What makes a great leader?

What does it take to be a great leader in a massive organisation? Phuong Tran, deputy CEO  of THP Beverage Group, gives us her thoughts. 

Global business woman Phuong Tran travelled to Ireland in October to launch Talent Garden, Dublin’s Innovation School.

She is the deputy CEO of THP Beverage Group and in 2012 she was offered $2.6 billion by Coca-Cola to sell her family-run company, but Tran and her father declined their offer and have since grown the business in more than 16 counties including China, Australia and Canada.

Phoung Tran spoke with ThinkBusiness about what it takes to be a great leader in a successful organisation.

“True leadership means taking responsibility for failure as well as success. The two go hand in hand. Only when someone accepts there is no one else to blame, then and only then can he or she develop a plan to succeed.”

“Instead of asking, ‘Who did this to me?’ the question should be reframed as, ‘What did I do wrong?’ This becomes the far more constructive self-help. As the saying goes, “It never gets easier, you get better. It is a difficult truth”, says Ms Tran.”

“But taking ownership means accepting that you are the source of the problem. You are the only thing you can change or control. So, if there is a difficulty, own it. Never blame anyone else. Have confidence that by changing yourself, you can change the environment, too. Leaders who do this are far more likely to inspire the kind of loyalty and trust that makes companies succeed.”

Phuong Tran’s father is also an advocate for John Maxwell’s five levels of leadership. “He is a big believer in level three: people not only follow someone because they want to, but also because of their track record. This is when companies really start to produce results,” says Ms Tran.

“At THP, we try to empower all team members to act as if they are the owners of the enterprise, as well: to take responsibility for their successes and mistakes; to stay authentic and retain their integrity. If they stay true to what they believe and are open about what is working or not working, then they can successfully address problems, drive results, and improve performance,” added Ms Tran.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/what-makes-a-great-leader-phuong-tran-thp/ on

How much do you know about franchising in Ireland?

Did you know over 150 different franchise systems are currently operating in Ireland? Have you ever thought of buying a franchise? 

Given the popularity of food franchises in Ireland, what percentage of the franchise systems operating in Ireland are food franchises?

Surprisingly only 41% of active franchise systems operating in Ireland are food related. The franchise model extends into other sectors such as children’s STEM education, personal health wellbeing and fitness, B2B support services; cleaning services, pet services, landscaping services, and so on. The list is endless, so if food service franchises don’t interest you, there are plenty of successful franchise models available for you to choose from.

“Research indicates that over 90% of franchisees continue in business after five years.”

Does buying a franchise guarantee your success?

Buying a franchise does not guarantee you commercial success, but it enhances your likelihood of being successful.

Some franchisees may feel that purchasing a franchise removes all the commercial risk. This is not the case. International research indicates that over 90% of franchisees continue in business after five years. This compares very favourably against the very high unrecorded failure rates of stand-alone start-ups.

“44% of the active franchise units operating in Ireland are of Irish origin.”

Does franchising suit everyone?

No. Not everyone is suited to franchising or becoming a franchisee. If you are at the upper extremes of the entrepreneurship scale, you may struggle to work within the confines of a franchise framework, where you are legally obliged to work, through the franchise agreement, in strict adherence to the systems prescribed by the franchisor.

Similarly, if you are totally risk-averse and are genuinely uncomfortable in the world of financial uncertainty then seriously question your suitability to buy into a franchise.

Given the international nature of franchising, what % of active franchise units in Ireland are of Irish origin?

From the most recent survey conducted surprisingly 44% of the active franchise units operating in Ireland are of Irish origin. This means Irish entrepreneurs are really embracing business format franchising as an appropriate growth strategy for their businesses both within Ireland and for expanding internationally.

“The business format franchising sector in Ireland is now worth close to €1 billion.”

How many people are employees in the franchise sector?

