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Skills To Advance Make skills work for your business If you’re looking for ways to grow your business, talk to your local Education and Training Board about subsidised training solutions for your workforce. For more, contact your local Education and Training Board or visit skillstoadvance.ie

“Developing my workforce has helped grow my business”

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S U P P O R T I N G E N T R E P R E N E U R S | VA L U I N G S M A L L B U S I N E S S | R E WA R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | S P R I N G 2 0 2 0



Brand of



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On the Cover: Nick Ashmore, CEO, SBCI Photography: Shane O’Neill, Fennell Photography

Editor: Colin White Contributors: Deanna O’Connor, Dean Van Nguyen Creative Director: Jane Matthews Designer: Alan McArthur Design Assitant: James Moore Production Executive: Nicole Ennis Account Director: Shane Kelly Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email info@ashville.com or write to: Better Business, Ashville Media, Unit 55, Park West Road, Park West Industrial Estate, Dublin 12, D12 X9F9. Tel: (01) 432 2200 All rights reserved. Every care has been taken to ensure that the information contained in this magazine is accurate. The publishers cannot, however, accept responsibility for errors or omissions. Reproduction by any means in whole or in part without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media Group 2020. All discounts, promotions and competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better Business. The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118 SFA is a trading name of Ibec.

Welcome to Better Business, a magazine dedicated to the small business community. As I write this, I am very aware that small businesses are in a world of pain right now, with many forced to close their doors and others fighting to survive. Since mid-March, SFA has been inundated with calls and queries on the ripple effect of Covid-19 and we are working hard to ensure that small businesses are supported during this difficult time. SFA continues to work on behalf of the small business community to advocate for the survival of small firms over the coming months and the reboot of the economy when our lives and livelihoods return to normal. If you have not already been in touch, visited our website, or watched one of our webinars, I would encourage you to do so. In this edition you will read about how the National Small Business Awards Gala Ceremony adapted to the new Covid-19 measures. I was delighted that so many of you joined us online on March 12th when eight category winners and five emerging new businesses were announced. KORE Insulation was named as Overall National SFA Small Business Winner 2020. Founded in 1997 by Jimmy Macken, and Tommy and Helen Brady, the company is based in Kilnaleck in Cavan. An EPS manufacturer, KORE delivers best-in-class, bespoke insulation solutions to the building and construction industry. Elsewhere in this edition you’ll find guidance about taking time out for your wellbeing during these challenging times, while our sector spotlight delves into the ever-expanding drinks industry. We have a roundup of February’s Business Connect event and we also chat with four Limerick-based entrepreneurs about the city’s commitment to new and existing businesses. This magazine contains stories that inform, inspire and entertain. It showcases and celebrates the achievements of small companies, provides advice to help you in your business and keeps you up-to-date on the latest trends at home and abroad. Ireland is a nation of small businesses. Of over 271,000 businesses in the country, 99% have less than 50 employees (small) and 92% have less than ten (micro). These companies can be seen in every city, town and village in the country and together they provide employment to half of the private sector workforce. The SFA proudly represents a diverse membership of businesses with less than 50 employees: homegrown and spanning every sector of our economy. Our members can be found in every town and every city in Ireland. We want to make Ireland the most vibrant small business community in the world – an environment that supports entrepreneurship, values small business and rewards risk takers. Better Business is the magazine of the small business community. We welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas to info@sfa.ie or on Twitter @SFA_Irl. Sven Spollen-Behrens Director, Small Firms Association


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Big News for Small Business News, views and profiles from SFA members and small businesses in Ireland.

Positive Culture Building resilience across all levels of the business is key for small firms during this unpredictable time.

Special Report Better Business examines the implications for small organisations from the threat of Covid-19 across three varying sectors.

16 20 22

Cover Story Nick Ashmore suggests the best way to support Irish firms is to enable access to competitive finance at this time of crisis.

Lunar Landscape Salvo Vaccarino explains how small firms can transform a new tech concept from a whiteboard sketch to a tradable product.

Limerick Leaders We ask four Limerick-based entrepreneurs why the city has become such an attractive location for doing business.

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Sector Spotlight An ambition to innovate means Irish drinks producers will continue to look further afield to maintain growth.

Brand of Gold We speak to Andrew Bradley of Bradley Brand and Design on the methodology of building a brand.

SFA Awards KORE Insulation was named overall winner at the SFA National Small Business Awards 2020.

Arts and Culture Colin White discusses the value of staying ahead of the curve with arts journalist and broadcaster Nadine O’Regan.

The Big Read Dr Niamh Shaw reminds us that we can be anything we want to be if we are brave and bold enough.

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Trading Places Caroline Gray discusses her passion for all things culinary and how five months in Ireland turned into eight years.


