New start-up scholars join Waterford’s Boxworks community

Bank of Ireland’s latest cohort of Scholarship Desks users begin their six-month tenure at the much sought-after Boxworks co-working space 
This week Bank of Ireland’s latest cohort of Scholarship Desks users begin their six-month tenure at the much sought-after Boxworks co-working space in Waterford. 
The aim of the scholarships is simple – to give those who need a desk a vibrant co-working space while they tackle a specific business goal, over a six month period. All of the participants have a “time-bound goal” that they focus on achieving over the allocated period.
Employmum Scholarship Desks
As part of the Scholarship Desks offering in Boxworks, Bank of Ireland also offer a desk to Employmum – the flexible working platform. They then share this resource with a number of local professionals who can benefit from the work space and networking from being in Boxworks, but on a flexible/timeshare basis.
Importance of community
While having a city centre space and desk to use is the main attraction, all users agree that the feeling of community is a huge bonus and as important as the physical space. A key component of the success of this space is the ‘cross-pollination’ which manager Emer Powell does naturally – introducing start-ups to people that may be able to help their businesses to grow and thrive. Bank of Ireland are glad to support Boxworks with these sponsored desks and helping start-ups and SMEs to thrive.
Billy Rooney, founder of CameraShy and former scholarship desk user, said: “I found Boxworks, and the contacts and supports therein immeasurably helpful in building up my business.  The benefits of a co-working space for a fledgling business are truly massive. It’s only when you’re within it do you truly realise its importance in changing not only how you approach your own business, but also how you view yourself and the challenges and opportunities

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Farm Tours becoming more popular in Ireland

Farm Tours Ireland was set up in 2012, by long established Louth-based agricultural advisors, dad Gerry and son Aonghus Giggins. Here, Aonghus gives some background to the story of operating in what is a niche but burgeoning marketplace.
What is your target market?
We concentrate on incoming visitor trips to Ireland which generally makes up ninety-nine per cent of our business. Internationally, Ireland is known as the Food Island and our initial focus has been on the technical agricultural-tour sector, hosting international farm discussion groups, producer groups, veterinarian groups and university groups that wish to visit Ireland.

What has been a key factor in helping you grow?
Getting the word out to potential clients and creating awareness that our company exists has been key to both our commercial success and our on-going growth. We operate in a specialist sector with farmers travelling to Ireland from a range of continents and countries from across the globe. We have a limited marketing budget and tend to use the strategy of social media and word of mouth to get the message out there. In September, we were lucky to be selected to be the Louth Local Enterprise Office representative in the L.E.O. Village at the Ploughing Championships which proved very successful in helping promote our brand within Ireland.
“It’s quite a unique offering, visiting a real-life working farm, talking to the farmer and engaging with local communities to experience the real Ireland.”
How many work in the company?
There are three of us altogether – myself, my father Gerry and last year we were joined in the company by my sister Siobhan. Siobhan had been working in tax consultation in Dublin and since she returned home to join us, she has been a great addition to the family business.
What’s unique about your company?
We feel we are offering a different type of

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Startup Weekend coming back to Gorey

Techstars Startup Weekend will return to the Hatch Lab in Gorey in March and is open to anyone to come along.
The Hatch Lab in Gorey will host its second Techstars Startup Weekend from 1 to 3 March 2019, in partnership with Wexford LEO and Bank of Ireland.
Participants will have the opportunity to explore and develop new business ideas in a fun and inclusive environment.
Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event, where attendees pitch ideas, form teams and start companies. The weekend is community focused and provides a place for entrepreneurs to find co-founders, mentors and the momentum needed for their ideas.
In addition to developing their own ideas, participants will also be tasked with coming up with solutions for challenges relevant to Gorey, the surrounding region, and beyond. The goal of the weekend is to create an environment where passionate people can come together to get things done; to learn, network, bridge the gap between trades, expose potential weaknesses in their business models and see actual results.
Participants can bring their ideas to the next level and connect with like-minded people. Last year’s event saw 35 participants, and some Startup Weekend graduates, such as Vicki O’Donnell of Wilder Wander have turned their Startup Weekend idea into self-sustaining businesses operating from the Hatch Lab.
Some of the experts who will be in attendance over the weekend include Colin Keogh, a mechanical engineer and designer, who featured on the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016 and was one of the JCIs Ten Outstanding Young People in 2017, Cyril Byrne, a software innovator and mentor and Szilvia Szabo, CEO of Impacter.
The event is open for anyone to attend and you can book your place here. Alternatively you can email or

