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,

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‘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.

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‘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

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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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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

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15 Gaelic football entrepreneurs

With the Gaelic football season now in full swing, we take a look at players and former players who took the leap into entrepreneurship.

Shane Curran

Since retiring county football, the Roscommon man has set up flood defence company Global Flood Solutions. The company supplies the rapid response flood defence products such as the Big Bag Flood Defence System for which Curran secured a €2 million export deal.

Enda McNulty

After winning an All-Ireland medal in 2002, Enda established his company Motiv8 in 2005 he then rebranded Motiv8 to McNulty Performance in 2016. Its mission: ‘To inspire, coach and guide individuals and teams to make most of their potential in the sports, business and educational sectors.’ The list of company clients includes Brian O’Driscoll, AIB and Intel.

Kevin Moran

Known for being the only man to win an All-Ireland and an FA cup medal (he won both twice actually, while also being the first player to be sent off in the FA cup too), Kevin Moran was a co-founder of Proactive Sports Management, with clients such as Steve Finnan and John O’Shea. It has since been acquired and rebranded itself as Formation Group PLC and has expanded into the property market.

Philly McMahon

The Ballymun Kickhams man opened his own gym in October 2014. Since then he has gone on to open Fitfood is a healthy meal delivery and fitness company based in Ballymun, Dublin.

Ciaran Lenehan

According to his bio, the former Meath halfback has a first class honours degree in animal science from UCD and completed a research masters in beef cattle nutrition and production systems. He owns and manages a 50-cow suckler to beef herd farm in Skryne, Co Meath. Ciaran also writes for the Irish Farmers Journal.

Donal Vaughan

With his sister Ailish, Donal Vaughan opened Vaughan Shoes in 2006 and went on to acquire an existing footwear retailer, Colleran Footwear. The company has a strong online presence and three stores across Mayo.

Páidí Ó Sé

Amassing an impressive eight All-Ireland medals as a player and a further two as a manager, Páidí originally trained to be a member of An Garda Síochána but went on to open Paidi O’Se’s Pub in Ventry, Co Kerry. Unfortunately, Paidi passed away in December 2012 but the pub is still in operation.

Seán Cavanagh

The three-time All-Ireland winner opened his own accountancy practice in his home village of Moy, Co Tyrone. Sean Cavanagh and Co. assists clients in accounting, audit, tax and advisory.

Darren Hughes

In addition to working on his family’s farm, Darren studied business in Jordanstown, Co Monaghan and following this started a new marketing company D&K Hughes Marketing and branded it as specialising in advertising for local Monaghan companies.

Trevor Giles

Trevor Giles played senior inter-county football with Meath from 1994 to 2005, winning All-Ireland medals in 1996 and 1999. Trevor qualified from UDC with a degree in physiotherapy in 1997 and set up Tara Physiotherapy in his native Tara, Co Meath in 2000.

Paul Galvin

The former teacher enrolled in a fashion buying course in DIT in 2010, where he quickly launched his own website specialising in men’s hair products, before eventually teaming up with Dunnes Stores in 2015 to launch his own ‘Born Mad’ menswear range.

Andy Moran

In an interview Andy once said; “Since I was a young fella, I’ve always had the drive to set up my own business.” He eventually did by setting up – a performance, nutrition and wellness centre in Roscommon.

Michael Murphy

The former Donegal captain who lifted Sam McGuire in 2012 opened his own sporting goods store Michael Murphy Sports and Leisure in Letterkenny. In 2017 Murphy swapped the shop and GAA for Clermont-Ferrand RFC as part of the TV series ‘The Toughest Trade’.

Kevin McManamon

Having graduated from college with a degree in business management and a masters in strategic management in DIT, Kevin went on to co-found his business Fresh Foods Direct in 2009. He finished working there in 2012 and since then he has received another Masters in applied sports and exercise psychology. He has since gone on to create Kev Mc Coaching, a sports psychology consultancy.

Bernard Brogan

Originally qualified as an accountant, Bernard is listed as a director of at least eight companies around Ireland. In the last few years, Bernard has gone into the family business of hotels with himself and his brother Alan purchasing the four-star Pillo Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath in 2016. However, more recently the five-time All-Ireland winning full forward has created his own company a corporate wellbeing company based in Dublin.

Article by Barry Walsh. 

