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.
Ireland needed the injection of 3.6 billion Euros into the economy that the bailout provided in 2011 but despite that, the Fianna Fáil and Green Party government were punished at the ballot box. The electorate was demanding change in leadership and Fine Gael and the Labour Party secured a mandate to jointly govern. That incoming coalition of parties took a hefty 55.6% of the vote and 113 seats.
Meanwhile, across the pond in the United States, the Wall Street Journal newspaper ran an article by the founder of the first widely used web browser, Marc Andreessen, in which he said that “software is eating the world”. He was saying that every company should become a software company, as they were poised to replace traditional businesses and run the economy. How right Andreessen was when you consider the enormous contribution that big software companies make annually to the Irish economy. Now in 2020, entrepreneur Ross Tormey’s 3D virtual tour company Insight Media (https://www.insightmedia.ie), is perfectly poised to take a chunk out of a specialised area that’s projected to grow annually to 438.6 million Euros by 2025.
After he graduated from Athlone Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, Ross Tormey found it very difficult to find local employment. He had briefly considered moving 140 miles away to work in Cork but ultimately decided against it, citing his family and commitment to his local rugby club, Mullingar RFC, as being far more important.
“I’ve been in Rochfortbridge for most of my life, its where I put down roots when I moved here from Manchester aged 10 with my family. Despite having a strong software degree, I just couldn’t get a full-time job after leaving college because the economy was tough at the time and there just weren’t that many jobs about.”
In 2013, Tormey’s luck changed. He was accepted for a 9-month JobBridge internship with Mullingar based engineering firm ORS. This led to a permanent position. He managed the IT systems, carried out digital marketing and managed the company’s web site. However, he felt unfulfilled in his job and like most entrepreneurs wanted more creative freedom; to set the rules and ultimately to steer his proverbial ship of destiny. He knew deep inside that he needed to set-up his own business.
An interest in landscape photography led to Tormey setting up an arts group called Eclectic Arts with some like-minded local friends. Eclectic Arts aimed to promote the work of local artists by staging local events. Using his technical expertise, Tormey built, managed and marketed Eclectic Arts online. The experience he gained from taking an idea through to its fruition, gave him the confidence to run his own business.
In 2017, a conversation that Tormey had with his cousin over a pint in the local pub, led to him looking into the emerging area of 3D virtual tours as a possible business. 3D virtual tours are an interactive solution that can allow you to ‘virtually’ walk around a property or building remotely by touching the screen on a phone, tablet or by using a computer. Traditionally, if you want to buy a new home, you’d probably search one of the many sites that show house listings or you might check out the local auctioneer’s web site. Once you have picked out some properties to view, you’d make the arrangements and then turn up. With 3D virtual tours, you don’t have to worry about any of that and can visit as many prospective homes as you want without any of the fuss of scheduling times, driving, parking etc. all from the comfort of your sofa and while watching tv. After carrying out research, Tormey found that nobody else was providing 3D virtual tours services in the midlands. He wasn’t worried about cashflow forecasts and started building a web site for his new business in his spare time.
In April 2018, he left ORS to start his company, Insight Media. His web site was aimed at the property industry and among the services he offered were, virtual tours, photography and web design.
The first client.
“I remember the euphoria from finally leaving my job to starting my own business. On Friday I went out for drinks with my former colleagues and the following Monday, I had a meeting arranged with a local auctioneer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t provide the service that the auctioneer had wanted. Those first few weeks was like banging my head against the wall but I just had to remain persistent.”
Tormey didn’t get his first piece of paid work until mid-August and had no income since he left his job.“My parents were a great support to me and helped as much as they could financially. It was tough though, for about 3 weeks I stayed at home because I couldn’t even afford to put diesel in my car.”
He self-financed his start-up costs and didn’t apply for any government grants. His savings went into buying pieces of essential equipment he needed for his business. His invoice from his first client is proudly pinned to his wall above his desk. But he is very disciplined in his business approach and isn’t afraid of hard work,he understands that a small business owner is always working.
“My parents had their own business when I was younger and I saw the hardships that they went through. My father drove trucks for a living and sub-contracted from civil engineering firms. They went through some serious hard times and even had to fold the business at one point – something that is always at the back of my mind. If you push yourself hard enough good things will come.”
In 2018 Tormey’s business was slowly gathering pace. By 2019, he had a massive 400% increase in revenue.
This year, started well and then Covid-19 hit the nation.
“In March when I heard that the country was going into lockdown, I just won a big contract. You see, the fact that people couldn’t leave their houses was ideal for virtual tours and business went through the roof. I won projects to create virtual tours for new housing developments, apartment blocks, office blocks, and museums. My turnover for the first half of this year was more than I made for the whole of 2019. I am very fortunate that I work in an industry that has been able to weather the pandemic” said Tormey.
Tormey is optimistic about the future and hopes to hire a team of people to help him expand his business. In the short term, he just wants to keep his overheads to a minimum and ensure that he keeps his head above water. Currently, he works from an office that was formally a spare bedroom, but isn’t the least bit bothered by it because it serves its purpose. He has a solid pipeline of work to get through, everything from 3D virtual tours to web design projects. He does plan however to spend more time with Marie his girlfriend,“My girlfriend and I bought a takeaway a few weeks ago, we set down to eat it, and then a rugby match just came on the tv. It was heaven for me, but, Marie wasn’t too amused!” he told me with the biggest smile on his face.
This article was published across the Topic group 17/12/2020.