‘We have sold over 500,000 fairy doors’

The Irish Fairy Door Company was started four years ago when two married couples, sat around a kitchen table, suddenly had an idea. Co-founder Niamh Sherwin Barry talks to ThinkBusiness about growing a business in the face of adversity.
How did the business come about?
The Irish Fairy Door Company started as a wonderful idea but with absolutely no money to make it happen. Having been hit incredibly hard by the recession, we were all facing imminent emigration. We knew that our idea was good but there was simply no capital to invest. That is when my mother stepped in and gave us €8,500. Apart from really wanting me to stay in the country, she also believed that we had a really great idea and wanted to be part of it. The business was launched on Facebook in August 2013 and we have not looked back since. We have sold over 500,000 Fairy Door products in Ireland and around the world. We have distributors in Australia, the U.K., Mexico and North America.
“In my opinion it’s all about making the emotional connection with your customer.”

How long did it take from having the idea to selling the first fairy door?
The idea is quite simple, but I think that is the charm of it. The original idea was in June 2013 and we sold our first fairy door on August 28, 2013. Very quick really. Just shows what you can do when you really need to make money.
Looking back, would you change anything about setting up the company or bringing the idea to market? 
Not really. But I suppose knowing the difference between an ‘eager amateur’ and an actual expert would have helped along the way. Lots of people contacted us telling us what they could bring to the table. Some were fantastic, while others weren’t so great.
You have a huge social media

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/irish-fairy-door-company/ on

Thinking innovation with Gillian Barry

Gillian Barry, Head of Innovation & Enterprise at LIT, talks about paying it forward and how to build an innovation system between industry, higher education, government and the people of Limerick. 
What’s your role?
Head of Innovation and Enterprise at LIT.
What interests you the most?
I have a passion for innovation, design and technology and helping entrepreneurs through the most critical stages of their startup journey or supporting business leaders and their teams through their innovation and business improvement journeys. I’m passionate also about community, social and economic development and I work with numerous organisations to support growth in our regions. I also have a real interest in psychology and sociology.
“For every high-value job created five other jobs are formed in the economy.”
What are your ambitions?
This might sound far-fetched, but my ambition is to help make our region and country one of the best place in the world to live. I know I can’t do anything about the weather, but I can help ambitious, creative, entrepreneurial people to create great companies, impactful products and services and ultimately create jobs which help to improve the lives not just of their direct employees, but they have an impact downstream too. For every high-value job created five other jobs are formed in the economy. I can help a little and appreciating it takes a community to support any ambitious entrepreneur I am delighted to be part of that. I can also help our fantastic youth and social organisations to make an impact in our region. I believe that every little does help and we need to make it a goal and give all these organisations our time – pay it forward – work it into your goals. We all benefit.
What drives you?
I’m a highly positive person and get energy from creative people with ambitions as wild

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/thinking-innovation-with-gillian-barry/ on

Is this Ireland’s next great inventor?

Aaron Hannon (19) is an inventor. He invented EnableArm, a shaving device for people with limited hand dexterity. He’s also part of the Williams Formula One Engineering Academy. Here he talks about his first steps into business life. 
How did your idea emerge?
The project is very much family inspired. My late grandfather Joe, an active man who took great pride in his appearance, suffered a stroke in late 2003, causing paralysis in his left side. His abilities to perform even the most personal and most basic tasks were eroded – such as his ability to shave. It was very difficult for me to watch his frustration and upset, and so I wanted to create a device which would help people in this situation.
How does it work?
The device automatically shaves the user’s face, which removes the need for users to have the hand control required to shave one’s face. The device can be controlled by voice commands from a mobile phone app, which connects to the device via Bluetooth, allowing the user to have complete control over their shaving routine without outside assistance. The device sits on the user’s head like a pair of headphones and has a visor which can move on-axis through the ear up and down around the user’s face.
“I relish the technical challenge of expanding my work on the shaving device into a whole range of new applications.”
It seems like a very complex invention?
It was certainly a huge challenge, especially considering I didn’t actually know how to code at the start of the project. I literally started the software aspect of the design by learning how to make LEDs blink. While there were certainly moments where I was tearing my hair out, it wasn’t all about the difficulty. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the design process.