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Spring 2020  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: Salvo Vaccarino explains how small firms can transform a tech concept into a tradable product, page 20 // Limerick-based entrepreneur Patrick J. Byrnes on why the city has become an attractive location, page 22 // Caroline Gray discusses her passion for all things culinary and how five months in Ireland turned into eight years, page 41 // Niamh Shaw reminds us that we can be anything we want to be if we are brave and bold enough, page 64


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Updates  News



SFA National Council


SFA elects new Chair and welcomes new Council members

The SFA is delighted to announce that Graham Byrne has been elected as its new Chair by the SFA National Council. Graham has served on the SFA National Council since 2012 and his priorities in office will be to support SFA members during this time of rolling Brexit and Covid-19 uncertainty, work with government and other stakeholders on the delivery of the new SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy as proposed by the OECD and long called for by the Small Firms Association. Additionally, he will also seek to improve access to finance for small businesses and develop initiatives that will address the current levels of financial literacy amongst small business owners. Graham is a Managing Director with Cardinal Capital Group. With over 20 years’ financial services industry experience, Graham has been directly involved in Irish SMEs serving supplied goods and services in Ireland and overseas. The largest concentration of Graham’s involvement is in providing funding directly to Irish SMEs. Following the SFA AGM, two new members were elected to the SFA National Council. Rebecca Harrison, Managing Director of Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy boutique department store, and Patrick Downes, CEO of the Institute of Management Consultants and Advisers, join the SFA National Council. For more information on the SFA National Council, visit www.sfa.ie.

HAYES MCGRATH SOLICITORS ANNOUNCES THE APPOINTMENT OF TWO NEW PARTNERS Hayes McGrath Solicitors has announced the appointments of two new partners: Ciaran McIntyre and Aileen Dolan. Hayes McGrath is one of Ireland’s leading litigation defence firms and serves the top insurance firms in Ireland and the UK. Aileen’s extensive experience includes working in-house for two of Ireland’s largest insurers, representing clients at all Court levels, as well as arbitrations, mediations and employment tribunals. Ciaran advises many Irish and UK insurance companies on issues ranging from public liability, product liability and employer liability, as well as specialising in recovery claims.

Pictured (l-r): Ciaran McIntyre, Aileen Dolan, Jan Hayes, Yvonne O’Hanlon and David Fenton

The Small Firms Association has welcomed the Government’s latest support measures designed to see small businesses and their workers through the Covid-19 crisis. Sven Spollen-Behrens, Director of the Small Firms Association, said: “The government has listened to the feedback we have provided and responded to the needs of small business owners across the country. Importantly, those that are self-employed who are experiencing a significant loss of income will be eligible for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 directly from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. “The announcement that non-essential outlets have been ordered to close is understandable given the circumstances. I encourage these small retailers to contact their local authority immediately in relation to rates deferral and to seek advice from their Local Enterprise Office on additional Covid-19 supports. SFA supports the social distancing measures and will work with small business owners to adhere to them and continue to support them during this crisis.”



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News  Updates


TOP TWEETS Read about our thoughts on pages 37-39 of

@BetterBizIre @SFA_Irl magazine. We discuss education, entrepreneurship and our desire to build authentic leadership across the country.


@sueoneillwalsh alongside

@abodoojobs and

Sven Spollen-Behrens of @SFA_Irl on the topic of #RemoteWorking #FlexibleWorking



SFA member Ventac was awarded Micro/SME Manufacturing Company of the Year at the Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) Manufacturing and Supply Chain Awards 2020. These awards are an opportunity to showcase and recognise the positive impact manufacturing has made to the economy and local communities, both nationally and internationally. Ventac was established in 1972 and is based in Blessington, Wicklow. Along with their expertise in the vehicle noise control sector, Ventac specialises in the design, manufacture and supply of building and industrial noise control solutions. The company supports customers in addressing the key industry issues, such as compliance, workplace and environmental demands, and the company’s solutions are validated by their experienced acoustic team and technical capabilities. Winning this award acknowledges their high-performance manufacturing solutions tailored to the exact needs of their customers.

Interested in fully online, tutor supported and industry certified courses? In response to the #COVID19 situation


courses are temporarily being made available free of charge to over 16s. More info @http:// ecollege.ie #eCollegeisOpen #edchatie #COVID19ireland


If you are a #smallbusiness in #Ireland @SFA_Irl has produced a great set of questions to ask your #politicians this #generalelection. Find out more here #stand together



The FHM Accountants team

FHM Accountants celebrates 20th anniversary FHM Accountants celebrated its 20th anniversary in late 2019 and also picked up a coveted Business All-Stars Award. In January 2020, the company opened its mentoring suite above their offices in Gorey, Wexford. FHM Accountants specialises in business mentoring, two-day business growth retreats, business-owner-manager courses and management accounts. This expansion has been brought about by the hard work of the partners and team at FHM Accountants.


Great discussion this morning on @TodaySOR from our very own

Pictured (l-r) Vincent Wall, Newstalk host and MC; Darren Fortune, Managing Director, Ventac; June Butler, Bank of Ireland; Aine Clarke, Customer Service Manager, Ventac; and Tom Clarke, Operations Manager, Ventac


The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has established a Business Support Call Centre for information on the government supports available to businesses and enterprises affected by Covid-19. Tel: (01) 631 2002, email: infobusinesssupport@dbei. gov.ie or visit dbei.gov.ie to see the full list, including supports for income, working capital, rates and VAT deferral and a business continuity planning Covid-19 checklist. MICROFINANCE IRELAND HELPS MICROENTERPRISES PROGRESS

A recent independent survey undertaken by EY on the services provided by the government-funded, not-for-profit lender Microfinance Ireland (MFI) shows that 95% of the microenterprises surveyed overwhelmingly believed the lender was important in helping them progress their plans for their business. Nearly half of those surveyed (48%) used their loan to cover startup costs, while 30% used the funding for business growth and expansion. The loan purpose for the remaining 22% was working capital. The results of the EY survey highlights the ongoing benefits of the Microenterprise Loan Fund to provide loan finance up to €25,000 to small businesses that find it challenging to get finance from commercial lending providers. MFI does not compete with the traditional pillar banks, but aims to do what the lending banks can’t do and, by filling this gap, MFI is supporting economic growth and job creation across the country. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 5