There are circa 30,000 people employed in the franchising sector in Ireland. This figure excludes the significant number of people employed in the wholesale/retail sectors under brands such as SuperValu, Costcutter, Quick pick, Daybreak, Gala etc. ) The figure also excludes most of the petrol forecourt formats, albeit those numbers are changing due to the recent emergence of food service franchise offerings being incorporated into some of the forecourt retailers food offerings for their customers.

What is the turnover of the sector in Ireland?

The turnover in the business format franchising sector in Ireland is now close to €1 billion and growing.


If you have an interest in investigating your suitability to buy into a franchise model or franchise out your business, please contact the Irish Franchise Association on (01) 8134555 or visit www.irishfranchiseassociation.com.

This guide was compiled by David Killeen, chairman of the Irish Franchise Association.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/a-guide-to-franchises-in-ireland/ on

How to grow your business with smart borrowing

Is using your cash reserves to grow your business the best strategy? Most likely not. 

The Irish economy is performing well, and Irish SMEs are in confident mood. However, instead of using smart borrowing to grow their businesses, they are dipping into their cash reserves to expand, which may not be the best strategy.

“It is important that business owners remember to engage in smart borrowing to grow their business while maintaining sufficient cash reserves.”

According to new research into Irish SMEs, conducted by Red C, 78% of Irish SMEs are confident in their ability to borrow – if they need more capital over the next twelve months.

However, just one quarter (23%) say they will borrow in the coming year, as they look to grow.

“The research findings have shed light on current borrowing habits and expectations of SMEs across the country,” says Michael Lauhoff, director of Business Banking, Bank of Ireland. “Interestingly, 60% of SMEs report using personal funds to invest in growth over the past three years. It is important that business owners remember to engage in smart borrowing to grow their business while maintaining sufficient cash reserves.”


VIDEO: Watch this video on how smart borrowing, rather than using your cash reserves, can help your business grow and ensure you don’t run out of cash.


National Enterprise Week

Brexit is a concern for 53% of firms, along with staff recruitment and being able to retain excellent staff, suggests the Red C poll of 450 Irish SMEs which was carried out in August and September 2018.

However, 53% feel positive about the Irish economy in the next twelve months with more than half (58%) expecting turnover to grow. Only only 9% expect their business to decline over the coming year.

Bank of Ireland is inviting business owners to attend the various National Enterprise Week events taking place nationwide starting on October 5. Book your place now. It’s free to attend and open to all businesses. 

“In addition to SMEs gaining insights into financial discipline, achieving growth and greater returns and enabling efficiencies, the events will also examine the potential impact of Brexit and how best to prepare. Events will cover all sectors,” says Lauhoff.

As SMEs across the country look to grow; working capital, new machinery and equipment are the top reasons for borrowing according to the research. 81% of SMEs looking to raise finance, say they would consider Irish banks over the Credit Union or private investors.

70% of firms polled for the research say they would like an easier loan application process from a bank.

If you would like to easily apply for finance and get a result within 48-hours, go here.


This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/grow-your-business-smart-borrowing-national-enterprise-week/ on

Are you ready for the new PAYE system?

The most significant reform of the PAYE system since its introduction in 1960 is underway. Businesses and employers have until the start of 2019 to get their houses in order.

PAYE Modernisation – what’s the main issue, what’s being reformed? In a nutshell, it’s about filing returns to Revenue in real time.

ray rogers surf accounts

Employers will have to calculate and report their employees’ pay and deductions as they are being paid.

“Current practices will have to change,” says Ray Rogers, CEO of Surf Accounts (pictured). “This is especially true if you pay employees net. Revenue now wants to see all tax deductions returned in real time, on the day people are paid.”

As this is a Revenue reform, there will be strict fines for businesses that don’t comply with the new rules.

“Big changes like this rarely run smoothly,” says Rogers. “I’d advise any business to look into this reform and put the necessary fixes in place. There will be a €4,000 fine per employee that hasn’t been returned,” says Rogers.

