Monthly Archives: May 2016

Strategic thinking and The Butler’s Pantry

Jacquie Marsh, founder of The Butler’s Pantry, talks about her business success and what drives her ambition.

jacquie marsh butlers pantry

The idea behind my business is simple. Make fantastic food. In the great Irish houses of old, the finest ingredients were always kept locked in the butler’s pantry, and we remain true to this.

I think my biggest achievement was to not just to have survived the recession but to have come through it a far more sophisticated business and, as a result, ready for growth again..

In the past few years we had to stand back and ask ourselves what our core competencies are and focus on those. We did a complete business process review and, if any single aspect of the business wasn’t profitable, either made it so or cut it out.

We also had to really focus on our unique difference- that we trawl the country looking for the best small producers and growers, who make the best ingredients, which we choose because it results in a superior dish.

What was the lowest moment in your business life?

Every low, like every mistake, brings its own learning and boy have we learned! But one of the biggest stand outs was when Dublin City Council put a quality bus corridor outside our Mount Merrion Avenue store, leaving customers with nowhere to park. That cut our business there in half, overnight.

More regular lows come when great people leave the business. It’s always for the right reasons, because they are on a career path and why wouldn’t they, but it’s heartbreaking to lose good people.

“During the recession, we saw some fantastic suppliers, really outstanding producers, going out of business through absolutely no fault of their own, they did nothing wrong. That’s heartbreaking too”

In business you have to be resourceful and resilient. I also surround myself with great people – many heads are better than one.

What do I think of risk? Embrace it, but manage it.

Who has inspired or motivated you and why?

My father for his entrepreneurial spirit. He manufactured and exported clothing around Europe and was one of the first to introduce zippers to men’s trousers. Even back in the 1960s he had the wisdom to think globally. And my mother for her sense of balance and belief in inner strength.

“Trust your instinct, it will rarely fail you. And if it does, always remember that the man who has made no mistakes has not lived at all”

Switching off

I enjoy walking the coast road in Dun Laoghaire every day with our Labradors, I love to feel the soil between my fingers working in the garden and, most of all, I love music – it’s so good for the soul – so I sing in a choir with a great bunch of choristers.

If I were to start again, what would I do differently? Not a huge amount, I’d still start small and think big.

I’ve learned a lot from my business. The main thing I’ve learned is the value of regularly asking yourself, and understanding, what is your business’s point of difference. Also, the importance of clear strategic thinking – it has got me out of lots of tough decisions and through some bad days.

If I were to give one piece of advice to someone thinking of going into business? Trust your instinct, it will rarely fail you. And if it does, always remember that the man who has made no mistakes has not lived at all.

READ: How to start a food business in Ireland.

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How to win tenders – public and private

Help is at hand for small business owners when it comes to the tendering process. 

The procurement market in Ireland is worth approximately €12 billion a year. It’s a huge opportunity for small businesses.

However, this enormous market is often untapped. Why? Simply because the formal tendering process is a minefield for most SME owners.

how to win tenders in ireland

To give you the best chance to access this vast money pool, help is at hand from InterTradeIreland.

InterTradeIreland says it has been “helping SMEs to win public sector contracts for many years”.

For more information on practical workshops, face-to-face meetings with buyers, financial supports, advisory services and more, go to InterTradeIreland’s ‘Know how to tender successfully’ portal.

READ: What is the Social Innovation Fund and can it help my business grow?

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Top five things to know – succession planning

The five tax reliefs you may be entitled to when you retire from your business.

Retirement from your business and the passing of assets and wealth to the next generation is an area that requires comprehensive tax planning, considering the wealth of the tax reliefs available. Below is a brief description of the five tax reliefs that are available in this regard.

Retirement relief

In the future, you may be considering disposing of your shares to a third party or transferring same to your children.

Retirement Relief is a relief for Capital Gains Tax on disposal of qualifying business assets. This relief can significantly reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the Capital Gains Tax liability arising for a business owner on the disposal of part/all of the business or shares in a qualifying trade company.

In order to qualify for relief, the individual must have attained the age of 55 years.

The relief available depends on both the age of the individual at the time of disposal and the relationship between the individual and the person to whom the business/shares are disposed to.

retirement plans

Where all conditions of the relief are satisfied, the following relief may be available:

–        For disposals to children, where the business owner is between 55 and 66 years of age, there is no limit on the amount of the relief.

–        For disposals to children where the business owner has reached the age of 66, the maximum retirement relief available is €3 million.

–        Where the disposal is to someone other than a child the maximum retirement relief available is €750,000 where the business owner is between 55 and 66 years of age.