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Violet’s still blooming in Kildare

The family-run flower store Violet’s first opened its doors 26 years ago in Kildare and continues to grow despite fierce competition from the big supermarkets.

How we began

In April 1993, 26 years ago, Catherine (my mother) who loved flowers all her life decided to do a floristry course and realise her dreams of owning her own business. Six months later, Violet’s Flowers opened its doors.

Being a family of entrepreneurs, we also had a newsagents in the town where I learned a lot about business working alongside my dad Pat. My brother, David, showed an interest in floristry when he finished school and decided to work in the flower shop also.

When Violet’s had busy periods, myself and sister, Katie, would pop in and help out, Pat would do the deliveries – it was very much a family affair. I really enjoyed these busy occasions and it ignited my passion for floristry.

The circle of life

I love this job and how creative you can be and how much joy you can bring to people for a variety of occasions, from their wedding day to the birth of their first child. You really do see the circle of life in this industry. I love the seasonality of this business and how it’s forever evolving and changing. No two days are the same which makes it interesting and enjoyable.

Getting social

In 1993, Catherine and Pat decided to build up a stock of giftware and dried flowers little by little over six months. Catherine also started creating dried flower arrangements at home in preparation for the opening of the shop.

“I love the seasonality of this business and how it’s forever evolving and changing. No two days are the same which makes it interesting and enjoyable.”

Over the years, we have very much moved with the times – in 2014 we opened our online shop, we’re also very busy on our Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages and we like to keep up-to-date with all aspects of our social media.

Social media has become a big part of our business and it allows us to interact with our customers on a daily basis. Going forward, our goal is to make as many people happy with our flowers as possible. We have toyed with the idea of opening a floristry school – all going well that will be in our near future.

The bigger stores selling flowers online

We are not affected by bigger stores selling flowers online as much as we were by big multiples selling flowers in-store. We have definitely seen a change over the years because of this – our customers that used to buy flowers on a weekly basis for their houses now pick up a bunch while they are doing their shopping.  Fortunately for us, we create flowers for extra special occasions i.e. weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and are able to provide that personal touch that customers love.

“We have toyed with the idea of opening a floristry school – all going well that will be in our near future.”

The quiet times

I feel that it can be difficult for every business at certain times of the year. During our quieter times, we have had to come up with fresh ideas to spark an interest in our customers. Most recently, we introduced beautiful framed prints, lanterns and giftwares – it’s important to keep our customers coming back.

Who has helped you most along the way?

That’s easy – my mam and dad. Without them, Violet’s wouldn’t exist. We also have very loyal customers who have been there with us since the beginning.

“We are not affected by bigger stores selling flowers online as much as we were by big multiples selling flowers in-store.”

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

At this stage, there is nothing I would change but having overcome a recession, it has certainly changed our thinking about certain aspects of our business and as a result, has made us more savvy and resourceful.

Who inspires you in business?

In our locality, we have a lot of family-run businesses that have been there for decades. Seeing these businesses continue to be successful, changing with the times, passing from one generation to another gives us the incentive to strive to grow our business for years to come.

By Stephen Larkin.