Revenue expects all businesses to comply with these changes from the minute they come into force on January 1, 2019.

“For small businesses who feel they may have knowledge gaps in the handling of payroll, they have two options,” says Rogers. “The can train their payroll operators if their PAYE knowledge isn’t up-to-date or, they can outsource their payroll to an accountant.”

Goodbye to the P45

Another major part of the reform will be the abolition of all Revenue forms as we know them – namely, the P45, P30, P35, and the P60.

From January 1, 2019, people looking for a mortgage won’t be able to get a p60 to prove their earnings, they’ll just go to the ‘My Account’ portal on the Revenue website and print out what they need.

For full details on the changes to happen, you can download this guide from Surf Accounts.

Related Resource

Revenue is hosting a series of seminars across the country in the run up to the modernisation deadline.

You can find out more and book your place here.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/paye-modernisation-are-you-ready-for-the-new-paye-system/ on

Mastering the ‘art of people’ in a team

“The difference between success and failure is a great team.” – Dave Kerpen.

Ekaterina Voznesenskaia

What is a secret of a great team? A study of 133 teams found that psychological factors such as higher levels of interpersonal sensitivity, emotional stability and curiosity result in a more cohesive and productive work. Do psychological factors, personality, and emotional intelligence predetermine growth and development within the team? What makes a great team?

Teams are more innovative and productive than just a group of people. Today’s teams are far more different compared to ten years ago. In the past teams included relatively homogenous members who worked face-to-face and had a similar mindset. They perceived themselves as a joined cohesive group. In face-to-face teams, nonverbal communication and contextual cues provide a deeper insight into what’s going on.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results. – Andrew Carnegie.”

Digital and diverse

Today’s teams are Digital – diverse, dynamic and dispersed. Lots of them work remotely, and if you imagine a group of different nationalities, age, gender, and race with their values, beliefs, norms and behaviour working on a distance in differing time zones – it makes the whole teamwork process much more complicated. The question arises: ‘How to break down the barriers to cooperation and information exchange, and make a perfect team in the whole complexity of today’s digital environment?’ The answer is building ‘team effect’, making each member feel part of the team even on a distance, feel strong mutual commitment to work, and most important – feel “We’ instead of “I”. This ‘We’, this mutual commitment creates an enormous potential for the team’s interpersonal growth and great motivation for business development. How can this feeling of ‘We’ be achieved?

J. Richard Hackman, a pioneer in the field of organisational behaviour, identified the basics of team effectiveness: a compelling direction, a firm structure, and a supportive context. Every team feel inspired when they have a clear path – a goal. The goal should be explicit, consequential and also challenging. A compelling direction highly benefits the emotional stability of the team, as we usually feel much more motivated working toward a particular goal.

A team can be a mix of different nationalities, age, gender, and race with their values, beliefs, norms and behaviour. Such groups can quickly become disintegrated and even isolated unless they have a mutual goal and a structure of what each of them is responsible for. When there is a clear structure within a team, there is a clear structure inside each member of the team. Support is another condition that contributes to team effectiveness. Supportive context includes sharing reward when your team member succeeds, and, at the same time, letting them know if they fail to perform. Support is about giving only objective feedback. Also, feedback is never negative as we learn from mistakes and achieve higher results in the future.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success – Henry Ford.”

What team Google knows

Google’s recipe for a successful team is “being nice and joining”. Google’s research has found that effective team performance is determined by the team’s average level of emotional intelligence and a high level of communication between the members. Moreover, the broader scientific evidence proves that individual’s personalities play a significant role in team performance. Why? It is an individual’s personality that affects our position within the team, how we interact with the rest of the team, whether our values and beliefs correspond with the team’s. 

Imagine your team with a high level of interpersonal sensitivity, emotional stability and curiosity, a group of inquisitive, cool-headed and altruistic people. Now consider team members who are results-oriented, relationship focused, process and rule followers, innovative and disruptive thinkers and, definitely, pragmatic. It can be not that easy to keep the balance of all these features in a team, and there can be success and failure in some of them. However, it is possible. Also, it’s highly essential to take small steps to gain this balance.

