Latest Entries

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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Gemma Henry: Every cloud has a silver lining

Social anxiety disorder goes beyond feeling awkward in social settings, or being fearful in public settings – it’s a debilitating state that can negatively impact a person’s daily life. Growing up requires constant social interaction, performing well in school, and managing the complexities of being a teenager in a connected world.

Gemma Henry, who has severe social anxiety disorder and left school early, turned to jewellery making. From her family home in Athlone she runs a thriving small business called Silver River Gems, which enables her to create and sell some of the most beautiful intricate jewellery.

Teenage suffering

Social anxiety has greatly affected Gemma’s education and physical health.

In the year that she was due to sit the Junior Certificate, her anxiety peaked and physically manifested in the form of migraine headaches. She came close to completely blacking out on a few occasions, with her vision blurring. It was one of the scariest times in her life. Gemma was then referred to the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) by her doctor.

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Unwind: Sleepless to settle

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. We all experience insomnia from time to time. It can be acute – lasting one to several nights – or chronic – lasting months or years. In the United States, about 30-40% of adults sleep poorly, according to the National Centre for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health. Most adults say they suffer from some form of insomnia each year, and about 15-20 per cent of adults say they have chronic insomnia.

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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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Boora Bainne: From Grass to Glass

Approximately a kilometre from the hidden treasure of the Lough Boora Discovery Park, the former peat harvesting site turned into an Irish biodiversity project, is the Boora Bainne Milk Company founded by Paul Molloy. Yes, there are dairy cows involved. Yes, those dairy cows will unwittingly contribute to climate change through emissions. But there is a difference. Paul has set-up a milk vending machine where you buy a glass bottle and then fill it with either milk, or flavoured milk of your choice. Using a recyclable glass bottle eliminates the need for any single-use milk cartons or containers and is a far more sustainable way to buy your milk.

Paul is the third generation of Molloys to run the family-owned dairy farm in Leamore, Boora, Co. Offaly. His father Joseph is well-known, and highly respected in the area’s farming circles but it was Paul who came up with the initiative to pasteurise and then sell the milk from his 130 Friesian Jersey cows – directly to the consumer.

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For whatever will be, Millbee

For some 6000 years, mankind has been at war with Mother Nature herself. Instead of being the caretaker of this planet, we manoeuvred ourselves into the role of carefree owner. In the 1800s, industrialisation conveniently deflected attention away from all the harm that fossil fuels were doing to our air and water. Over the next few centuries, this pollution problem became worse as manufacturers tried to keep up supply with the demands of a growing population.

The world’s first man-made plastic was patented in 1870 and was created by combining several different materials using a heated mould. It became the raw material for mouth dentures and piano keys and was marketed as a humane alternative to ivory tusks and tortoiseshells. It was unlikely that anyone could have imagined the detrimental impact plastic would have on the planet over the proceeding 150 years.

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Cathriona Hodgins: Nutrition Is For Life

When you’re young, it’s more likely that you’ll be involved in a regular sporting activity, or have a pastime that’ll give you plenty of exercise throughout the week. So, though you’ll eat lots of convenient, tasty and cheap junk food; your body will still burn more calories than you take in. Unfortunately, this type of fast food when combined with other white, starchy [and delicious] processed foods begin to take their toll on your body and overall health, the older you get.

But when we get older, everything everyone ever said about eating healthily comes true. If the number of your daily steps is less than 10,000; if your diet is influenced by the first printed menu you find in the drawer, or you have regular digestive problems and can’t lose any weight – then maybe it’s the time to get help.

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Joe is inspiring to Aspire

Staying motivated enough to do even the smallest bit of physical exercise has been a major challenge for lots of people. Those few extra ounces became pounds, and in some cases, even stones. When your mood is low, you feel sluggish and your energy levels hit rock bottom — the last thing you want to do is think about your weight. We all often need to be reminded that life is not simply about the number on the scale, but it’s always there at the back of our minds. You tell yourself that your daily calorie intake is trivial when compared to the bigger picture: avoiding the latest Covid-19 variant. Then you have one sugary treat, followed by another.

So, if you can’t motivate yourself to move from the couch in front of the TV, and feel that you have lost your way on a fitness journey, then head along to your local gym where you’ll find a knowledgeable and dedicated expert. Someone who can help you get back on track. Someone who can lift your spirits in the way that Fifth Dimension’s song ‘Up, up and away’ will.

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First Day Lions: The Pride of Moate

Great music acts can transform simple pieces of vinyl into some of the greatest records ever made. The Beatles did it. So did Queen. They wrote popular songs that resonated with their fans. Television chart shows such as the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” was a great marketing platform. Any music act that was invited to appear gained international exposure. Unfortunately, there isn’t an equivalent show anymore to launch a band to the world. Instead, there are a plethora of shows such as the “X-factor” that create 15 minutes of heavily marketed and packaged fame. Only a few winners have achieved career longevity or global superstardom. The vast majority disappear off the public radar before the auditions start for the show’s next season.

So, in today’s modern music business, a credible music act needs to generate publicity to be noticed to make money. Possessing raw talent and exceptional songwriting ability is not enough. Record companies no longer spend millions of Euros to promote a new signing and prefer music acts that bring an established fan base. Music no longer provides the levels of profits it once did. Physical records and CDs are more of a gimmick because the modern way to discover and listen to music is over an internet connection using one of the many streaming companies. One of the biggest and well known is Spotify which currently pays a music act €37.40 if their song is played 10,000 times. Therefore, unsigned music acts need to think outside the box and build a fanbase of people willing to listen/purchase their songs if they stand any chance of making a living from the music itself.

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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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