–        Where the disposal is to someone other than a child and the business owner has reached the age of 66 years the maximum retirement relief available is €500,000.

Due to the fact that some of the conditions of the relief take up to 10 years to satisfy, careful tax planning is required to ensure that maximum relief can be claimed.

Company share buy-back relief

Alternatively, where your company has sufficient retained reserves, the company may acquire your shares (rather than your fellow shareholders or a third party).

Where a trade company were to acquire an individual’s shares, the shareholder would be chargeable to Income Tax, USC and PRSI at his marginal rate on the sales proceeds (52%/55%).

A relief known as ‘company buyback of shares relief’ exists to treat the acquisition of your shares by your company as a Capital Gains Tax (33%) as opposed to an Income Tax Event (52/55%).  This is subject to certain conditions being satisfied by both the shareholder and the company.

retirement plans

Business assets relief

A CAT liability may arise for the person receiving the gift/inheritance of business assets. Business Asset Relief can significantly reduce the CAT liability arising on the receipt of qualifying business assets.

This relief operates by reducing the taxable value of the qualifying business assets by 90%. There are a number of conditions to be satisfied in order for the relief to apply.

Business Asset Relief applies not only in respect of shares in a qualifying trading company but may also apply to assets used by the company (e.g. commercial property). The relief also applies to the assets of a business (e.g. sole trader). However, Business Asset Relief does not apply to investment assets. 

Small gifts exemption

Where you are considering making a future gift/inheritance of cash, you may consider using the small gifts exemption in order to reduce the future CAT liability for the receipt of same.

The small gifts exemption, treats the first €3,000 of gifts received from each person each year is exempt from CAT. Although this may not sound like a significant amount in the context of a future gift/inheritance, where advance planning is undertaken this exemption can be utilised to achieve significant future CAT savings. 

retirement plans

Consider the following example, David is married, with two children and five grandchildren. David and his wife have cash of €500,000 which they will not use in their lifetime and intend to bequeath to their children, children’s spouses and grandchildren. Assuming David’s children and grandchildren have otherwise used their group tax thresholds, the future inheritance of the cash would result in a tax liability of €165,000 (i.e. the family would receive only €335,000 of the €500,000 bequeathed).

However, where David and his wife had made annual gifts of €3,000 to their family (children, children’s spouses and grandchildren), the tax liability could have been reduced. David and his wife could each make an annual gift of €27,000 (€54,000 in total) to the family tax free.  Over 10 years, David and his wife could gift the €500,000 without their family incurring a tax liability, resulting in a tax saving for their family of €165,000.

Dwelling house exemption

The Dwelling House Exemption provides a total exemption from CAT in respect of both the gift/inheritance of a residential property, or part thereof, which the recipient will occupy as their Principal Private Residence. There are a number of conditions to be satisfied by both the recipient and the person making the gift/inheritance. Stamp Duty and Capital Gains Tax must also be considered on the disposal of a property.

With the increasing market value of residential properties, this relief can offer significant tax savings.

Catherine McGovern PDK

This ThinkBusiness advice clinic is in association with PKF O’Connor, Leddy & Holmes. Article by Catherine McGovern, tax director.

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New film studios for Dublin and Ireland’s best cinemas

A proposal is in development to build new film studios in Dublin. The film making industry in Ireland is worth an estimated €550 million a year.


James Morris, a founder of Windmill Lane Studios and film producer Alan Moloney, have confirmed they are developing proposals to create studios on the former Irish Glass Bottle site at Ringsend.

James Hickey, chief executive of Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board says this “is very good news for the Irish film and television industry”.

“There is an urgent need for more studio infrastructure in Ireland to create more employment opportunities in the audio-visual industry, building on the success of the sector to date.”

180,000 sq. ft. of studio space, with additional space for production services and several individual sound stages, will be built on the site.

The studios will aim to attract local and international film and television production activity.

Current Irish film studios include Ashford Studios where the TV series Vikings is currently filming and Ardmore Studios in Co. Wicklow where the TV show Penny Dreadful has been filming for the last number of years.

Six of the best cinemas in Ireland

The International Union of Cinemas says that Ireland has the most cinema goers of any country in the EU, with 2015 being a record year for cinema admissions. Ireland has more than double the EU average of cinema admissions per capita; Ireland boasts 3.3 admissions per capita while our nearest rivals, France and the UK, have 3.1 and 2.7 respectively.

Lighthouse Cinema

Located in the Market Square in Smithfield, the Lighthouse cinema is regarded as one of the coolest places to catch a movie in Dublin. The Lighthouse distinguishes itself from its competitors by offering punters a mixture of Hollywood blockbusters, old classics and art-house films. A stone’s throw from the achingly cool Stoneybatter, the cinema is surrounded by a wealth of hip pubs and restaurants.