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Interview  Leading Through Uncertainty


power of

positive CULTURE



ith the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland we are facing unprecedented challenges. Companies need to be agile during any period of economic uncertainty and today’s business leaders have been forced into the development of new strategies to ensure survival. Experienced leadership trainer Marina Bleahen has forged a niche within the industry by partnering with global leaders for the provision of corporate training and coaching to businesses across Ireland. Founded in 2019, BusinessWorks Consulting is a network team of leadership experts specialising in bringing together strategy and culture to enable firms to improve overall performance. The most successful entrepreneurs have the resourcefulness to solve a myriad of problems that may arise. At this pivotal time for Ireland, Bleahen is adamant that a decisive approach to leadership is more


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Leading Through Uncertainty  Interview

important than ever. “This Covid-19 crisis is about people and there’s a demand on leaders to step up,” she says. “Being resilient is a key part of leadership and this pandemic is really going to test that. Adapt, mind your courage and make a new plan – but don’t give up.” She adds: “We’re in a new environment and it’s really important for leaders to make the best plan they can. It’s important to focus on the future and what you can control. At BusinessWorks, we give firms a new language by taking them on a journey of becoming the best they can be through awareness, emotional intelligence and how to become an effective leader – but all the while focused on the commercial success of the business. That is to my core; everything we do will come back to deliver commercial success.” Emotionally intelligent leaders have the power to be self-reliant and resilient in developing ideas. “In a time of crisis,” explains Bleahen, “they will recognise that they have the power to make key decisions. They can see the big picture, focus on the possibilities and

that leaders recognise that there is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there. People are worried about their family, health and future.” The leader’s role is to reframe the vision and it is critical that they communicate with employees in an optimistic way. Business owners must dig deep and really recognise what they can control and focus on ways to innovate their business models so they can come back to the market stronger and more human. “This crisis is life-changing for all of us,” says Bleahen. “However, it does bring with it an opportunity to stand back and assess the business so you are ready to advance to the post-Covid-19 business environment. “As a business owner and leader myself, I was in a spin at the start of this pandemic and therefore understand what goes on in my clients’ minds. It’s so important to focus on what you can control and improve so that you can look back on this period as a time when stronger systems were put in place for the business to transform from good to great.”


Marina Bleahen, founder, BusinessWorks Consulting

seek out opportunities even in the face of adversity.” By facilitating the personal development of every member of the organisation, small firms can significantly improve engagement. There is now an opportunity to innovate business models and optimise commercial success. “Prior to Covid-19, the war for talent raged and soaring recruitment costs were a real challenge,” states Bleahen. “Now, it’s vitally important

Starting and running your own business successfully is no easy task and oftentimes can be as stressful as it is rewarding. Building business resilience is very much about open and honest communication, according to the BusinessWorks Consulting founder. “It’s about not accepting mediocrity,” she informs. “Coaching is about people becoming the best they can be by working together to improve. The leader sets the tone; set out to do an extraordinary job and hold yourself accountable to your goals.” Some leadership qualities differ in nature, but incorporating a positive culture will drive success for the business. Results will always be the motivation for cultural change and the measure of a company’s success. By continuing to come to the table with solutions, it’s possible to change the outlook of any team. “We really want people to own their success,” states Bleahen, “both in and out of work so they can have that financial security to live the lives they want. You’ve one life; this is show-time, not a rehearsal. When a client tells me of the dramatic impact our work has made on their business, it’s really powerful and this is the greatest part of my job. “Our beliefs drive our actions. At BusinessWorks we change how people think and act to deliver a new result – and that’s the power of a positive culture. “Change the culture, change the game,” she concludes. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 7

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Special Report  Covid-19





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Covid-19  Special Report



I write, we are deep into the digital age’s first worldwide pandemic. The situation is a rapidly evolving one and the concerns of today could be insignificant tomorrow. To get a real sense of the impact in Ireland, gauging the responses and perspectives of those at the coalface across Irish business is key. Having studied professional management and sound engineering, Jennifer Cullen founded Believe Management in 2011. The management agency coaches, supports and promotes artists from starting out to performing internationally. “We are a full-service music management firm that leverages technology to find, develop and promote emerging artists,” she says. “We combine top music and tech talent to give artists an opportunity to have their music heard by the right people, in the right places.” With global markets in a state of fluctuation due to Covid-19, things are changing on an hourly basis, according to the Belfast-based entrepreneur. “It’s a very unique situation. In my time our industry has never experienced anything like this before and we couldn’t have planned for this. We have completely revamped our projections and scaled back outgoings in line with the new climate. We are lucky insofar as the business is both clicks and mortar across multiple markets, but it’s been a daily challenge to quickly refocus.” Bohemian FC’s Daniel Lambert can appreciate the difficulties of operating in a realm where physical events play a critical role. As Marketing and Commercial Director, he has played a critical role in the rejuvenation of the oldest League of Ireland club still in existence. Simply known as ‘Bohs’ to many, the member-owned club has an ethos at odds with its big-money Premier League counterparts across the Irish Sea. The philosophy is to embed itself in the local community and through active and inclusive engagement the club has broadened its footprint across north Dublin. Attendances have skyrocketed as a result. It’s a remarkable turnaround, considering the club had debts of €6.5m hanging over it as recently as 2015. “It’s not too long since the club nearly went out of existence,” says Lambert, “and for the last number of years there’s been a collective effort to rebuild.