Related Resource

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The Irish man connecting four billion people

Mark Roden is the founder of Ding, an Irish business that connects four billion phones around the world. He spoke to Stephen Conmy about mobile payments and the vast emerging global markets.

Mark Roden is in good form. We meet at MoneyConf, in Dublin’s RDS, an event dedicated to the rise of FinTech (financial technology); banking, mobile payments and the future of global finance.

Roden’s is a familiar story to many in Ireland’s business world. He was a dentistry student who left Trinity early and went to work for Denis O’Brien, helping to start Esat. He was also the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014. 

Today he is the majority shareholder of mobile payments company, Ding.

The Dublin-based Ding allows people – mainly from emerging markets – to send ‘value’ to each other in the form of phone credit.

He founded the company in 2006 and now works with over 400 operators worldwide, delivering top-ups to four billion phones.

ding mark roden

Four billion people

“We deliver the ‘energy’ people need to use their phones,” he says. “This is hugely important in the vastly populated emerging economies. If you are in Ghana and I’m in Dublin, I can transfer five dollars in pre-paid credit to your phone. This brings life to your phone, allowing you to communicate and access the mobile web.”

The vast populations of emerging economies in Africa, India and South America are mobile first. They skipped the desktop age.

“This is where Ding offers real value,” says Roden. “Ding isn’t about a cheaper call it’s about empowering people to access their phones and allows them to use the web on their phones.

“The life for people around the world who are not connected is a grim life. What we do is offer a zero barrier way to enable people to get connected.”

What next for Ding?

Now that Ding has ‘laid the railway lines’ the infrastructure is there to add other services like mobile payments.

“This is where I see us going. Ding can act as a mobile distribution network for cash. Obviously, the global potential of this is enormous.”

Roden built his business without investment but says he is now open to investment with the right strategic partner.

“In the next twelve months or so we will look for the right partner. We need to grow much bigger but we don’t just need money, we need an investment partner that shares our vision and can help us bring it to reality.”

What businesses does Roden admire in the mobile payments space?

“Square’s Cash app, led by Jack Dorsey (the Twitter co-founder), is one I really admire,” he says. “Many of our customers share the same demographics.”


  1. If you are starting a business it is much better to be good at one thing or ‘deep in a vertical’ rather than try to be all things to all men. Don’t be shallow in a wide market.
  2. A business should only diversify when it has achieved critical mass. For us, that was when we started generating our own cash.
  3. If you are seeking investment, make sure your investor shares your strategic vision. You need a partner, not just a cheque.
  4. If your technology can be understood instinctively by anyone in the world, you are in a position to scale. If there are barriers in the way for people to use your service, you are doomed.
  5. The most important lesson Denis O’Brien taught me was to keep going. Never give up and to have great confidence in what you are about to do. If you put in the effort, what appears to be impossible becomes very possible.

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The historical enterprise towns of Ireland.

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Grow your dairy farm by embracing new technology

New technologies represent the greatest opportunity to Irish agriculture as it looks to the future.

The dairy sector in Ireland is a perfect hotbed for innovation, where a combination of the industry’s enormous growth potential must be tempered with the reality of getting the job done in the most efficient way possible.

Yes, we have the land in Ireland, but matching this resource with that of driving levels of production from an expanded dairy herd needs a response that is, very much, technology-driven.

“A desire to invest in robotics may be based on the fact that the farmer wants to spend more time managing the herd rather than physically putting clusters on cows.”

The core decision to either establish a new dairy herd, or expand existing cow numbers, requires farmers to assess the milking technologies that best meet their evolving needs. As a result, we are already seeing a significant increase in the adoption of robotic milking systems on Irish farms. The same can also be said, where rotary platforms are concerned.

But each farm is different. A desire to invest in robotics may be based on the fact that the farmer wants to spend more time managing the herd rather than physically putting clusters on cows.

The rotary platform, on the other hand, may represent the best option when it comes to allowing farmers to increase cow numbers in a situation where it is extremely difficult to secure additional labour.

New technology will play a massive role the Irish dairy sector which is primed for sustained growth over the coming years. Are you ready? 

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Using Blockchain to help Ethiopian coffee farmers

Moyee is the world’s first FairChain coffee brand. Based in Amsterdam, Addis Ababa and now Dublin, the provocative coffee company is on a mission to transform global coffee to a fairer, more transparent industry. Shane Reilly, who brought Moyee to Ireland, talks to ThinkBusiness.