This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/irelands-next-great-inventor-aaron-hannon/ on

How to get paid on time

Here are five tips to help you get paid on time.

Chasing invoices and trying to get paid is one of the biggest issues small business owners face. However, you can minimise the risks of not getting paid on time. You need a plan. 

Five tips – how to get paid on time

1: Make sure you have proper credit management practices in place that increase cash flow into your business and minimise the risks of not getting paid. 

2: Ensure that you have sale and supply contracts in writing with your customers and suppliers that have fair and realistic payment terms (14-30 days). 

3: Keep on top of your invoicing, be efficient and prompt. Don’t let invoicing slide. Send invoices on the same day to the same client every month. It’s important that your customers know when to expect invoices from you. When you sign a contract with a new customer make sure they know that you will be sending them an invoice on (for example) the last day of the month, every month. That way there will be no surprises.

4: Always know who owes you what. You can avail of free invoicing services like Bullet to keep on top of things.

5: Implement a late fee. Don’t be scared to do this. The best way to ensure prompt payment is to institute a late fee ‘penalty’. Have the details of your invoice and the client’s contract when you sign it. Fair is fair. Late payments can cripple your small business. Don’t apologise for being ‘tough’ with late payers. Be open, be fair and be honest with your clients and expect the same from your suppliers.

cash flow issues ireland

There is legislation but it’s not much use

There is prompt payments legislation in Ireland, the Prompt Payment of Account Act, 1997, but talk to any small business owner, and they will say the legislation has little or no impact on getting paid promptly.

Businesses in Ireland are supposed to be paid in 30 days. While large firms can contract out chasing invoices, smaller businesses are on the back foot, dealing with 60, 90, 120-day waits and sometimes longer. This has a very bad effect on their relationship with their customers and with their creditors. It’s also bad for their relationship with their bank. 

There is a Prompt Payment Code and it would do your business no harm to support it.

Related Resource

GUIDE: How to fix cash flow issues. 

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-to-get-paid-on-time/ on

‘The future is bright for female-led tech companies’

Claire McHugh, the CEO of Axonista, recently won an IMAGE Magazine Businesswoman of the Year award and believes female-led tech firms across Ireland are set to shine.

In 2010 Claire McHugh co-founded Axonista with Daragh Ward. Their company builds interactive, personalised video experiences for brands and media firms.
Before starting her own business, McHugh was part of the core team that established and managed the Setanta Sports channels in Ireland and the UK.
“I am honoured to receive this recognition from IMAGE magazine. I hope that my win shines a light for future female founders who might be considering starting a business,” says McHugh.
“There are shining examples of female-led technology businesses right across the country.”
As well as being CEO of a digital media company in growth, McHugh is a thought leader and speaker at global industry events and a trusted advisor to numerous startup communities. She is a mentor for Startup Boost Ireland; an ambassador for the Silicon Valley-based accelerator Blackbox Connect, and for the Irish female entrepreneur programme Going for Growth.
“The future looks very bright for Irish female-led tech companies. There are shining examples of female-led technology businesses right across the country at Opening.io, Soapbox Labs, Tandem HR, Restored Hearing, ShowHouz, and Glissed, to name but a few.”
“We couldn’t have done this without startlab.”

McHugh and the team at Axonista were one of the first Irish firms to take up residence in startlab New York, powered by Bank of Ireland. They have just hired their first vice president of sales who will work out of New York. “We couldn’t have done this without startlab,” says McHugh.
“2017 has been a wonderful year for growth at Axonista. We opened our New York office with the support of startlab, we received the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Innovation in SMEs programme funding, added several new members to our team,

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/claire-mchugh-axonista-startlab-new-york/ on

The archaeologist who grew a podcasting business

This is Fin Dwyer, an archaeologist who overcame adversity to start and grow a podcast business. Here he explains how to make money from podcasting and why passions can become businesses. 