Jennifer Cullen, CEO, Believe Management


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Special Report  Covid-19

“Over the last two seasons in particular we’ve seen very healthy incomes, especially around match days. It’s become common for games to sell out that wouldn’t have previously sold out, and this year we saw the biggest number of memberships and season ticket sales in the history of the club.” The pandemic has seen League of Ireland football put on hold. Despite the shutdown of all sporting events, the club has made the decision to honour all contracts with their players and staff amid the outbreak. Not all of Bohemian FC’s counterparts in the league have been in a position to offer the same degree of stability to staff, however. “We’re fortunate in a way that the pandemic struck at this time,” notes Lambert. “If it happened three years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to honour any contracts. It’s not nice to see what’s happening at other clubs, and I sympathise with them. We’re not paying the types of salaries that you see at privately owned clubs in the league and for the 2020 season the income was front-loaded [through membership sales, etc.] and that enabled a strong bank balance.” Known as ‘the people’s club’, everyone involved with Bohemian FC represents more than just their own team; they belong to a community that they value and that values them. “When new staff and commercial partners come on board we tell them about the club’s identity, vision and values, and it’s important that those values remain throughout the difficult times as well as the good,” Lambert explains. “The players and staff have been a big part of our success. The way Keith Long [Senior Team Manager] and the players conduct themselves in such a professional manner made it a relatively straightforward decision for us, once we had worked out that we could commit to honouring the contracts.” Safety compliance firm Safecility is another organisation heavily reliant on a continuous stream of business. “As a small startup, we’re really dependent on a steady flow of business from our customers to sustain our growth and to keep us going,” says CEO Cian O’Flaherty. “The uncertainty around decision-making has a huge effect on

us. Anything that is classed as non-essential or non-emergency work is now paused and the impact is that our business is now in a suspended state." Safecility is a wireless tool that removes the pain of emergency lighting and fire safety compliance through automatic testing and reporting, eliminating inspection costs for its clients. “We believe there’s a smarter, simpler way to achieve compliance using sensor technology,” says O’Flaherty, “and we provide wireless emergency lighting control systems. 86% of the buildings we will live in by 2050 are already built, however, rewiring these buildings is a huge cost burden and our technology gets rid of that burden. “It’s really about fighting fires at the moment. It’s an incredibly challenging time for firms like ourselves.” It’s more important than ever for organisations to stay focused, according to Cullen. “You need to think on your feet,” she says. “There are some amazing strategies coming from necessity and survival mode. In some ways we have moved ahead at lightning pace and, in other ways, things are simplifying. We are stripping back our

“WE’RE FORTUNATE IN A WAY THAT THE PANDEMIC STRUCK AT THIS TIME. IF IT HAPPENED THREE YEARS AGO, WE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO HONOUR ANY CONTRACTS. IT’S NOT NICE TO SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING AT OTHER CLUBS, AND I SYMPATHISE WITH THEM." business and focusing on our key drivers and exploring opportunities we maybe wouldn’t have previously as venues close and we have to find new ways to engage with our markets.”

A stressful scenario

Daniel Lambert, Marketing and Commercial Director, Bohemian FC

It is understandable that large swathes of the population feel anxious about the current predicament, which has far-reaching implications for mental health and wellbeing. Mental health awareness has always been to the fore for Jennifer Cullen. “I’m very mindful that there is a very human element which surpasses any business or economic challenge. The vital thing is to think outside the box. We can see in history that tough times can bring people together to come up with creative and unique ways of not only surviving but thriving.


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Covid-19  Special Report

“Firms should put mental health as a main priority in order to help navigate through these uncertain times. There are so many amazing tools available now that we can access, such as meditation and mindfulness, that are readily available to us all.” The swift increase in the number of Irish employees working from home has presented both opportunities and headaches. “Ireland has been behind the curve on remote working,” states O’Flaherty. “Many Irish businesses are poorly equipped and fail to understand that remote working is a very different type of working. It’s a nobrainer to enable more remote work as a business practice. It’s good for wellbeing and reduces unnecessary commuting – there’s far more positives than negatives and I would encourage anyone to do it. As a business, we try to limit face-to-face meetings and keep communication across email to allow people time to do their work.” The shift to home working has been a relatively straightforward process for Cullen and her team. “We are used to using several different communication networks, so we have systems in place,” she explains. “We were already using all the main technologies that some people are now just discovering, so from that perspective there hasn’t been a massive change. The main thing is supporting the team’s health first and foremost to ensure everyone feels secure and connected during this uncertain time.” From a sporting perspective, footballers have always relied on the camaraderie of the dressing room: football’s inner sanctum where games are won and lost even before a ball is kicked. “Some players and staff will really struggle with the lack of routine, and as a club we’re aware of this,” adds Daniel Lambert. “Our players have been given individual training programmes and the management team are in regular contact to help reduce any impact of isolation. Many of our players also have jobs, so it’s a very full schedule with training five nights a week, while also working full-time.” Firms need to adopt a flexible approach around working hours and productivity due to the amount of distraction employees – particularly those with children – are currently facing. “We are in an exceptional time,” stresses O’Flaherty. “People are at home with children and are worried about loved ones. I think

Cian O’Flaherty, CEO, Safecility and Darren Horan, Associate Fire Safety Engineer, Arup

“MANY IRISH BUSINESSES ARE POORLY EQUIPPED AND FAIL TO UNDERSTAND THAT REMOTE WORKING IS A VERY DIFFERENT TYPE OF WORKING. IT’S A NO-BRAINER TO ENABLE MORE REMOTE WORK AS A BUSINESS PRACTICE." there has to be an enormous amount of leeway around employee productivity over the coming months from employers. People are hurting and struggling and as leaders in business the best we can do is to be there for our staff. At Safecility, we try to provide an understanding environment for our staff and we are realistic about what can be expected in the current setting.”

