‘Starting a business in Ireland is so much easier’

Luca Micheli moved from his native Rome, Italy, to Dublin to set up a business, Customerly. He has developed iOS apps ever since the App Store opened with his most successful app receiving 6.5 million downloads. This is his story.

What is Customerly?
Three years ago, some friends and I started building what Customerly is today. It is an all-in-one platform with a simple goal – to bridge the gap between you and your customers. 
“In Italy, everything is more complex. Here in Ireland, everything is easier.”
What need are you meeting?
Previously, we had to use at least three different tools to run automated marketing campaigns, to help customers online and to run surveys. Those days are over. Customerly users are experiencing huge benefits with the help desk perfectly integrated with their own database and CRM.
With our product you can:

Acquire more leads
Support your users and visitors
Nurture them with automation triggered by their data and behaviour
Collect their feedback
Run surveys

The good news is that you can achieve all of this without importing and exporting data through different services. There are two kinds of people: those who struggle by using three different tools to support, collect feedback and automate their businesses and those who want to keep things simple and in just one place. This is the value that makes Customerly so powerful and unique.
“The good news is that you can achieve all of this without importing and exporting data through different services.”
Was it difficult to set up a business in a new country?
No, not at all. In Italy, everything is more complex. Here in Ireland, everything is easier. I can still remember the first call with my Irish accountant, I was just so astonished by how easy things are here. This is one of the reasons why we chose Ireland to set up our business. Bank

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/starting-a-business-in-ireland-is-so-much-easier/ on thinkbusiness

One of Ireland’s best cycling holidays

Having moved to Australia to work in financial services, chartered accountant John Kennedy decided he wanted to try something different when he returned to Ireland. Here’s the story of West Ireland Cycling.


Why did you start West Ireland Cycling?

I started West Ireland Cycling in July 2016. My wife’s uncle and his uncle before him had run cycling businesses in Galway since the 1960s. My mother grew up on Eyre’s Square and so I spent a lot of my childhood in Galway City and always wanted to live here.

Spending time away from Ireland helped us appreciate just how lucky we are to have grown up here. Ireland is full of amazing, unspoilt scenery. The people are extremely friendly, we have an ancient history dating back thousands of years and evidence of this history is carved into a breathtakingly beautiful landscape.

Shortly after we returned home to Ireland my wife’s uncle, unfortunately, passed away and his cycling business closed down. We saw a chance to re-open the business, take it in a new direction and share our passion for Ireland and cycling so we moved to Galway, opened a new shop and the rest is history. It has been a huge learning curve but we knew we made the right decision.

“A shared experience outside the normal corporate environment has a big impact on team building.”

How successful has it been to date?

It has been great. We have been growing each year and the feedback from our customers is really rewarding. We rely heavily on word-of-mouth and TripAdvisor and these have been going really well for us. We received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Winner 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The fastest growing part of the business is short-term, customised, activity based breaks for corporate clients. We have some of the top four accountancy firms and larger banks coming back to us this year which is great to see. They say a shared experience outside the normal corporate environment has a big impact on team building and team morale. Ultimately this makes for stronger relationships within a team, improving communication and increasing efficiency.

The other growing part of the business is our bike shop here in Galway. We offer sales and bike repair service to the local community too and as word spreads, we are seeing more people come through the doors, which is great.

“We tailor the holiday to the customer’s need and add in a few surprises we think they might like as well.”

What is your USP?

I grew up in Mayo and love the outdoors. I love anything to do with history, cycling, running and swimming in general. I love sharing this passion with as many people as possible. A lot of our competitors are internet-based businesses offering the same all-inclusive holiday experiences as West Ireland Cycling but are not based here. They don’t live here and I feel that our passion for this part of Ireland really gives us a unique advantage, and the feedback from customers is great. We genuinely feel that Ireland is a great destination for a cycling and activity based holiday. We tailor the holiday to the customer’s need and add in a few surprises we think they might like as well.

What are your plans for the future?

Expansion along the coast and developing some overseas markets particularly across the Atlantic are the long term goals. In the short-term, we are concentrating of promoting our cycling tours in the quieter times of the season. The best time to cycle around Ireland is September and October. The weather is usually nice, the evenings are still long and the best cycling areas are quieter than they would otherwise be midsummer.

What inspired you to start a business?

My main motivation is my family. We have two young kids and a third on the way so I want to be able to spend time with my kids as they grow up, live in the west of Ireland close to family and friends and work at something that I enjoy every day.

“I feel that our passion for this part of Ireland really gives us a unique advantage.”