Eye Cinema

Galway’s locally-owned Eye bills itself as “the cinema that Galway deserves but has never had”. It sets itself apart from the big cinema chains by giving customers a choice of both mainstream film as well as more arthouse offerings. Visitors get the full multiplex experience with multiple screens, cafés, bars and an ice cream parlour. However, its Eye’s commitment to culture (as well as independent cinema it also host live events with musicians, poets, and comedians) that makes Eye the best in the West.

Phoenix Cinema Dingle

This family-run cinema is just another reason to love Dingle; an adult ticket to its nightly evening showing is only €8 while a matinee ticket will set you back €5.50. The 150 seat cinema also has its ‘Art Film’ night on Tuesdays, with tea and biscuits thrown in for good measure. A good option following a day exploring the Wild Atlantic Way or one of the town’s other attractions.

Century Cinemas

Another family run business, Century has been bringing cinema to Letterkenny for over 75 years. It has all the trappings of a multiplex with eight screens, stadium seating, and 3D movies. However, it also broadcasts live theatre and dance productions. In 2013 it opened its very own ice skating rink, Century Ice, so there’s no shortage of things to do in this enterprising venue.


Home of the Irish Film Institute, Temple Bar’s IFI is the go-to cinema for Dublin film buffs who want to get their fix of the latest in cutting-edge movie making. Its Georgian building gives visitors a cosy cinema-going experience, while its bar and café give people a place to hang out before sampling what’s on offer on the big screen.

Movie Junction

Cork’s Movie Junction is Ireland’s only dedicated drive in cinema, open seven nights a week. Visitors pick up snacks at the drive-thru kiosk, pull up in the parking bay, tune into the Movie Junction FM frequency on the car radio, then sit back and enjoy the latest blockbuster. Pizzas and chips can be ordered and delivered to your car door, and canopies keep your windscreen clear when it rains. A little slice of American culture in County Cork.

READ: The film sector is big business. If you want to open a cinema find the right finance.

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Five ‘quirky’ Irish business ideas

From the most haunted house in Ireland to ‘glamping’ in airplanes, here are five quirky ideas that became real businesses. 

Eva Milka

A business woman in Carlow is breeding snails and selling them abroad. 

Who knew there was a gap in the market for snails in Ireland? Eva Milka found them difficult to find when she moved to Ireland and decided to start breeding them for her own consumption. However, when she heard there was a shortage of escargot globally, she realised Ireland’s rain-soaked soil was perfect for mass snail production. She discovered early on that the traditional French method of snail breeding doesn’t work in the Irish climate, so she developed a unique ‘Irish method’ of breeding on her one acre Carlow farm. While domestic demand is modest, food connoisseurs on mainland Europe have been clamouring to try Milka’s Gaelic snails.  

boeing 767

A funeral director in Sligo has sailed a Boeing jet across the sea and wants you to camp in it.

If you’re interested in camping along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, but you don’t fancy messing around with a tent, there’s a funeral director in Sligo who’ll put you up in a disused taxi, a boat, a train carriage, a double decker bus or a Boeing 767. David McGowan’s ‘Quirky Camping Village’ received national attention ever since it came to light that he’d purchased the Boeing 767 from Shannon airport and was transporting the jet to the campsite by boat. The Boeing came safely ashore in May, 2016

spy bus dublin

A Mum in Balbriggan has bought a Dublin Bus and is using it to train children to become spies. 

Lifelong James Bond and Sherlock Holmes fanatic Olive Gilsenan almost gave up on her dream of opening a spy training camp for kids when she struggled to find cost-effective premises for her activities. Then in 2015, the Dublin mum discovered that Dublin Bus was selling out-of-service buses. The idea for Spy Bus was born. Available for both parties and summer camps, Spy Bus promises activities like target shooting and code breaking for kids and forensics and ballistics classes for teenagers.  

loftus hall haunted house

There’s a haunted mansion in Wexford that’s been transformed into a tourist hotspot. 

Located on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, Loftus Hall is a 22 bedroom mansion that’s supposedly haunted by the Devil and the ghost of the young woman he tormented there. English planters the Loftus family took over the estate in 1666, and the story goes that the devil came to pay the house a visit during a storm and caused a bit of a stir. The 60-acre estate has changed hands numerous times since (Bono was rumoured to be the owner at one point), before being purchased by Aidan Quigley in 2011. It’s now a tourist attraction, offering interactive guided tours of ‘the most haunted house in Ireland’. 