The many unknowns The Covid-19 crisis has presented substantial financial challenges for businesses. “The decisions from government have certainly helped,” says O’Flaherty, referring to the income support scheme to help firms and employees through the crisis. “Hopefully these interventions will play a role in keeping companies alive. I have a lot of sympathy for companies that have had to let people go.” O’Flaherty also believes it’s critical that small firms do everything in their power to retain staff. “You’ve to be ready to go when things return to normal and, at Safecility, everything we’re doing right now is focused on that. It’s vital for us as a company to keep our team together, as they fully understand our product. For the time being, developmental work will be our main focus and we’ll continue in this fashion until this pandemic passes.” “There’s still a lot of confusion out there,” adds Cullen. “Although there is a huge package of support, it can be daunting to hold together a business and access that support as and when needed. But it’s encouraging to see the efforts being made available at such short notice.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 11

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Special Report  Covid-19

At the SBIR 2019 conference (pictured l-r): Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland, Cian O’Flaherty, CEO, Safecility, Marguerite Bourke, Enterprise Ireland, and Kieran Reeves, Limerick City and County Council

Bohemian FC’s success on the field during 2019 put the team in a position to compete on the European stage for the first time since 2012. The six-figure sum the club is due to receive from this is a major part of the club’s projected income for 2020. With Bohs’ European adventure suspended until further notice, it’s a worry for the club’s Marketing and Commercial Director. “It’s a big part of our budget and we’re not sure if those games will happen now,” explains Lambert. “It’s overwhelming if you try and think about it too much. We’re just keeping an eye on things from a week-to-week basis.” And if the pandemic drags on further into late 2020? “Things would become extremely tricky for us if that’s the case,” admits Lambert. “At every home game we have strong merchandise and bar sales, so the longer this delay is protracted, the more severe the implications. The worst-case scenario is the season doesn’t happen at all. That would be a disaster for us. There are so many unknowns at the moment and many businesses and clubs across the country are in a similar position.”

An uncertain future Small Irish firms have proved their resilience time and time again over recent years, but planning for the disruption of a pandemic is not something that’s typically mulled over during business briefings. “Small businesses will struggle with assessing future risk, as they don’t have the money, bandwidth or staff to allow them to think long-term,” O’Flaherty comments. “Some businesses are better at looking at advance planning and have the capacity to look at risk, and there are others that aren’t. “Ultimately, the challenge over the coming months is all about survival. We have to look at every single thing we’re doing and make the best possible decisions to survive through this. That’s the best realistic outcome.” Organisations also need to revise any existing agreements already agreed upon. For Bohemian FC, a pending stadium redevelopment projected to cost €34.3m and established in conjunction with the redevelopment of Phibsborough Shopping Centre, could come under increasing scrutiny due to a potential reduction in government spending. Lambert is hopeful the construction of the community-owned sporting and cultural space in the heart of Dublin 7 will remain a focus for government post-pandemic. “There are two ways to look at it,” he says. “The first is that it could be deemed as non-essential and get pushed back by years. The other is that during a recessionary time, sport and community facilities play a key role and the cost is a relatively small

amount in terms of the national budget. We’ll continue to press hard that it falls on the latter and goes ahead as planned. However, it does throw further uncertainty into the mix for us as a club.” Cullen is also staying positive in the face of Covid-19. “We can and will weather the economic impact,” she says. “There are lots of new ways that people can continue to support the artists that they love, and this is a perfect time to discover some of the amazing new artists that are out there creating incredible work right now. It has been very uplifting to see how music and art supports and uplifts people in the most amazing way and artists have found a myriad of ways to virtually connect with audiences during the Covid-19 crisis.”

A time for reflection Ireland’s frontline workers in the fight against Covid-19 deserve a massive amount of credit for their tireless efforts since the pandemic broke. Cian O’Flaherty is ensuring their efforts don’t go unsung. As co-founder of Feed The Heroes he is helping thousands of medical professionals have access to nutritious meals. “This is a national crisis and it demands a national response,” he says. “We’re a group of volunteers supporting our amazing healthcare teams as they work longer shifts and have little time to prepare food. Most of the team at Safecility are helping with it and we’ve had an incredible response from the people of Ireland. We’re doing our best along with other volunteers and we’ve delivered thousands of meals nationwide.” This unprecedented situation is the perfect opportunity to look at fresh approaches, according to Lambert. “I’ve never looked at things from a purely business point of view. What this shows up for me is the fragility of the capitalist model we live under. There basically needs to be a continuous flow of capital to keep this system on the road, which is totally at odds with the natural order. Maybe this is a time to reflect on those systems.” “I think how we help and support each other during this will ultimately define how quickly we can move forward and rebuild,” adds Cullen. “I’m very mindful that your health is your wealth and this is even more prevalent in the current climate.”