The west has a strong tourism sector, do you see other attractions as competition?

No, I wouldn’t see other attractions in the west as competition. On the contrary, I see these as complementary to the service we offer and a busy tourism sector means there is a healthy market which is all good for us. Ultimately, Ireland is competing with the rest of the world for tourism. We have a lot of excellent attractions and also the potential for a lot more. Learning to develop and harness these attractions in a way that benefits the people who live here is the main challenge as I see it, whether that be through tourism or any other way.

Did the growing popularity of cycling in Ireland play a key role in setting up the business?

Sure, the growing popularity of cycling helped us be more confident in our decision to take this on. No doubt about that. I think cycling becoming more popular in Ireland reflects a broader trend of people moving away from spending their money on material things and opting instead for an enjoyable and memorable experience. Whether that be in the mode of transport to get to work, a holiday or as a hobby. It is more rewarding, in my opinion, to move across the land under your own steam, by bike, for example than face the alternative journey by bus or car. Attitudes are changing in Ireland and the growing popularity in cycling is one small part of that.

What has been the biggest help to your business?

I cannot overstate how important the Workbench in Galway was in getting our business off the ground and I know a half-dozen family-runly run startups who feel the same way. It creates jobs. It helps turn ideas into viable businesses. It is great to see such forward-thinking from the management at Bank of Ireland and I really believe they are on to a long-term winner with this one.

Related Resource

    Cycling outdoors is one of the best forms of fitness, but check out these very good alternative methods you can use 

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/best-holiday-cycle-in-ireland/ on

Diary of a student entrepreneur, Vol. 2

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. Here are their second diary entries. 

Lizzy Hayashida, Change Donations
In September 2018, I landed in Dublin to start my MBA at Trinity, and before I knew it, I was boarding a bus to Belmullet with the other 48 students in my cohort.
Day one was about meeting the class of 2018 and learning a bit about Irish history. On day two we were assigned the teams we would be working in for the remainder of the year. It was in this first team assignment that Willie, Amelia and I first met.
We’ve come a long way from the day we first met fresh off the bus in Belmullet. Since then we have gone from having a vision (to digitise the donation process), to creating our company, Change Donations. We have (almost) completed our MBAs and we have been working on the LaunchBox, Trinity’s student accelerator, since early June.
“The best advice we’ve received to date has been the importance of refining our story until we could quickly and easily explain our vision to anyone.”
LaunchBox has been an excellent way for us to really focus on building Change. Probably the most significant benefit from the programme and the best advice we’ve received to date has been the importance of refining our story until we could quickly and easily explain our vision to anyone who was interested (and some who weren’t). The plethora of speakers and mentors that we have had access to has been invaluable, helping us refine our story and ensuring that we stay focused on the core business first.
We still have a lot of work ahead of us, which we have broken down into two-week sprints. Over the

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/diary-of-a-student-entrepreneur-vol-2/ on thinkbusiness

CitySwifter signs major UK deal

The Irish data analytics firm CitySwifter has announced a significant partnership with Reading Buses in the UK.
The Reading Buses chief executive officer, Martijn Gilbert, has described the deal as “groundbreaking”.
CitySwifter specialises in helping local bus networks run more efficiently through the use of predictive analytics and big data.
“We’re moving into a new world where the public transport profession is starting to understand the power of its data,” says Gilbert (pictured left).
“The work of CitySwifter is right at the heart of this and is, in my opinion, one of the first credible signs of us being able to do something that will truly help revolutionise bus networks in a digital world.”
The rise of CitySwifter
CitySwifter is a data analytics business on the move. Last year it won a place on the prestigious Intelligent Mobility (IM) accelerator, a partnership between Transport Systems Catapult and Wayra UK. 
As a startup, it was one of the teams selected for Bank of Ireland’s second incubator programme in the Innovation Lab in Galway. The firm has also been chosen to join Bank of Ireland’s New York Innovation Lab programme for 2018.
Making public transport better
Explaining how CitySwifter helps public transport buses run better, CEO, Brian O’Rourke (pictured right) says, “Bus scheduling is an art, but now for the first time, we can combine schedulers’ expert knowledge with advancements in data science and technology.”
O’Rourke says it is now time for public transport vehicles like city buses to take full advantage of the power of data analytics. “This partnership with Reading Buses is a big step toward empowering traditional buses to thrive in a data-driven world.”
For more about CitySwifter go here.
For more about Bank of Ireland’s Innovation Lab in New York, read this.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/cityswifter-expands-in-the-uk-with-major-deal-in-reading/ on

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