What does Moyee Coffee do that’s different? 

Most of the value-added aspects of Moyee’s coffee production take place in Ethiopia, including roasting, and because Moyee pays coffee farmers 20% above the market price, they have access to the country’s best coffee. The combination of premium coffee and a progressive social and economic agenda is behind the company’s tagline: ‘Radically good coffee with radical impact’. A cult coffee brand established in the Netherlands, Killian Stokes and I brought the FairChain movement to Ireland in late 2016.

“We see our social mission as being central to our business.”

Helping the coffee farmer

By roasting our coffee in Ethiopia, we ensure more of the value of coffee stays in the hands of those who contribute most to coffee production. Coffee production is notoriously complex and involves countless middlemen, each taking a piece of the pie along the way. Coffee farmers are always at the short end of the stick. Currently, only 2% of the added value of every cup of coffee ends up in the pockets of coffee producers.

In a similar way to other campaigning brands like Patagonia, we see our social mission as being central to our business. Customers want to know where their products are coming from and they are starting to see through corporate social responsibility box ticking. Our ultimate aim and brand promise is to create a true 50/50 partnership with coffee-producing countries like Ethiopia.

Why Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is the birthplace of Arabica coffee and grows some of the best coffee in the world. It’s also a symbol of many of the problems with the coffee industry.

Despite being Africa’s biggest coffee exported, Ethiopia makes just shy of €800 million per year. At the same time, it has to rely on nearly €3 billion in development aid from the international community. If Ethiopia exported roasted, branded speciality coffee – like Moyee has started to do – it would triple its income overnight and rapidly reduce its reliance on development aid in coffee-producing regions.

A major point we make, however, is that this trade should be based on quality not charity. This is why when we do a free tasting for a potential office customer, we always start with the flavour and taste of our coffee.

“All Moyee’s coffee will be fully blockchain-traceable from the washing station in Ethiopia to our retail and office customers in Europe.”

How does FairChain work?

Since early November, we have been running a pilot project in Ethiopia with blockchain pioneers bext360 and the FairChain Foundation to prove more than ever that coffee is capable of leading the way to a more honest, fairer society.

We’ve been following the progress of our coffee through the supply chain since November. The first step in the chain was real-time payments to Ethiopian farmers for their coffee cherries. This blockchain project will mean all Moyee’s coffee will be fully blockchain-traceable from the washing station in Ethiopia to our retail and office customers in Europe.

The next phase of this project is really exciting as you have the ability to use tokens to ‘Tip the farmer’ directly from a consumer to a farmer’s digital wallet in Ethiopia. This has the potential to connect customers and producers like never before.

“The average coffee farmer in Ethiopia earns about €480 a year, even with the premiums we pay, and we can start to have a radical impact in coffee-growing regions by increasing this to €1,000 per year.”

What is the USP?

A physical blockchain token – or a scannable code – on a coffee bag or on your take away cup would allow customers to see who their farmer was, what we paid them and how much added value we leave in Ethiopia by roasting there.

This allows a sceptical consumer to see that their coffee is actually fair, from where we said it was and in the top 5% of beans.

The average coffee farmer in Ethiopia earns about €480 per year, even with the premiums we pay, and we can start to have a radical impact in coffee-growing regions by increasing this to €1,000 per year. Being able to offer our customers blockchain tokens to crowdfund towards an infrastructure project or to help farmers upgrade equipment and improve yields is our ultimate aim and an important part of our FairChain principles.

“We’re on a mission to bring speciality coffee into the workplace.”


We’re on a mission to bring speciality coffee into the workplace and that’s our main channel for the company in the next year. We’ve had great success in 2018 with co-working spaces and recently became the coffee partner for both The Tara Building & DogpatchLabs in Dublin. We’ve had good traction with tech companies like Groupon, fellow social enterprise FoodCloud and as well as creative agencies.

With a new eCommerce site about to be launched, we’re also looking to bring on board more subscribers who join our FairChain Coffee Club and get a fresh coffee delivery each month.

Moyee is also launching a ‘One million cups revolution’ in May to show exactly the impact of one million cups of FairChain coffee would have in Ethiopia. We think this campaign will bring on board companies who want to contribute to this impact.

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