Men in spandex are pummelling each other with steel chairs before bloodthirsty, paying audiences.  

Professional wrestlers Leonard Hanna and Joey Cabray struck gold when they realised there was an appetite for an adults-only, edgier brand of wrestling. They ran their first event, Over the Top Wrestling, in the Tivoli theatre in 2014 and have quickly developed a cult following in Dublin. The monthly events are sell-outs, with people flocking to check out the over the top, often violent brawls on display. 


***COMPETITION: Win a brand new iPad Air 2.***


READ: I have a great business idea but I need to raise money. How do I do it?

Article by Peter Flanagan. Images from;; Eva Milka; and Philip Lange /

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Sensitivity analysis template

A Sensitivity Analysis Template allows you to show the impact of particular changes in your business plan.

For example, if your sales are higher than previously forecast, this can be reflected in the sensitivity analysis several times. The template will automatically modify your gross and net profits for each of those occasions, along with other applicable areas.

To give a detailed analysis, the template also covers:

  • Sales
  • Cost of sales
  • Wages and salaries
  • Sales and marketing
  • Administration expenses
  • Operating expenses
  • Depreciation
  • Operating income
  • Interest on loans

This simple template is a fantastic resource for businesses, and should be used in conjunction with the Business Plan Guide.

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Protect your intellectual property

Your business idea is often the best thing you have. Here’s how to protect your intellectual property.

Intellectual property (IP) rights are a crucial part of business planning, as they are the only form of protection business owners have for product invention and innovation. Simply put, they are the legal tools that protect your investment in product innovation, and stop others from exploiting that without your permission.

Business owners must protect their own IP, and ensure they don’t infringe on the IP of others. To do this, a plan must be put in place. There are three main areas of a business that can, and should, be protected.

Brand name and logo

The only way you can fully protect your brand name and logo is by registering them as registered trademarks. Just because you have registered a business name with the Companies Registration Office (CRO), for example, doesn’t mean that it can’t be duplicated by someone else.

A trademark is any distinctive sign that can distinguish the goods or services of one trader from those of another and which can be represented graphically, such as Coca-Cola. Trademark registration is similar to registration of title in property. Once it is registered, it cannot be used by anyone else for similar goods and services without the permission of the trademark holder. The initial application fee is modest, and it generally takes around six months to become registered.

It is important to remember that Irish registration does not protect the trademark abroad. If your business wants to protect its trademark in other EU countries, you can apply for a Community Trademark.

Before registering a trademark, it is important to:

  • Ensure no one else has trademarked your chosen brand name or identity.
  • Ensure your trademark doesn’t closely resemble another, or that there isn’t an application pending for a similar trademark.

See the section on trademarks on the Patents Office website for more information.


A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention that is a process or product that provides a new way of doing something, or offers a new solution to a problem. It confers upon its holder for a limited period the right to exclude others from exploiting the patented invention except with the consent of the patentee.

Patents can be considered to protect the way something works. Remember that a non-patented invention that falls into the public domain is free for all to use, so completing the process, if applicable, is highly important to protect yourself.

There are three criteria necessary to secure a patent. That it is:

  • New
  • Involves an inventive step
  • Capable of industrial application

So, not every product will be patented. But if you believe your invention meets the criteria above, as long as the invention is secret and not known to the public, you can apply for a patent at any time.

However, you should consult with a patent agent so that you don’t apply too early (when the invention is not fully developed) or too late (when someone could have filed a patent for the same invention before you). Be sure to check whether your patent already exists before you file for one.

Patents last for 20 years. However, short-term patents of 10 years are also available in Ireland. Remember, the Patents Office will not help you to develop or market your patent.

Design registration

This covers aesthetic creations such as the contours and shape of a particular product, packaging or label. Design registration protects the way a product looks, and is the only way to get exclusive rights to such aesthetic creations. An example here would be a perfume bottle.

Benefits of an IP strategy

  • Reviewing competitors’ IP can provide competitive intelligence.
  • Reviewing other patents can help you avoid wasting time on products that are already out there.
  • IP research can identify potential collaborators.
  • Businesses that have planned for extensive IP protection can attract investment.
  • A ‘qualifying patent’ could attract tax relief.

IP pitfalls to avoid

  • Not registering trademarks.
  • Assuming registering a company name with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) gives equal protection to that provided by trademarks.
  • Trying to patent a product after it has been launched on the market.
  • Not registering designs.
  • Not planning for IP creation.
  • Not budgeting for registration of IP.
  • Falling foul of another business’s IP rights.

4 Action Points


Create an IP strategy. This is a worthwhile and beneficial process for your business.