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Join Startup Boost’s Virtual Demo Day 2019

On February 12 and 13, 2019, Startup Boost, the number one global pre-accelerator program, will host a virtual demo day.
What’s a virtual demo day, you may ask? Simple. It’s a demo day of pitches but this time the startups will pitch their ideas in an online, virtual environment. Investors and interested viewers can ‘tune in’ and watch what happens.
“The virtual demo day breaks down the geographical and temporal barriers of a traditional demo day.”
“For the upcoming virtual demo day, investors, accelerators and corporate businesses will be able to watch 25 pre-seed and seed tech startups pitching ideas in areas including health, fintech, AI, e-commerce and more,” says Startup Boost founding member, Gene Murphy.
This is a first
This is a first-of-its-kind demo day for a pre-accelerator. The virtual demo day gives investors, accelerators, and potential partners access to view pitches by Startup Boost’s Fall alumni.
The alumni consist of 25 pre-seed and seed-stage tech startups from the Fall programs in Detroit, Dublin, Los Angeles, and New York.
Viewers will need to register to join the 48-hour virtual event.
You can register here:
What is Startup Boost?
Startup Boost, now in its second year, has helped to pre-accelerate over 80 companies from six locations around the world.
The program is unique in that it doesn’t take equity or fees from startups. Top entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors come together to volunteer their time to work with these promising startups who stood out from a pool of over 1,500 applicants to gain acceptance into Startup Boost.
“The purpose of Startup Boost is to help pre-seed investment teams make the next big step.”
How to apply for Startup Boost programs
For those wishing to apply to a program, applications just opened at Pittsburgh is officially launching its first program, which will join Los Angeles, NYC, and Toronto as programs running this Spring.
Other programs running this Fall

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Brexit won’t break Donegal’s fighting spirit

ThinkBusiness travelled to Donegal to speak to Claire McDonough, co-owner of La Maison, who says Donegal business owners are survivors and won’t be broken by Brexit.

What is your background?

Myself and my business partner Anne Blake started the company in 2005 following two years of research. We were both working for Donegal County Council at the time and the idea was born to have a high-end quality gifted home store after being invited to lots of weddings. We visited 52 shops all over Ireland and heavily researched everything and La Maison was the result of all our analysis. After opening, everything was going great when all of a sudden the recession hit and with that we decided that we needed to spread our offering so we retrained as interior designers. We’re now a team of six and have grown our interior design service to the point where the retail aspect is only 10% of our turnover.

How difficult was it to stay afloat during the recession?

It was extremely difficult. We didn’t have a lot of staff at the time and we had to cut our costs as much as possible. We upped our engagement with customers and held a lot more events to grow our reputation but there were many times when we didn’t even take a salary for ourselves, but that’s what was required.

“There were many times when we didn’t even take a salary for ourselves, but that’s what was required.”

Brexit impact

Brexit is going to be a massive challenge. I’ve spoken to other people in our sector and also in the county and there is a lot of panic around. But I’m looking at it a little differently. I really love what I do and I’ve worked too hard to build the business so I refuse to be defeated by Brexit. To combat this, we are currently working on new projects with one being Wild Atlantic Interiors. The one thing Brexit cannot take away is the beauty of County Donegal and because Failte Ireland put so much into creating the Wild Atlantic Way, we’re creating our own range off the back of that, beginning with cushions based on locations in the area. We also have a nursery range with lovely Donegal hares and bunnies.

Do you sell into the UK?

Not so much because a lot of our products are bought by homeowners in Donegal or possibly tourists visiting the area. But in saying that, the supply chain is a concern because of where I get my materials. Around 90% of my suppliers come through the UK so that’s going to create a challenge for the business. I’ve spoken to our reps asking about their Brexit plans and at the moment they don’t have any so that is a concern.

“I really love what I do and I’ve worked too hard to build the business so I refuse to be defeated by Brexit.”

Are you developing new markets?

Yes, I’m definitely open to moving into new markets and trying to help grow the business. In a way, that’s why I am testing the Wild Atlantic Interiors. We have done holiday homes via Skype for people in the United States who have holiday homes here. If I can source their fabrics from the US and bring them over and do it in a way that is financially viable for both them and us, then I am happy to do that.

“It just takes coming up with a creative way to combat the challenges that Brexit will pose.”