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Advice  Wise Guys




TRAINING Noel Davidson

Director of Training, The Entrepreneurs Academy Ignore your online persona at your peril. It’s a strong statement, but it’s true. Most small businesses still treat their website and social media presence as a oneway communication tool and are more concerned with pushing out constant product information and sales pitches, rather than actively engaging with their customer base. Users today understand that a website and any social media presence is a conversation, not a monologue. Would you want to be friends with your business at a cocktail party? How ‘likeable’ is your business? Create an online persona, join the conversation and find out.


BUSINESS ADVICE Pat Lavelle Restructuring Specialist, EFM Ireland

Belief is an essential component. Have a goal and a plan to support it. A clear goal will give you energy and focus, while a sound, well-prepared plan will give you confidence and a roadmap. Any investors will want to see a business plan, so spend time creating a high-level three to five-year plan, as well as a detailed plan for the coming 12 months. The very act of putting pen to paper brings clarity of purpose, sets milestones and locks down the actions required to meet them, while also identifying some of the possible pitfalls.


MARKETING CONSULTANCY Muireann Fitzmaurice Owner, MarketingCoach.ie

Providing consistent value to your customer is the key to success. Finding ways to help them look good, feel good, do good and grow their business is the most important aspect of my job. Bringing a positive attitude to the table is really important. I have learned over the years to work with people that are passionate about their brand and value relationships with everyone who comes in contact with their business – it brings out the best results for everyone involved.

There are many definitions, but there’s one thing that all great business leaders agree on, and that’s how success can only come by persevering despite failure.


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Wise Guys  Advice

“There’s always an opportunity with crisis. Just as it forces an individual to look inside himself, it forces a company to re-examine its policies and practices.”



Managing Partner, Yala I remember learning about the phrase, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, and I have moved from effectively completely ignoring culture to making it our focus. In highly competitive, fragmented markets where competitive advantages are hard to come by, we have found it more productive to focus on culture over strategy. Making sure the people who work in our business buy into the company values and vision is our number one priority. We have a young, diverse team, with nine different nationalities – it is essential for them to feel they are engaged in meaningful work and are learning and developing all the time.

If you are a business leader



Director, Go Motion Academy Focus on one big idea. Entrepreneurs like me always need to be thinking about the next product or service, but I think that it’s advisable not to diversify early on as it’s better to work for a considerable period to hone one really good offering. It can be distracting and stressful to launch with multiple offerings. That’s work that can be undertaken when a core product is up-andrunning and making the money required to support new products. It sounds obvious, but I learned this the hard way!

Judy Smith (born October 27), lawyer and author


DIGITAL MARKETING Amy O’Sullivan Owner, AOS Consulting

‘Your network is your net worth’ – this is a quote I have lived by for years. You can have all the skills and talent in the world, but if you don’t understand how to get yourself out there and develop lasting relationships with potential clients and partners, you will struggle. The digital age makes it very easy for us to stay connected and social media provides us with amazing platforms to really harness and develop both our personal and business brands.

and you feel you have some words of wisdom to share with he small business community please email info@sfa.ie


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Cover Story  Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland



Survival OF



Small Firms Association Director Sven Spollen-Behrens indicates in this issue’s opening remarks, Ireland is a nation of small businesses. These nationwide businesses are the backbone of our economy and, if we are to return to growth after the current difficulties, it is vital to ensure our small firms are in a position to survive and, over time, expand. Access to finance is an intrinsic component in facilitating this.


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Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland  Cover Story

Nick Ashmore, CEO, Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland


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Cover Story  Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) was set up in September 2014 to ensure that Irish SMEs have access to stable, lower-cost and longer-term funding options. Since the organisation started its lending activity, the SBCI has provided more than €1.4bn in funding support to more than 29,000 SMEs utilising a mix of lowcost liquidity and guarantees. By continually evolving its business model since its establishment, the SBCI has successfully kept up-to-date with changing market conditions to meet the financing needs of SMEs. It has developed into a flexible, adaptive and innovative provider of solutions to address failures in the SME market with a range of supports, from initially providing low-cost funding to developing and bringing to market several risksharing schemes. CEO Nick Ashmore provides an insight into the SBCI’s response to the evolution of the SME lending market. “When the SBCI commenced operations, the SME market was demonstrating a reluctance to borrow, instead focusing on utilising their own reserves to fund their working capital and investment requirements,” he comments. “As confidence returned to the market, asset purchases also increased, with a significant number of SMEs utilising leasing, rather than traditional term lending to fund these. “More recently, there has been an increase in applications for credit; however, the overall outstanding SME loan book continues to contract. The barriers to accessing finance for SMEs include ongoing issues, such as requirement for collateral and an interest rate differential compared with EU counterparts, as well as newer challenges including Brexit and, more recently, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The SBCI has been evolving rapidly to address all of these challenges.” By partnering with banks, non-banks and European institutions to maximise the benefits available to small firms that need low-cost funding, the SBCI has continued to extend its capabilities as a risk-sharing provider. This perfectly demonstrates the SBCI’s willingness to enable small Irish firms to access finance during this difficult period. The SBCI operates two main lines of business: provision of low-cost liquidity, and provision of partial guarantees. Ashmore explains: “The low-cost liquidity operation provides SBCI’s partners with funding at a discount compared to their normal cost of funding. This discount must be passed on to the SME and the SBCI monitors the implementation of this discount on a loan by loan basis.”