The combined impact of recession and illness left Kilkenny-based archaeologist, Fin Dwyer with time on his hands and a need for something to do. His hobbies of listening to podcasts and history encouraged the creation of his own podcast, called ‘Irish History Podcast’, back in 2009. He recounts how his hobby has since transformed into a thriving podcast business –currently with over three million downloads, across the world.
The idea
I wanted to make Irish history engaging for people who had little if any prior knowledge, on a historical subject or topic. The aim was to create a podcast that was interesting, accessible as well as relating more to the stories of particular individuals – rather than the more traditional focus of dates and numbers. When I began, most people didn’t know what a podcast was, but that has changed.
“At the moment it provides an income stream of $2,000 per month and is growing at the rate of €100-$200 per month.”
Audience feedback
The first podcast that I released was on ‘Life in the Early Middle Ages’, and it took some months to finish and put together. In the first year, the audience grew rapidly as the format proved very successful. Initially, I found it a little daunting, getting used to the sound of my voice but I received very positive audience feedback which was encouraging and gratifying. Audience numbers are driven by content, and this became more evident when I began to cover major topics such as the ‘Great Famine’ which drew in new audiences from America.
“People tend to find out about the podcast by word of mouth or as a personal recommendation.”

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-to-make-money-podcasting/ on

Thinking business with Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan is a director with WP Engine in Limerick and also a community leader within Limerick. Here he talks about space exploration, ancient stone circles and the transformation of the city he loves. 

What’s your role?

I’m the director of technical support at WP Engine’s office in Limerick. As a leader within WP Engine, my role far exceeds the boundaries of the title. True to one of our core values, I aspire to lead and am committed to giving back, as such I’m an ambassador for WP Engine in Limerick and for Limerick on a local and global scale. Equally, as a startup location, it’s not unusual to see me cleaning up the coffee station or with some power tools to do the needful in setting up the new office. We all play our part.

“I cannot get over the energy and sense of unified forward movement we are seeing emerge in Limerick.”

What are you most interested in?

I’m a technologist who is passionate about people. I love driving continuous change, never remaining stagnant, always looking for a new angle, seeking technology and service improvements for our customers.

On a more personal level, my absolute passion is in human space exploration. For the past number of years through various events, I’ve brought the astronaut experiences to over 1,000 school kids in Limerick city and county. I volunteer at Lough Gur, home to Ireland’s largest stone circle and a Science Foundation Ireland accredited site, through their Science Group projects where we blend multiple STEM disciplines which make up the 6,000-year story of human development at the site. We are currently closing out a two-year study of light pollution at Lough Gur to attain much coveted ‘Dark Sky’ status.

“Like many I meandered through my 20s and early 30s, amassing skills but not knowing how to apply them.”

What are your ambitions?

That has to be the toughest questions to answer. I have a set of skills, and I simply want to put them to work for me and the community around me.

Privately, between you, me and the readers, I’d love to help inspire and drive Ireland’s place in space exploration. We have a national heritage of successfully taking on challenges which are far greater than the sum of our parts, why sit back and watch the rest of the world do it?

What drives you?

Building a better future. Like many I meandered through my 20s and early 30s, amassing skills but not knowing how to apply them. In 2010 following the birth of our second child, I had a personal setback, and while staring at the ceiling in intensive care, I distinctly recall asking myself, “What difference am I making?”

Now with three children, my drive and passion for Limerick are about building a future for them. I can’t fix substantial global issues, but I can have a positive impact on how Limerick develops as a city and region.

“In the past five years, Limerick has transformed itself. Many would naively sit back and say, “job done” but Limerick continues to transform.”

Who do you admire in business?

I would look to be a lesser known US businessman, Jack Bader. Jack is a St. Louis businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor, fellow space-geek, and friend. 

Jack follows his passions, which coincidently are very similar to my own – startups, space exploration, giving back, philanthropic efforts and family. He continuously strives to take small steps (and some quite large) to improve his community in St. Louis and beyond. He’s the founder of NetEffect, Chairman of 1904labs and member of the XPrize board of directors.

What are people doing well in Limerick?

In the past five years, Limerick has transformed itself. Many would naively sit back and say, “job done” but Limerick continues to transform and build a unified offering for families, communities, and businesses. What was once a grey, harbour town at the mouth of the Shannon is now a colourful and inclusive city. I cannot get over the energy and sense of unified forward movement we are seeing emerge in Limerick. The Limerick City and County Council, flanked by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, locked together with community and businesses is a force to rival Munster Ruby’s front row.

