The best young inventors in Ireland

The CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards show that Irish children are amongst the best in the world when it comes to dreaming big and inventing brilliant things.
A Rubik’s Cube-solving robot built by 11-year-old Katie Reilly was one of the top winners at the CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards, 2016. 
Over 10,000 people attended the event to watch in awe as children of all ages demonstrated their inventions and their coding skills. 
A sample of the projects includes witness flood warning systems, robotic dog feeding apps, and mobile phones that don’t require a network 
These were just some of the great inventions revealed by 800 young innovators aged between 5-17.
Genius in action 
Katie Reilly (pictured above) built and programmed a Lego robot that completes the Rubik’s Cube automatically. She also developed the Rubik’s Mania website, a platform devoted to the coloured cube.
Katie, from Kimmage, has been coding for three years and programmed her site in HTML 
“I wanted to create a site that detailed the full history and different types of the cube, along with instructional videos on how to solve the puzzle.
“I built the robot from Lego and coded it in Lego’s Mindstories language,” said the schoolgirl from Bishop Galvin, Templeogue.
A low-cost phone for developing countries 
12-year-old Jasper Brezina Coniffe from Dublin’s Warehouse Dojo was a winner in the Future Makers category with Everyfone, a low-cost phone for developing countries that does not require a network.
Not to be outdone, Jasper’s brother Harvey (14) took the Innovator’s Special Prize for his invention – a website that allows kids in CoderDojo to get a website up and running in minutes.
Flooding with ideas
A flood gauge warning system invented by 11-year-old Shay Fahy from Athenry designed to alert whole communities and surrounding areas by email or tweet when flooding is imminent was a winner in the Best Hardware category.
The next generation

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Roasting coffee in the Burren

After two decades working for British Airways in the UK, Brian O’Briain (left) studied coffee roasting in Copenhagen and returned to Ireland in 2012 with partner Alan Coleman to set up Anam Coffee, a speciality coffee roasting and wholesale business, located in the Burren, Co. Clare. 
What is your business’s elevator pitch?
Small batch, high quality. We source seasonal, fresh coffee, harvested in the last six months. We’re on a mission to showcase the fact that coffee doesn’t have to taste the same, to show the fruitiness of an Ethiopian coffee or the nuttiness of a Colombian. Like wine, it’s all about the terroir.
What do you regard as your business’s greatest achievement?
The fact that we are still going! 24 months ago this was still a concept. Six months ago it was a feasibility study. Now we are selling directly to consumers online and wholesale clients.
What was the lowest moment?
We had to dig deep during the pre-launch phase financially. It wasn’t a ‘low’ so much as a constant challenge because the initial spending on equipment is massive. Having given up a big, permanent and pensionable job to do this, it was hard but so worth it.
How do you cope with stress?
I surround myself with positive people. I’ve also found a mentor in local entrepreneur Brigitte Curtin (founder of the Burren Smokehouse) who has been a tremendous help to me. We live in a beautiful place, so that helps too. And we have a lovely Lurcher dog we rescued locally, so I take her out for long walks in the evening, and that helps clear my mind.
What motivates you?
In my 30s, I’d have rated success in financial terms, but not anymore. Now it’s more about achieving a quality of life. You can’t live in a place as beautiful as this and expect someone to

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Popertee – the Airbnb of pop-ups

Lucinda Kelly’s company Popertee was started in November 2015. Its aim is to “change how people think of pop-ups” and connect big brands with interesting physical spaces.

Having spent over four years working with Paddy Power, Lucinda Kelly took the leap into entrepreneurship with Popertee, a company that aims to re-invent the pop-up shop for brands and consumers. 

Watching in admiration as Airbnb spread across the globe, Kelly was determined to see what other opportunities lay in the shared economy. 
“My dad’s background is in retail (FX Kelly’s on Grafton Street) and commercial property, so I’m familiar with both sectors. The idea for Popertee was inspired by Airbnb, but has developed since we started validating the concept in the market. We connect marketing agencies and brands with vacant retail spaces and properties.”
Not one but three accelerators
In what was a probably a first in Ireland, Popertee and Kelly were accepted onto three of Ireland’s most high-profile accelerators, including the prestigious NDRC Launchpad.
“It was hectic, a very busy period for us, but it proved invaluable,” says Kelly. “NDRC, in particular, was very useful; it pushed us to validate our product in the market before we put any money into development.”