Nick Ashmore, CEO, Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

The SBCI liquidity operation is being implemented in partnership with Bibby Financial Services Ireland, Capitalflow, Fexco Asset Finance and Finance Ireland. “The SBCI risk-sharing operation is delivered through our banking partners: AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank and Ulster Bank,” he continues. “Risk-sharing operates on the basis that the SBCI provides a lending partner with a partial guarantee – up to a maximum of 80% – with the partner assuming the risk for the remaining 20%. This guarantee generally allows a significant reduction in the interest rate applied to the SME loan and also can reduce the collateral requirement for these facilities.” In addition to its risk-sharing activity, the SBCI supports financial products from term lending, leasing and invoice finance through the provision of low-cost liquidity and plans to expand both its product range and its lender base.


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Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland  Cover Story

Support schemes Access to finance is critical for SMEs during this time of uncertainty due to the challenges being presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. To assist small firms in dealing with these challenges, the SBCI, in conjunction with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has developed the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme. “This guarantee supports loans up to three years, with a fixed rate of 4%, loan amounts between €25,000 and €1.5m and with loans up to €500,000 being unsecured,” Ashmore informs. “This scheme can be used to help SMEs address their Covid-19 challenges and is designed to allow most sectors to access its benefits.” The existing Credit Guarantee Scheme and Brexit Loan Scheme (BLS) are also available to support SMEs at this challenging time. Relaunched in 2018, the Credit Guarantee Scheme aims to assist viable SMEs, which under normal lending criteria are unable to borrow from their bank, in accessing credit. SMEs can avail of this support directly from AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. Additionally, the BLS has been designed to allow eligible Irish small firms to finance the changes they may need to make to prepare for Brexit. These may include the need to purchase additional stock, explore new markets, acquire new storage facilities, change their business model or revise the supply chain. The eligibility process for SBCI’s Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme is a straightforward one, as Ashmore explains. “SMEs should visit the dedicated Covid-19 Scheme page on our website, complete the application form and email it to us. We will respond within 72 hours to confirm if you’re eligible for the scheme.” The SME then takes the letter of eligibility, together with a simple business plan (there’s an easy-to-use template on the SBCI website) to their bank to commence the loan application. “A number of businesses have queried whether they would meet the innovation criteria for the scheme,” adds Ashmore. “The scheme is designed to take a very broad interpretation of innovation and therefore most SMEs should be able to satisfy this requirement.”

“The ability to access working capital will be critical in ensuring that SMEs can work their way through this current crisis,” says Ashmore. “Our aim is to provide this through the delivery of the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme and the Credit Guarantee Scheme.” Ongoing development of new and innovative products also continues to be a focus. “The SBCI has delivered four new risk-sharing schemes into the SME market in the last three years,” Ashmore states. “This has injected a lending capacity of up €750m into the Irish lending market during this period. “Irish interest rates for SMEs continue to be higher than those available to their European competitors. The SBCI will continue to encourage competition together with the provision of guarantee products, thereby encouraging new entrants to the market, driving competition and, in turn, reducing rates.” While the Covid-19 pandemic is currently the main concern for small firms in Ireland, Brexit remains an


Economic development

issue for those reliant on the UK and Northern Ireland for trade, as well as for those using the UK land-bridge to transit goods to and from Europe. “The Brexit Loan Scheme is available to impacted SMEs to assist them in adapting their business to a post-Brexit environment and for identifying new suppliers and markets outside the UK,” says Ashmore. “We will continue to utilise government and European backing to provide finance to the SME market, including farming, when there is a policy requirement and when it supports economic development and enhanced competition.”

The SBCI’s commitment is to continue developing products and on-lender relationships to deliver effective and innovative financial support to Irish firms. The immediate priority is to provide as much support as is possible to small firms over the coming months.

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’s goal is to ensure access to flexible funding for Irish SMEs. For more information, visit www.sbci.gov.ie. Businesses can also call 1800 804 482 or email info@sbci.gov.ie if any questions arise. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 19

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Interview  Salvo Vaccarino










an age when ideation plays a critical role in the success of any business, devising original concepts is vital. Perhaps you’re confident that you’ve come up with a great idea, but you’ve no clue where to start. How to bridge this gap between technology and creativity is a common issue for many small firms. Implementing solutions to challenges that could be overcome with a bespoke offering is second nature to creative and technology studio Lunar’s Director Salvo Vaccarino. “No matter how big or small your idea is, we’ll turn it into a reality,” he says. “We’re techies with a creative knack with decades of advertising experience under our belts. We know just what clients need and exactly how to deliver it.” Guiding clients through unexplored tech territories and conceptualising and prototyping ideas into tangible products that are fit-for-purpose is Lunar’s speciality. Vaccarino highlights why he believes the company stands apart from its competitors. “The fact that we’re not purely a technical development agency is key,” he explains. “We focus on the creative aspect and, most importantly, we look at what results can be achieved. We offer both creative and technological solutions and our clients have been very responsive to this approach.” After cutting his technological teeth in Accenture Technology Solutions in Italy, Vaccarino made the move to Dublin in 2011 and soon took up a role with media agency Radical, becoming the firm’s Technical Director in early 2016. Vaccarino points to the experience gained during this period as being instrumental in the formation of Lunar in 2017. “As well as being excited about the creative capabilities I could assist clients with,” he states, “I’ve learned how to view the whole lifecycle of a project. During my time at Radical I also became more experimental, moving from traditional web development to complex creative technology. To this day, I still enjoy applying my technical know-how to the project build.” The challenges of living and working in Dublin have been well documented in recent times, with the affordability of housing and the cost of living being two common bugbears. While accepting the significant challenges of doing business here, Vaccarino’s experiences have been largely positive. “Dublin has been easy to operate from,” he says. “It took me maybe three days to register the company, a process that would take months in Italy. From a tax perspective, it’s very easy to operate here and, generally, costs have been reasonable too.”