“Where else can you be leading a company delivery amazing digital experiences in the 21st century and fifteen minutes later sit in the tranquillity of a stone circle build in Ireland before the Egyptians build the pyramids of Giza.”

What way could the city improve?

Back to one of my early career lessons, in short, we must build a city that the people want. It cannot be just a location or collection of buildings it has to be a lifestyle where I can live, do business, have fun and don’t have to compromise on my quality of life. Limerick has to continue to promote and deliver on that vision. As a county Limerick man, I’d love to see infrastructure and public services extend beyond the boundaries of Castletroy, Raheen, Dooradoyle, and Caherdavin. But equally, right now as a city and indeed country, we’re not at a scale to realistically achieve that. As we continue to compete in a global 24×7 market, we have to realise that we cannot adhere to traditional 9-to-5 thinking in what people want and what we each must offer.

What makes Limerick unique?

For over 800 years Limerick has been a stronghold as a city, it’s a city where worlds blend. Where else can you be leading a company delivery amazing digital experiences in the 21st century and fifteen minutes later sit in the tranquillity of a stone circle build in Ireland before the Egyptians build the pyramids of Giza. Or visit a bar the likes of Nancy Blakes where Irish traditions and music, meets and blends with the youthful world of upbeat music and energy. The richness of our culture and ability to be adaptable to new cultures can be seen in our restaurants, shops, and people.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/paul-ryan-wp-engine-limerick/ on

James Cluskey on pursuing a new career

James Cluskey is a former professional tennis player. Now he’s a recruitment specialist helping other athletes find jobs after sport. Here are his top tips for life in a new work environment.
Whether you’re a professional sportsperson retiring at the age of 30 and changing career, or an accountant looking to get into sales, the transition can be a daunting experience.
Here at Mason Alexander, I head up the sports desk. One component of my job is helping place elite athletes into thriving companies.
Mason Alexander is a leading Irish recruitment firm, delivering permanent, temporary and contract appointments across a range of dedicated functions and industries.
Apart from sport, Mason Alexander works across multiple areas including financials services, accounting, legal and sales and marketing. We have compiled an eight point plan for you on embarking on a career change:

Understand your motivations – We all go through ups and downs during our careers. Why do you want to change careers? Think about your motivations and if this is the right decision for you going forward.
Use your network – People love to give advice. Look at your own network and make contact with people currently working in the desired area. Arrange a call or coffee to understand the sector and day to day work involved, and gain a greater insight into the field you want to work in.
Online Research – The internet can be a useful tool for research. Review company websites and LinkedIn; see who works there, their backgrounds, how they got there and understand more about the business.
Go to events in that sector – Look for events relevant to the industry your looking to get into. Go to these events and talk to people from the sector and understand is this the career you want to move into.
Approach a market expert – Approach a

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/james-cluskey-on-pursuing-a-new-career/ on thinkbusiness

WorkJuggle – a flexible work specialist

WorkJuggle was founded by Ciara Garvan in 2016. The company specialises in flexible work placements, serving both employees and employers. 
What did you do before you became an entrepreneur?
I have always worked for large organisations in very corporate environments. I started out in Symantec as a business analyst and studied for my MSc. in Applied Computing part-time at night. I joined Meteor on a contract basis but loved the place and ended up staying years. I took voluntary redundancy while I was on maternity leave with my third child.    
“For the employer the benefits are clear. A small-medium business can punch above their weight talent wise.”
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
‘Entrepreneur’ is a very big word. I would say that I always wanted to work for myself. I love managing my own schedule. So even though it is hectic, I am very happy getting up early in the morning and starting work while the kids are then sleeping.
When did you have the idea for WorkJuggle?
I have always been interested in the culture of work; why we do what we do. When I went back to work after a few years at home it really struck me how technology has moved on and the way people live their lives had really changed yet there was still the expectation of nine to five in the workplace. I toyed around with the idea for a while and did lots of research. I started New Frontiers last summer and launched in September so it has definitely taken me a while. In my defense, I like to mention I was still at home full time for all of this so it has been busy.
“For the employer the benefits are clear. A small-medium business can punch above their weight talent wise.”
What is WorkJuggle’s biggest achievement to

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/workjuggle-flexible-work-specialist/ on thinkbusiness