Start up

Sarah Quain: Overcoming Hurdles

This year has been one that many of us would like to forget. Granted, we had a few glorious summer months during which we appeared to be on the right track. Unfortunately, it did not last. However, despite the doom and gloom of the pandemic, many entrepreneurs and business leaders were enthusiastic about sharing their personal stories. The positive feedback I have received both from interviewees and readers has greatly touched me. It is evident that our community needed little persuasion to support local businesses.

Meet Sarah Quain, a horsie fanatic from Drum, Athlone, who returned home 5000 km after quitting her dream job last year. In the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York, she ran a horseback riding business which was adversely affected by Covid-19, which in turn prevented her from obtaining permanent US residency. Despite the disappointing turn of events, she and her boyfriend Luke returned to Athlone to live with her parents, Willie and Angela. Within a few months, she started her own small business, Craic Galore Prints, and reinvented herself by making some quirky prints and greeting cards.

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BiaSol: Create Taste, Reduce Waste

Guinness is probably the most popular beer exported from Ireland, but back home, it competes with more than 75 small, independently operated craft breweries. St. James Gate produces 50.7 million barrels of beer every year. But these ‘microbreweries’ can’t compete with that. They don’t need to. These beers are appealing to beer enthusiasts who enjoy discovering new flavours of craft beer brewed by knowledgeable and dedicated professionals. Despite its growth, Ireland’s beer sector is creating an increasing amount of food waste. For beer, grain is needed, but once the brewing process is over, the wet and steaming grain is discarded. The grain at this stage is referred to as ‘spent grain,’ but it is still perfectly edible.

In the United States, companies are recycling waste grain into food, but here in Ireland no one is doing it. Siblings Niamh and Ruairi Dooley from Ballykeeran, Athlone have joined forces to start a new food business called BiaSol, which aims to turn spent grain waste from breweries back into food. There has been a lot of research into the benefits of spent grain. I had the pleasure of meeting the brother-and-sister team at their Ferbane Business Park headquarters.

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Patrick Fox’s Design Den

As business owners try to get back to their pre-pandemic routines, many of them wisely used their time during lockdown to invest in a website. Having an online presence gave them the ability to sell their products and continue generating some much-needed revenue. While the shutters were down and the lights switched off; customers simply swapped a real shopping basket for a virtual one.

A domain name is a unique address that every single website is given and usually ends with either the popular ‘.COM’ or a ‘.IE’ (for Ireland). When a domain name is typed into a web browser, it will take you directly to the website’s front door. More than 33,000 domain names ending with an Irish. IE have been registered so far this year. However, building a website for a business requires some very detailed planning and expertise, it is definitely not something for the faint-hearted amongst us to try out. But when designed well, a website can become a brilliant marketing tool that complements the traditional bricks and mortar shopping experience.

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Linda Moran Harte: The Waxy Wonders-Woman

The Marvel superhero Daredevil lost one of his five basic human senses – sight, in an accident when he was younger. However, his remaining senses: touch, hearing, taste and smell have all enhanced to superhuman levels. Daredevil uses these super senses, to fight the bad guys and is pretty good at it when you throw in his martial arts ability. But when it comes to superhuman sensory powers, there does appear to be some fact behind the comic book fiction.

Scientists tell us that the average human nose has roughly 400 types of scent receptors that are capable of detecting one trillion different odours. This superhero-like power means that we can notice within seconds when someone is wearing our favourite perfume. We can distinguish instantly between the smell of baby powder from the smell of bleach. But there are also times when you want to reawaken childhood memories with the smell of sweet candy from your favourite shop from yesteryear. Maybe turn your living room into an evergreen forest full of cedar pines or your bedroom into a 5-star hotel suite with sumptuous fresh linen.

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From Pompey to Posh Pebbles

Anyone could be an entrepreneur. You don’t need a degree from a posh university or be an eccentric genius. It’s utter gibberish that your old school report must state that you are someone destined for greatness. Sometimes, all you need is a great idea that’s mixed with a generous streak of self-discipline, an appetite for hard work and a belly full of patience. But remember, instant success never really happens. It takes some entrepreneurs a very long time to finally get their venture off the ground. If you’re lucky enough, it might take a few weeks.

Annette Francis from Baylough, Athlone, only launched her business, Posh Pebbles in mid-April of this year. Despite having no formal business experience, and with the country still not fully out of lockdown, she’s amazed and humbled by how popular her handcrafted pebble art frames have become.

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Helen Sandison: The Seam-Less Journey

When Helen Sandison of Mullingar based Sensory Clothing moved over to Kerry from the UK in 2007 with her husband Rudi, she couldn’t understand why her two-year-old child kept telling her that he didn’t like his clothes, especially his socks. It became normal for him to hide behind their sofa and then pop out with his clothes off. However, like most first-time parents – Helen just thought that it was something that he would eventually grow out of. A year later, her second child arrived, and she found herself juggling the needs of a new baby while battling with a toddler over his dislike of clothes. “I did wonder whether I had been pandering to my son, but nevertheless I took him to the doctor’s because I knew there was something wrong. You could call it a mother’s intuition. My son was tested for Autism (ASD) but we were told that he simply had some little quirks and wasn’t on the Autism Spectrum itself. I just had to cope with his meltdowns over the clothing.” It turned out that Helen’s son has a neurological condition called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) which is often misdiagnosed as ASD because many children with ASD have sensory issues or difficulties. However, as in the case of Helen’s child, SPD was a standalone condition.

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Ross Tormey – The Interactive Tourer

In 2008 the economic tsunami triggered by the collapse of our banking and building sector ensured the roar of the Celtic Tiger was over. The following year, a dark cloud of economic depression loomed over the country and the phrase “Sometimes you’re flush and sometimes you’re bust,” made perfect sense. In 2011, the CSO’s Census of Population recorded that 8,637 people in Westmeath were unemployed, that equated to almost 10% of the county’s 86,164 population. Draconian public spending cuts continued, consumer spending and confidence was on life-support and the construction sector was almost non-existent.

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Creative Genius: That Personal Touch

Ireland’s two lockdowns, if nothing else, allowed thousands of people to explore their creative side. Some used it to perfect that one recipe that had always alluded them. Others discovered a hidden talent for making or building something that a full-time job never allowed. Undoubtedly, many hard-working people lost jobs due to Covid-19 and had to find a way to be resourceful. For them, the opportunity to make some extra cash was a driving factor and the hobby became a business. But whatever the individual circumstances were; some great pictures for a Facebook page and the camaraderie of like-minded entrepreneurs was all the armoury needed. Thanks to the most powerful communications tool of the third millennium – the internet – the world became an instant shopfloor.

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Jack Has The Code To Success

Parents across the world have at some point bought their child a computer game. The hours of contented game playing bliss that children gain is often considered to be worth the high price tag. But what if I told you that a computer game was the catalyst for an 8-year-old boy to learn to program? That then at 16, he would create and then patent a piece of futuristic screen technology that could be straight out of a Hollywood Sci-Fi movie? This is the story of a truly remarkable young man, Jack O’Regan Kenny.

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