for me.
One of the significant challenges we’ve faced so far is getting our product onto shelves. We’ve been in the ‘trough of disillusionment’ for a long time, and it’s definitely a tough time, having your product ready to go but not being able to get it out there. Since the beginning of

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

Starting a business while still in a job

The ‘side hustle’ is becoming increasingly popular. Are you thinking of starting a business while still in your day job?
Working a nine to five comes with benefits, and the security of having a steady income can be a ‘deterrent’ to starting a business.
If you decide to leap into entrepreneurship, however, the first thing you must do is to explore if your idea can be turned into a viable business.
First – is your idea viable?
Instead of a long-winded business plan, it is best to start with a Business Model Canvas. You can download one here for free. This will help you validate many of the assumptions you have about your business idea. For example:

What problem does your product solve?
What is your product?
Who are your target customers?
What is unique about it?
How are you planning to distribute your product to customers?
How much revenue can you make?
What are your significant costs?

Next – review your employment contract
Back when you signed your employment contract, was there a clause that prohibits you from setting up a business related to your current role?
You need to review your contract and speak to your employer.
The easiest way to avoid trouble is to make sure you are working on an idea that is unrelated to that of your employer, and to work on your own time and with your computer and phone.
Now – test your idea
To reduce the risk of ‘startup failure,’ you will need to test your concept rigorously. For example, do you have a prototype? Do you know what your customers think?
Customer interview and surveys are now easy to do with tools like SurveyMonkey and the reach given by the social web (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
To put your assumptions to the test, ask potential customers how they would use your service or product to solve their problem. Ask if they

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/starting-a-business-while-still-in-a-job/ on thinkbusiness

Seaweed success in Donegal

Declan Gallagher built a thriving, global business from harvesting seaweed in Donegal.

In 2004 CEO Declan Gallagher founded OGT, a seaweed company based in Kilcar, Co. Donegal. It was privately funded with an original investment of €300,000. The ambition was to sustainably harvest and then process some of the area’s natural seaweed, into a liquid seaweed extract, to sell to the golf industry in Ireland. It’s very much a success story as production levels have grown to 3,200 tonnes per annum with the business employing over 30 full-time staff.
Why seaweed?
I grew up close to the ocean and was always involved in some ocean-related business. Going back the years, farmers used seaweed to enhance and improve grass growth and to improve crop growth in potatoes. I can also remember from a very young age, how my grandmother used to go down to the shore and collect dillisk and bring it home, to dry out at the back of her house. After finishing secondary school, I studied business in Letterkenny Institute and went on to work in my father’s company, which made fishing nets for the large fishing boats in Donegal.
I always wanted to do something for myself, in an industry that I was passionate about. Obviously being from Donegal, a lot of people are into sports and personal experience made me aware that seaweed could have potential benefits for the sports industry. There was a lot of local knowledge on seaweed but not a lot of research. There were no competitors as such to compete with and consequently no blueprint to follow.
“Our liquid extracts help build up the immune system of a plant, similar to a person taking a multivitamin for their health.”
What problem do you solve for golf courses?
The seaweed extract contains small amounts of nutrients and growth enhancers, which allows

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/seaweed-success-declan-gallagher-donegal/ on

New world-class security accelerator in Cork

Are you in Cork or do you want to move to Cork to build a global business?
CorkBIC has announced a new security accelerator for startups working in cybersecurity and related fields.
The startups who are accepted onto the security accelerator will receive €50,000 each in investment, free office space, access to an exclusive network of industry leaders, mentors and investors, as well as hands-on business development expertise.
This accelerator is now open for entries and is looking to invest in early-stage firms in the security industry including, cybersecurity, internet of things (IoT), Blockchain, AI, health and bioinformatics, defence, critical infrastructure, financial services, and logistics.
How many will be accepted?
Up to seven companies will be accepted. Apply here.
What are the selection criteria?

The business model and the market opportunity
Stage of development – early traction?
A commitment to relocate to Cork and build a global business

Applications are now open until July 2018. All Interviews will take in August 2018. The accelerator will begin in October 2018.
Apply here.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/cork-bic-security-accelerator/ on thinkbusiness

How to be productive and happy at work

Happy employees are more productive. Here’s how to foster a culture of continuous improvement in your business. 
The link between productivity and wellness
It’s not just the business leaders who strive for higher productivity. Most employees want to be productive too. If people can’t get their work done, they feel stressed, and this causes them to worry. In today’s business world where priorities and deadlines are continually shifting, people often don’t feel in control. Despite working hard and long hours employees often feel they are not on top of their workload.
In contrast being productive gives employees a sense of achievement and accomplishment. There is a satisfaction that comes with being able to make a plan and stick to it.
Moreover, that satisfaction allows employees switch off after work which in turn will enable them to relax and refresh.
On the other hand, a lack of productivity can have an adverse effect on the employee’s stress levels and general mental wellness.
“A culture of productivity encourages everyone to perform at their best level.”
Causes of stress at work
In fact, if we look at some of the causes of stress cited by employees we see factors that also cause a lack of productivity:
• Changing demands and priorities
• Inefficient systems and processes
• Lack of clarity around role and expectations
• Poor communication with managers
• Long hours, poor work-life balance
“Foster a culture of continuous improvement.”
A productive culture benefits everyone
So by removing these barriers to productivity businesses can also reduce the stress levels of their employees. Not only will employee wellness and happiness increase, but employee engagement and output also will too. A culture of productivity encourages everyone to perform at their best level.
To foster this culture a business needs to make sure it provides the best tools, the best processes, the best managers and the best training.
Here are some questions to

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/reduce-stress-at-work-and-be-productive/ on