Now, let’s think about emotional intelligence and its substantial impact on a team. First, let us ask ourselves – how emotionally intelligent are we? Also, are we emotionally intelligent? We can be great professionals, successful, experienced managers, fantastic leaders, great leaders. However, are we great on our team, for our team? This is a tricky question. So sometimes it is tough to answer. Let us remember first, what is emotional intelligence.

“Emotional Intelligence is the other kind of smart – Travis Bradberry”

Why EQ is so hot at the moment 

EQ first appeared in 1995, and the decades of research have revealed that emotional intelligence is the critical factor for a star performance. It is something intangible in each of us, that affects how we behave and manage our behaviour, how we tackle social complexities, how we make decisions and achieve results. EQ consists of two main competencies: personal and social. Personal competence is our self-awareness and self-management, while social skill is social awareness and relationship management. When we try to understand other people’s mood, motives and behaviour, we improve the quality of our relationship and manage interactions successfully.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the capacity for recognising our feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.

How much of an impact does emotional intelligence have on your success? The short answer is a lot.

TalentSmart found that “emotional intelligence is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs.” Above all, EQ is not only the most significant predictor of performance in the workplace, but it is also the most reliable driver of leadership and personal excellence.

Travis Bradberry in his profound study found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence, and just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. Let us remember one critical point – we can always develop high emotional intelligence, even if we’re not born with it.

“The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team – Phil Jackson.”

Now we are ready to answer the question ‘What makes a great team?’ The answer is all of us. We make a perfect team. We – a group of inspired and motivated people, united by the mutual goal, having a clear direction where to move and develop, and continually giving support to each other.

We are all great professionals with excellent professional skills. So we are also highly aware of the importance of personality, psychological factors and emotional intelligence within the team. 


This guide was written by Ekaterina Voznesenskaia. (pictured above)

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-to-create-and-manage-a-great-team-at-work/ on

How to handle September stress

September is a stressful month. It’s back to school and back to a hectic pace at work. Here’s how to handle the ‘mayhem’. 

It’s back to school season, and we’re all trying to settle down after the summer distractions. For the kids, it’s a time of new beginnings: new teachers, new schoolbooks and most importantly new pencils. It’s a time to reset and start again.

But for adults, a feeling of panic can set in. The reality that there are only four months left in 2018. And still so much to do. All those objectives we optimistically set in January, all those plans we made.

Where have those nine months gone?

“Build in some slippage because life always throws up some unexpected things.”

Time to reset

Well, September can be a time of new beginnings in work too. It provides us with a chance to review our year so far and prioritise what we can achieve in the remaining months.

You can refocus, replan and reset yourself for a productive end to the year. How great would it feel to achieve essential goals and finish the year on a high?

“Get yourself a four-month calendar and plan out what you can do when.”


First, identify the most important things to achieve. Then ask yourself the following:

1. What do I have to do to complete this work?

2. Can I break my goals into sub-goals?

3. Do I need help or input from anyone else?

Make a plan

To help you plan what needs to be done to break down the goal into smaller sub-goals. Brainstorm each sub-goal to list out the tangible tasks or actions required. Now decide what can be done when.

1. Are some tasks inter-related?

2. Do some jobs depend on the completion of others?

3. Can you identify key milestones, so you can tell that you are on track?

Now get yourself a four-month calendar and plan out what you can do when. You can use Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Excel or merely create a planner yourself on a chart or board.

“It helps to share your plans with a colleague or friend.”

Don’t over plan

Be realistic about how much time you have. You are already busy so where and when can you create “extra” time for these tasks?

Build in some slippage because life always throws up some unexpected things. Be practical. December can’t be treated like a typical month because of all the Christmas activities. Aim to finish your plan mid-December.