Protect your brand name by registering for a trademark. This ensures that no other business or person can use that trademark for similar goods and services without your permission.


If you have invented a product, apply for a patent. This will ensure that you are protected from exploitation by others.


If you have developed an aesthetic element of your product, start the design registration process. This will ensure exclusive rights to the look and feel of what you’re offering.


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Six hidden Irish tourism gems

Here are six inspirational tourist activities in Ireland that are a little ‘off the beaten track’.

Tourism is big business in Ireland. As a sector it will welcome 8.2 million visitors to the country in 2016 and deliver over €4.4 billion to the Irish economy. Here are six gems on the fringes of this vast industry that may inspire anyone thinking of starting a small tourism business in Ireland.

Pure Magic tours

Pure Magic

Where? Dollymount, Dublin

A charismatic water sports company in Dollymount, Pure Magic, has a team of instructors dedicated to all things kite surfing and SUP (stand up paddleboard). It’s known for exceptional customer service. There’s also a Pure Magic Lodge on Achill Island for action-packed getaways.

mor active

Mór Active

Where? Killarney

If you’re searching for a deep insight into Ireland’s natural beauty, culture, and traditions, Mór Active is a good call. It offers tailored activity, culture and eco tours. You can see the wonders of Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, Dingle, and the Wild Atlantic Way through the eyes of an expert. Founded in 2007, Mór Active’s glowing TripAdvisor presence sets an example for other Irish tour operators to follow.

Where? Dublin

Pat Liddy’s Walking Tours of Dublin started in 2005 by local historian, author, artist and cartographer Pat Liddy. It’s by no means a one-man operation, however. The company’s success is also powered by a team of guides, featuring English, German, French and Spanish speakers. As a starting point, book the ‘Highlights & Hidden Corners’ tour, a fascinating stroll from North to South Dublin.

Bike park

Bike Park Ireland

Where? Roscrea, Co Tipperary

With the first trail constructed in 2012, Bike Park Ireland soon became the first official mountain bike park in Ireland to offer a day out for cyclists of all skill sets. There are six downhill trails and the uplift service – an ex-army truck with 30 bus seats and a bike trailer – turns uphill transportation into a real adventure.


Shane’s Howth Hikes

Where? Howth, Dublin

Just half an hour from Dublin city centre by car, Howth village provides a welcome escape from city life. Shane’s Howth Hikes tours are as popular with locals as they are with visitors. Customers can book ‘The Howth Heritage Free Walk’ as a starting point, and if they’re keen to explore more, the ‘Howth Safari’ is an inspiring hike.

Boyne boats 1

Boyne Boats Adventure

Where? Drogheda, Co Louth

One in five tourists visit a destination because they have seen it on a TV show. Boyne Boats’ currachs were used in the filming of Game of Thrones. The Boyne Boats adventures include ‘Paddle like an Iron Islander’ and ‘The King’s Tour’. The tour is an hour of rich local heritage as customers learn to paddle like a true warrior. This is one of Ireland’s real hidden gems.

Do you want to start a tourism business?

Interested in setting up a tour or activity company, or finding tips for your existing one? Here are five tips for finding the right price for your tours and activities.


***COMPETITION: Win a brand new iPad Air 2.***


READ: Thinking of starting a tourism business in your local area? Make sure you get your business plan right and get the money you need.

Article by Lucy Fuggle of TrekkSoft.

Images from TrekkSoft and Shutterstock.


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New cure in sight for injured horses

A biomaterial that repaired damaged knee cartilage in a horse has been developed in Ireland. It could soon be used to repair injuries in people.

A team of researchers in Ireland has developed a novel biomaterial that has repaired damaged knee cartilage in an injured thoroughbred filly, Beyoncé.

The patented multi-layered 3D porous scaffold, called ChondroColl, was developed by a team of researchers from the RCSI Tissue Engineering Research Group and the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) centre led by Professor Fergal O’Brien. 

Beyoncé returned to competitive show jumping following implantation of the new biomaterial.

“We are delighted with the outcomes from both pre-clinical studies and particularly with the results from the Beyoncé case,” says Prof. O’Brien. “Our hope for the future is this technology will benefit human patients. Through our spinout company, SurgaColl Technologies, this is very close to becoming a reality with first human cases anticipated in the coming months.”

“[This] new technology demonstrates our track record of pushing the boundaries of science to discover real solutions for people,” says Prof. Michael Morris, director of AMBER. “As well as improving the lives of thousands of people, this technology could have real applications in the veterinary sector.” 

READ: 10 Irish inventions that changed the world.

Image from Shutterstock.


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