The strength of Donegal

I think we (Donegal business owners) have developed the skills for survival, that’s for sure. For us companies up here, if we survived the last recession, we’ll be able to get through Brexit. It just takes coming up with a creative way to combat the challenges that Brexit brings. The most important thing in business is to know your customer’s needs and that’s our focus.

Related Resource

    Read more about Letterkenny’s win at the recent National Enterprise Town Awards

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A short GDPR guide for small businesses

Are you concerned about the GDPR? If you do not have an up-to-date privacy policy on your website, you may attract an audit from the DPC which could lead to a fine.  
What is the ‘GDPR’?
The General Data Protection Regulation is an EU law that came into effect on May 25, 2018 applying across all EU member states including Ireland in order to protect and safeguard the privacy rights of individuals.
Who does GDPR apply to?
In essence, it is difficult to think of a business that GDPR does not apply to because in order to do business most organisations need to collect personal data. GDPR applies to any individual or organisation that processes personal data so if you have a ‘Contact Us’ page on your website for individuals to submit their details, then you are collecting (and therefore processing) their personal data.
The GDPR does not just apply to large companies but also individuals, SMEs, not-for-profit organisation and community groups.
There is little difference in the application of the GDPR whether you are a large company, a SME or an individual. Very few exemptions under the GDPR apply to SMEs, one example would be that you may not be required to keep records of processing activities if you have 250 or less employees (depending on the type of personal data that you process). Apart from that, there are few differences in the application of the regulations based on the size of an organisation.
“Personal data may be held by an organisation in various forms such as emails, or CCTV recordings of individuals.”
What is ‘personal data’ and ‘processing’?
‘Personal data’ is any data that relates to an identifiable living individual. The definition of ‘processing’ of personal data is very wide and includes collecting, recording, storing, adapting, using, disclosing and deleting data.
Therefore, an organisation is ‘processing’ personal

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Donegal producers unfazed by Brexit

We asked food producers in Donegal if they are worried about Brexit. Their answers are both surprising and encouraging.

The growing strength of the food sector in Donegal was demonstrated clearly when almost 120 food producers, chefs and buyers attended a packed-out event hosted by the Donegal Food Coast – Donegal’s Good Food Initiative.

Local producers, Hugh Wilhare of Mulroy Bay Mussels and Lee Gildea of Gildea’s Butchers also joined a panel for a discussion on how food producers and buyers could make the most of growing opportunities, particularly with Brexit looming.

Eve-Anne McCarron from the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Donegal said the purpose of the event was to encourage producers to create more jobs for the local economy in Donegal.

“Brexit is bringing good business practise if nothing else.”

“This came around after producers and restaurants approached us saying ‘we want opportunities to speak to one another and find out what business we can do together’, so we decided to run with it. The big challenge facing producers here is scaling their business and finding the route to the market,” she said.

The benefits of Brexit

The food industry in Ireland is expected to be massively impacted by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, but Donegal’s LEO believes that opportunities will come off the back of Brexit.

“Brexit is bringing good business practise if nothing else. We know that more change is likely to come and no one knows what’s going to happen. We’re telling people to be aware of where their business is at, and that’s just good business practice anyway. Understand your suppliers and understand your risk areas and then deal with the rest.

“To me, Brexit gives businesses a chance to stop for a moment and really consider where the business is going and then pursuing that,” she added.

“I don’t see Brexit as a threat. I think it will be positive for me.”

‘Brexit made us look around’

Derek Walker, who set up Natnoot – the natural nutrition company which produces certified organic wheatgrass and healthy juices, says Brexit has already had a positive impact on his business. “We worked with suppliers in England but we decided to pull back and source more local suppliers which turned out to be a success for the company. Brexit made us look around and we found Irish suppliers fulfilling our needs at a better price.”

“Brexit made us look around and we found Irish suppliers fulfilling our needs at a better price.”

Andrew McElhinney from O’Donnell’s bakery, which has been exporting products into Northern Ireland for a number of years, is excited by the opportunities that may arise from Brexit. “I don’t see Brexit as a threat. I think it will be a positive for me. I’m seeing a lot of businesses looking to run away from it, but we’ve decided to run right for it.”