Track your progress

Capture the date you complete the work so you can compare your ‘Target Time’ with the ‘Actual Time’.

It helps to share your plans with a colleague or friend. This introduces an element of accountability and motivates you to keep going when your enthusiasm is low.

Find what works for you

Like all our productivity tips at beproductive, we recommend that you modify our suggested approach to find what works best for you. Stretch yourself so you can achieve more.

Have a productive Autumn and let us know how you get on.

moira dunne

Contact us if you would like to arrange a ‘Planning & Prioritisation Workshop’ to help your team excel this Autumn.

Article by Moira Dunne, BeProductive.ie.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/september-how-to-handle-the-stress/ on

‘There are 50 tough days to every great day’

One of the toughest of all startup sectors to crack is the food sector. 

Yvonne Dolan and her son Shane are the founders of Blendi, a product that allows people to make smoothies in seconds and ‘on-the-go’. This is their story.

Sowing the seed 

I have been an entrepreneur since the age of 19. 

I started the first corporate Christmas hamper company Interhamper and ran it for 17 years. I had three other businesses, including one in Croatia.

I returned to Ireland three years ago and went back to college to reskill. My son Shane (now aged 14) would on occasion depend on a Pot Noodle to tie him over until I returned on my late afternoons from college. I began looking into developing a healthier version of Pot Noodles which led me to research the whole space of rehydrated and dried foods.

“Mom if you are making healthy food for kids – they have to love the taste.”

The Eureka moment

It was on a visit to an exhibition in London called ‘Food Matters’ – (a great show for those looking at the health and wellness space) – that Shane discovered this great product of frozen fruit and veg in a single serving pouch. It tasted great. His words to me were ‘Mom if you are making healthy food for kids they have to love the taste.’ I then wondered would dried fruit and veg make a tasty smoothie? That’s how Blendi was born.

Supports to start

Blendi has availed of the Innovation Vouchers and CSF Funding. Innovation Vouchers allow a startup to collaborate with industry or Universities in helping in new product development. CSF is more advanced it would help to find a product in the marketplace.

The recipes

Coming up with the recipes was the hardest part, sorry “is” the hardest part, we are still not there yet. I don’t believe any inventor is ever 100% happy with what they have created. They always want to improve. We are now looking at collaborating with industry and currently seeking a food company to help us develop the flavour balance of the ingredients.

“When it came to the best new food concept for 2018, they gave the prize to Blendi.”

Getting listed in shops

When we started, we wanted just to sell online. However, we needed to build up brand awareness and were forced to look at retail which opens up layers of complexities. Fortunately, after winning various awards, retailers started contacting us which made it easier to manage

Juices on the move

It was six months into the project when we introduced the Blendi Smart (a portable blender) which you can plug into your smartphone and make a Blendi anywhere. This was a game changer not only for us but for the consumer. We are the first company in the world to offer smoothies and juices on the move.

“There are 50 tough days to every really successful day.”

The awards

We were shortlisted at the World Food Innovation Awards in London. We got a call to say Shane and myself were invited to the award ceremony, and when it came to the best new food concept for 2018, they gave the prize to Blendi. To date, we have won two global awards and two Irish awards.

“Get on a plane and visit exhibitions.”

The tough times

I have worked it out that there are 50 tough days to every really successful day (just joking). It is very, very tough, but those promising days are too good not to chase.

My advice to food startups

Get on a plane and visit exhibitions. This gives you an excellent feel for what is trending and also it gives you great ideas about how to grow a food brand.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/blendi-smoothies-yvonne-dolan/ on

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

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

The Mullicháin Café

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

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

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

Where we started 

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

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

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

The Mullicháin Café

Why open a business in St. Mullins?

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

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

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

Minimising risk

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

The Mullicháin Café

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

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

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

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

What’s different about your café?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Mullicháin Café

The next generation

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

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

Written by Brendan Byrne

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

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 

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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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