Popertee is already working with some big brand names on innovative projects. “We work with marketing agencies and their brands and give them access to high footfall spaces in unique locations. For example, we recently worked with the beer brand Peroni and Dame Lane on The House of Peroni project.” (Pictured left and above).
Kelly says Ireland is the test bed to further develop Popertee’s business model.
“Out ambition is to go international and we are already in talks with agencies and brands in the UK. The US is also a big target market for us; they do things on a different scale over there and it’s where we want

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From kitchen table to building an empire

The national Women’s Inspire Network event will take place on October 5, 2016 in Dublin. The title of this year’s event is ‘From kitchen table to building an empire’.

The orgainser of ‘From kitchen table to building an empire’, Samatha Kelly, says women are coming together in more and more numbers to support each other in business and in life.

“Women are great communicators and they understand the value of building relationships online and then taking them into an offline setting.”

Kelly, who has created online social communities like the #irishbizparty for SME owners, also started the thriving #womensinspire hashtag which takes place every Tuesday night on Twitter. The #womensinspire network also has over 3,000 members on Facebook and there are regular meet-ups.

The ‘From kitchen table to building an empire’ event aims to bring influential women and those who need business support and advice together in a meaningful way. As well as many influential speakers, there will be practical workshops.

“This event is about support, advice and networking, but it’s also about business,” says Kelly. “In business, most successful people assist others and mentor people as they develop. People buy from people so this basic nurturing instinct that women have can also increase sales for companies.”

More event details.

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‘It’s how you prepare for threats that counts’

Trinity College Dublin runs a programme for SME owners and managers who want to grow their export markets. 
The Trinity International Growth Programme, which was designed by the university’s business school, features classes, case study sessions, seminars, guest talks, workshops and a mentored project.
SMEs with export potential can apply. The course is open to companies – with a turnover greater than €500,000 and up to €25 million, with 10 to 50 employees – that are developing new products or entering new markets.

Professor Michael Flynn, director of the programme, says the first programme is now complete, and interested SME owners can apply for the next one, starting in 2017.
“The first programme was a great success,” says Prof. Flynn. “It was very focused and allowed participants to step back and see what was going on in their businesses.
“There’s an old saying – ‘Business owners are often too busy working in their businesses and don’t spend enough time working on their business’. This programme focuses on helping business owners develop concrete strategies for growth.”
“Always remember, a threat can also be an opportunity”
What are the typical difficulties Irish companies face when they start exporting?
“The challenges are often in the approach. What this programme offers SME owners is the chance to step back from the business and re-calculate – it’s time for them to look at what they do in a more strategic and analytical way. It’s also a very hands-on course, where business performance coaches will spend time with the owners at their place of work. The programme runs for six days over a period of three months.”
The Brexit threat
What does Prof. Flynn think will happen to Irish exports should Britain vote to leave the EU? 
“No one knows exactly what will happen and what the situation will be. Most leading economists believe the short to medium

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How to increase your sales

To maximise sales, every business owner needs an effective, realistic sales process. Here’s how to get one.

Examine your existing sales strategy

Are you selling in the right way? Are you selling to the right customers? If you haven’t already done so, write a sales strategy and examine its results after a six-month period. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and build on them. This will help you to meet your objectives, decide how to best reach target customers, and track effectiveness.

Increase business from existing customers

The oft-quoted Pareto Principle states that 20% of your customers deliver 80% of your revenue. Tap into that rich resource by offering loyalty discounts and deals, and be sure to market any other products or services you have to them. Just because they buy from you doesn’t mean they know about everything you sell. Remember, they are already on your side, so make that loyalty a two-way street.

Make sure your prices are right

If your prices are too steep, you will turn off potential customers and if they’re too low, customers and potential customers will assume you are selling an inferior product. Conduct market research to ensure you’re selling at the right prices.

Forecast your sales accurately

Set yourself a realistic sales goal at the start of every month, year or accounting period, depending on your business, and aim to meet targets to realise that goal. These targets don’t always have to be financial (for example, you could set yourself a target of calling a certain number of potential customers every month), but they should all add up to meet your goal. Compare your forecasted sales with actual sales using the Sales Tracker Template, and revise expectations afterwards.

sales planning

Up-sell and cross-sell

If your business is customer-facing, try to entice customers to either buy another one of your products or services (cross-selling) or to buy a more expensive product or service (up-selling). You can achieve this by offering deals, discounts and loyalty rewards, sometimes even directly after the customer has bought a product. A good example of this is an airline offering hotel deals after you book your ticket.

Get an agent or another third party to help

This may not be appropriate for every business owner, but agents can act effectively on your behalf to negotiate legally binding sales of your products or services.