“My biggest problem is getting product from Donegal to Dublin – getting it to Asia is the easy part.”

Exporting further afield is easy

Hugh Wilhare, who started Mulroy Bay Mussels over thirty years ago when the mussel industry was in its infancy in Ireland, changed the company’s exporting strategy after finding tough competition when exporting into the European markets. Just last year, the company began exporting into the Asian market which Wilhare says was the company’s “big break”.

With Brexit fast approaching, Wilhare said other exporters should consider markets further afield and that it’s not difficult as people think. “Initially, I wasn’t sure because I thought it was going to be really difficult for me but it really wasn’t. My biggest problem is getting product from Donegal to Dublin – getting it to Asia is the easy part. It’s definitely something other businesses should look to do now that exporting to the UK is going to become a problem.”

The vision of the Donegal Food Strategy is for the entire community to work together to make Donegal famous for its food production. Having talked to so many food producers it is clear that they are not fazed by Brexit and are instead embracing the uncertainty as an opportunity to look for bigger markets and better ways of doing business.

By Stephen Larkin.

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The latest on Brexit from Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland’s Joe Oliver was joined by head of FX Trading & Strategy Lee Evans and head of manufacturing for business banking Brían Evans to discuss the latest on Brexit.
Bank of Ireland’s latest Brexit update took place this week as senior dealer Joe Oliver was joined by head of FX Trading & Strategy Lee Evans and head of manufacturing for business banking Brían Evans.
The three sat down in Grand Canal Square to discuss the latest developments around Brexit after Tuesday’s “Plan B” vote in the UK Parliament and the challenges facing Irish businesses at present.
Lee Evans opened by discussing Tuesday’s vote and what it means for foreign exchange. “We had the votes on the amendments in the UK parliament and there were three main amendments that took the focus of currency markets – the Spellman amendment, the Brady amendment and the Cooper amendment.
“Going back to last week, we’ve seen a strengthening in Sterling. It’s 5% stronger versus the Euro since the highs in December. One of the things we’ve been saying to customers is to expect more volatility in the exchange rate; the trading range in 2019 has already eclipsed the entire range of last year.  For a couple of years now, we’ve been very focused on the downside for Sterling and the negative implications of Brexit, but we are saying to customers that there are two sides to it and risks in both directions.”
“We import a lot of product from the UK and we have an opportunity to displace that in the Irish market”
Brían Evans gave a great insight into the biggest challenges for manufacturing businesses and what they need to address ahead of Britain leaving the EU. “In the last two and a half years since the vote to leave the EU, I’ve visited over

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Autism accessibility in action

Gearoid Kearney and Miriam O’Sullivan set up myAccessHub which helps businesses and employees learn to be more inclusive of colleagues with autism and other neurodiversities. 

Why we started
We are graduates from the Institute of Technology in Tralee. Miriam completed her Masters in Autism and Technology, and I completed a degree in Computer Science. During this time we came together to create an event called the Autism Summit. This was to raise money for Temple Street children’s hospital through the 100minds initiative for college students. Over the next year, we started to learn about the negative experiences people with autism were having when interacting with businesses whether be as employees and as customers. This motivated us to setup myAccessHub and change this.
“I learned how John F. Kennedy also had Addison’s, which motivated me to never use it as an excuse for not achieving my goals in life.”
The Tom Crean Centre
We started working on the idea in the summer of 2017. A lot of the work that was done was in the development of our training content and what we believe businesses need to know when it comes to providing accessible and inclusive environments to people with autism and other neurodiversities. In September 2017 we were accepted onto the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Programme in the Tom Crean Centre. This programme which lasted for six months gave us funding, training, mentorship and the time to develop our business plan.
“Many employers are not aware of these grants.”

Using VR
From our user testing, we arrived at video animation which was best received for the autism awareness modules. The use of Virtual Reality was the best to understand the barriers faced by people with autism in the workplace.
“Hot desking is on trend within workspaces; however, the uncertainty of this would cause anxiety for an employee with autism.”
You have

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