At at evening event in Kilkenny and there are 2 really good entrepreneurs who are going to do short talks about their businesses.
Joy Moore, Oldtown Hill Bakery, Kilkenny
Based in Tullaroan and established in 1999. They started on a dairy farm and worked from their kitchen. They wanted to produce food which was additive and preservative free.
They started with a brown soda bread and that first product has improved through the use of Kilkenny grains which are milled in Bennetsbridge. They took on their first employee after 6 months and had to start planning for expansion. Their biggest problem then was getting good labour and this hindered their planning of new products.
In 2001 they started to bring in foreign nationals to address this and they had to start getting to grips with work permits etc. This step was the key to their success - they got fully qualified craft bakers from other countries (she said that Ireland does not train bakers any more).
In 2003 Joan took part in a WIT/KCEB program which gave Joan a chance to stand back and critically assess her business (with her husband at that point). It gave herself and James a chance to use external mentors to help them change the focus of the business and they developed a new direction which acknowledged their uniqueness. They moved to a new bakery, took on employees (they are now at 17 people including themselves), reequipped the bakery with new equipment and made it a better place to work.
In the last two years they now supply the whole East Coast up to North County Dublin and the Dublin market is a new experience to them. Their product is unusual there in that it is freshly baked overnight and with them a couple of hours later (she said that most Irish bakeries are working day shifts only and using preservatives to keep the "freshness").
They have also joined the Bord Bia Brand Forum and started to acknowledge the importance of the brand as part of their shelf presence. It needs to compliment the quality of the product contained therein. They have covered things like colour, shape and portion sizes - the Dublin market needs smaller products as family sizes are smaller which can be sold for almost the same price.
She recommended both the Kilkenny CEB and the Open Office facility in the Revenue Commissioners - she found that really handy.
Next for them - selling nationally. They are taking part of the Savor Kilkenny event at the end of October and their bakery will be open to visitors then.
Tom Byrnes, Pack Publishing - www.packpublishing.com
His story began with observation (like any idea) and the difference between an entrepreneur and anyone else was the action of doing something about it.
He took part in a Start Your Own Business course and recommends it highly. It opened his eyes to the pitfalls and the obstacles that would be put in his way.
His observation - kids in airports, hotels etc where they had nothing to do and so they run around the place. He asked local hotels if they would be interested and was told that they were looking for something for ages and could not find anything!
He experimented with shapes and look (an R&D lab on his kitchen table) and the hotels liked his early concepts. He then asked the hotels for their spec - keeping either boys or girls happy for 30 to 45 minutes and not too messy.
He agreed a price with the hotels and committed to delivering to the hotels. The business had started! An early thing which they did was the putting of a "Volume 1" on the initial product and so customers asked for Volume 2.
He started to be contacted by other hotels and restaurants and samples were going out around the county. At that point he was working long hours (strongly supported by his wife) and then looked for other opportunities for the product.
He hit Ryanair - arrived in reception and asked for the inflight sales manager without an appointment. He is brought to the boardroom and after the sales manager realised that he had not got an appointment he asked for a demo. The Ryanair mockup was shown and within 6 weeks they were on the planes. With a 600% to 700% markup on what they were paying Tom.
But it opened the door for him as he traveled to an trade airshow in Valentia (with EI support) and discovered he had very little competition. He took inquiries for volumes ranging from 100,000 to half a million and he closed a number of those sales.
He has subcontracted a lot of his service requirements and he uses mentors from both KCEB and SEEPP - this helped in his external brand presentation to national carriers around Europe. They have also just taken on a US agent.
Most recently they have been approached by a vending operation in the UK (Pringles) and they will now be carried in cylinder size/format as a complimentary product with the snacks.
Two great stories. Sean McKeown pointed out the common factors - the effort, the attention to detail, the attitude and the support that they have received from a variety of state agencies in partnership with each other.