Sell new products or services

You need to keep your offering fresh if you’re to consistently attract customers. Business is all about evolution, and without it you will never thrive. Look at what you could do differently, and make the change.

Make customers your top priority

It may sound obvious, but the customer always comes first. Ensure your customer service is outstanding, all the time. Train your staff and offer after-sales support for customers, as well as recurring deals and offers. This will encourage word-of-mouth recommendations.

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Three Irish firms on starting and growing

Three Irish firms chart their journey from the early stages to the moments they realised their businesses had become successful.

Starting a new business is exciting, but alarmingly very few companies manage to survive the first three years. 

ThinkBusiness spoke to three firms from Cork and Kerry that started small but managed to scale. 

Supports for new businesses

Loughbeg Farm began selling homemade jams, chutneys, and ice cream at farmers’ markets before starting to make gluten free bread in 2014. Within a year, it was selling its gluten-free bread and tea bracks in over 100 SuperValus across Ireland, and subsequently appeared on RTÉs Dragon’s Den where it secured investments from Alison Cowzer and Eamon Quinn. 

Company founder Walter Ryan-Purcell had previously worked in the industrial composting and renewable energy industries before finding himself unemployed. “There is so much help available to start-ups in Ireland,” he says. “I was able to get on the Back to Work Scheme, which allows you to keep your unemployment benefit while you are getting yourself off the ground, as well as grant aid for yourself and your employees.

“SuperValu’s Food Academy programme was also an incredible leg-up. Not only did we get excellent tuition from the retail experts, but it was wonderful to meet up with like-minded entrepreneurs.”

Overcoming challenges

Cork’s INTEGREAT was founded by Gerry O’Connor in 2011, providing joinery design and interior fit-outs to high-end contractors and designers. Having worked in the UK for eight years, Gerry went to work as a production manager in his native Cork with a joinery manufacturer, before the economic downturn cost him his job. Like Walter at Loughbeg Farm, Gerry decided to turn his unemployment into an opportunity to start a business.  

Today his client list boasts some powerful UK brands including Selfridges and Sheraton Park Lane. However, it hasn’t always been easy for the budding entrepreneur. “Our business is service based and operating remotely, and we found the lack of adequate broadband to be a real threat to our success,” he explains. 

“Following two frustrating years of slow speed broadband, a new provider to our area improved the service to a manageable level. Faster speed broadband is essential to our future development.”

Sub-standard IT infrastructure wasn’t the only barrier for the start-up, however; the economic climate at the time also presented challenges. “The decimation of the construction industry and the economic recession created its challenges. Potential clients were scarce. We had no marketing experience and often found it difficult to get our message across.”

Knowing you’ve made it

The transition from being a start-up to a successful business is a gradual process, but Gerry can pinpoint one moment in particular that was significant for INTEGREAT. “The key moment for us was in September 2013 when we were asked to head up the contractor’s design team on a high-end retail fit-out on Regent’s Street in London. It involved more time spent in the UK but had the added benefit of our brand being more visible and spreading our network of contacts. It resulted in more business.” 

For Walter and Loughbeg Farm, the critical moment for his company came with a deal from SuperValu. “We suddenly went from supplying a handful of shops to providing every SuperValu in Cork and Kerry. Our turnover grew to over €5,000 per week. It all happened very quickly.”

Steady growth 

For the founders of Cahersiveen’s K&T Bakery, there was no single crucial moment in the story of their business, but rather a constant trend of growth. 

Owners Katarzyna and Tomasz Gwis emigrated from Poland to Ireland in 2006 and worked a variety of jobs until they found themselves out of work in 2014. 

The couple had come from a rich tradition of bakery in Poland, and with time on their hands, they decided to start selling bread and cakes at car boot sales and country markets. 

Sales were so good that they decided to open the K&T Bakery in Cahirsiveen and subsequently opened a restaurant and café in the town. “It’s hard to specify a particular moment when we realised the business had become a success,” says Katie, the former childcare assistant who now employs 15 people. “It was just a gradual process where we started to get a steady group of customers and were supplying our goods to shops in surrounding towns and villages. We just found ourselves getting busier and busier, and customers were coming back for more.”

What’s next?

The three businesses say they will stay focused on what opportunities come next. 

For Loughbeg Farms, the future holds more sales and potential exports. “We plan to continue to build up sales steadily in all SuperValus here in Ireland and very shortly we intend to slice and freeze our bread for sale in the UK and elsewhere.” 

For INTEGREAT, Gerry will keep his eye on new technology and how it can help grow his business. “3D modelling for drawings is something we are still skirting around the edges with. However, if we apply ourselves to build up the necessary skills, it would be an asset to how we produce drawings and allow us to offer this service for special projects at a premium rate.”

Finally for the K&T Bakery, Katie too hopes she can take her products to a wider market. “For now, we would like to stabilise the café and spread our delivery route wider,” she says. “We are taking each day as it comes.”

The three companies featured are 2016 regional winners of The Irish Local Development Network Enterprise Awards. Pictured above are: Katarzyna Gwis of K & T Bakery, (Kerry); Walter Ryan-Purcell of LoughBeg Farm (West Cork);and Gerry O’Connor of Intergreat (East Cork).

Article by Peter Flanagan.

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Tax back when transferring a property

The business advice clinic, in association with PKF O’Connor, Leddy & Holmes. In this session, Catherine McGovern, tax director, talks about what happens when you transfer a residential property to one of your children.


Catherine McGovern PDKI am considering transferring a residential property to my child to be used as their principal private residence, is there any tax relief available?

Where a residential property is transferred by gift or inheritance to a child, such a transfer would ordinarily be a Capital Acquisitions Tax event. This may result in a Capital Acquisitions Tax liability or the utilisation of the child’s Capital Acquisitions Tax-free threshold (currently €280,000 on transfers from a parent to a child).

Provided certain conditions are satisfied, the transfer of residential property to be used as the child’s principal private residence may be exempt from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

For detailed information it is best to seek legal advice.

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Help, I have a crazy business idea

Your business idea may seem slightly off-the-wall. However, if it solves a problem for potentially millions of people, it could be a winner. Here are five ideas that beat the odds and became money-makers. 

Coming up with an idea for a new product isn’t easy. However, these five people turned simple yet crazy concepts into soaring businesses.


The Trunki

Entrepreneur Rob Law first showcased the idea of a kid’s ride-on-suitcase in 2006 on the UK Dragon’s Den. However, it didn’t appeal to the judges. His idea was simple – a travel suitcase for kids. The Trunki comes in playful colours and characters. It also holds a pillow and blanket for children while travelling. Today the company, Magmatic, is in its 10th year and was valued at £13m in 2013.

aqua notes

A waterproof shower notepad

AquaNotes is a waterproof notepad that allows you to record your great ideas while in the shower. It’s so durable you can even write on it underwater. It’s a simple concept as many of us get our best ideas while in the shower.

Waterproof inflatable sofa

While an inflatable sofa seems like a basic idea, Dutch company LamZac took it to a whole new level. Its sofa uses new air technology that allows it to retract into a tiny package, making it ideal for carrying to festivals or while travelling light. The sofa, which doesn’t need to be blown up, is floatable so it can be also used in pools.



Dog Goggles – the first and only eye protection designed and created just for dogs. Crazy? Last year, sales were at $3 million, according to CNBC. Roni Di Lullo is the woman behind the doggy fashion empire and also sells backpacks, jackets, toys, and jewellery for dogs. Not so crazy after all.


translating ear buds

An ear piece that translates foreign languages in real time

It’s a genius idea that shows how fast technology is moving. The New York City-based start-up Waverly Labs is about to release what it says is the world’s first ‘smart’ earpiece that translates conversations between users speaking different languages. The earpiece will work without Wi-Fi and will allow people (speaking different languages) to communicate with each other. While the company is still in its pilot stage, there’s no doubt it will be hugely successful if the product works. 

READ: I have an idea, how do I start a business?

Article by Catherine Devine. Images from Shutterstock, Waverly Labs, AquaNotes and Trunki.

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Rachel Allen’s desert island foods

Travelling West to Gort, Co. Galway, ThinkBusiness spoke to local food and drink business owners and caught up with Rachel Allen to chat about Irish food trends.

ThinkBusiness went west recently to an Enterprise Town event to see what the business people of Gort were doing.

Here we found an eclectic mix of small businesses, all with one thing in mind – growing their firms in a sustainable way.

We met Colin Rogers, owner of One Stop Printing; the great Clare Colohan of the Galway Food Company; Aidan Murphy from Galway Hooker beers; and the passionate restaurant owner Fanya O’Donoghue from Sasta Restaurant. 

ThinkBusiness also caught up with celebrity cook and author Rachel Allen. We asked her about the latest Irish food trends, what it takes to start a food business, and what Irish foods she simply couldn’t live without. 

Main image, press still from GustoTV’s ‘Rachel Allen’s All Things Sweet’.


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