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Salvo Vaccarino  Interview

Lost in translation Innovation has been at the forefront of Vaccarino’s progression within the industry here. He was pivotal in Ireland’s first contactless payment installation: a donation station built for Focus Ireland with the aim of raising awareness and funding in the fight against homelessness. “This was completely new at the time,” the Sicilian native explains. “I get the most satisfaction from those projects; when there’s an impactful social aspect involved. I find these very fulfilling.” Working with clients from a diverse pool of sectors (AIB, Four Star Pizza, National Lottery), Vaccarino asserts that clients have become more knowledgeable about the creative process and technological tools required on any given project. The freedom that comes from being a small operation has been beneficial for Lunar. “Working with an agency is great, but there’s too many layers in a way,” comments Vaccarino. “There’s too many people involved and this increases the chances of something being lost in translation. There’s more of an understanding amongst clients that a reasonable amount of time is required for certain technical projects, even if that’s the development of a simple website. “The way I work now, when clients reach out to me I can explain in simple terms what the project requires – it’s a cleaner process. We’ll flesh out the idea and come back with a proposal that details what technologies we would use, the project lifecycle, timelines and costs.” There are some common mistakes made by clients, according to Vaccarino. “Going too big too quickly is a common one,” he says, “and this can be due to either party: the client or the creative agency. The client needs to have an idea of what they want to sell, the audience and how the product will vary from a competitor’s offering.” The platform should never be the idea, according to Vaccarino. “If you have an idea for a product or service, don’t base the whole concept on the fact that you’re using a specific technology. That shouldn’t be the case; the technology is just the tool to bring that idea to life.” Vaccarino is also aware that the standard of Lunar’s output and its reputation is essential as we enter a postCovid-19 business landscape. “I want to work with a limited number of clients and to work as much as we can by direct referral,” he asserts. “This will allow me to concentrate fully on each client and do good work for them. If you take too much work on, the quality will suffer.”

Powerful tools When thinking about concepts for prototyping, it is important to determine production methods that streamline the manufacturing process. Developing a prototype of your idea is one of the first steps Lunar reviews to evaluate the feasibility of any concept.

Salvo Vaccarino, Director, Lunar Creative/Technology

“We love to experiment, test, prototype and turn ideas into reality,” informs Vaccarino. “During the first meeting with a client, we’ll discuss all the potential ramifications of the idea and basically get excited about where the project can go. Some developers tend to focus on the technology itself, rather than what it will ultimately provide users with; our focus always falls more on the concept – the flow, how people will use it and the impact it will have – rather than how it is built. I try to create things that can grow and we can assist small firms throughout this growing phase, providing all the technical support they need.” He adds: “We can build a prototype for testing, as many of our clients may need to show this to potential investors. There’s nothing really shortterm about what we do. A product is never finished, as it always evolves.” Vaccarino is also well versed in the implementation of any analytics solution a client may require and every project comes integrated with Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics. “We deploy the use of analytics across all our clients’ campaigns,” he says. “It’s quite a powerful tool and clients nowadays understand the importance of analytics. They definitely want to see as much user interaction and behaviour as possible.”

Voice of reason Speed of change has been a consistent factor within the tech sector and Vaccarino believes voice integration represents the latest evolution in our relationship with technology. “Voice technology is one key direction Lunar is moving towards and we are already rolling out voice tech across a number of projects,” he explains. “I’m betting big on the emergence of this technology; it’s already popular, but it will become an increasingly prevalent platform.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 21

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Entrepreneurs  Limerick Focus


est-known as the heart of Ireland’s mid-west and as the home of Munster Rugby, Limerick has become known as a world leader for sports innovation and technology. The city’s prestigious third level institutions have played a significant role in its advancement: University of Limerick (UL) – winner of Best Campus and Best Erasmus Programme at the Education Awards 2019 – and Limerick Institute of Technology produce a high standard of graduates, and along with Mary Immaculate College’s trainee teachers, contribute to the vibrancy of the city. The Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Irish World Music Centre, both based at UL add further to this thriving cultural scene. With a long track record of international trade through the sea port of Foynes, Limerick has lately been gaining in reputation for innovation, technology and as a great place to locate. Today, despite the challenges of Covid-19, Limerick’s business ecosystem makes it one of the most attractive locations to start and grow a company and the county is home to a supportive environment that encourages entrepreneurial innovation.




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Limerick Focus

 Entrepreneurs

MARK MAHER Model maker and sculptor Mark Maher, from Thurles originally, runs Odyssey Studios in Limerick, supplying large-scale sculptures, miniatures and props to the TV and film industry. Having spent years in New Zealand working in the art department on The Hobbit trilogy of films, he came back to this side of the world to work with Shepperton Studios in London, working on films such as Alice in Wonderland, before returning to Ireland after the call came to take on prop-making for the large-budget TV series Penny Dreadful. It was here his entrepreneurial spark lit up, and he set up a prop-making business. “We ended up supplying a lot of props over towards Budapest and it just started to grow all of a sudden with the European market,” he recalls. Another fortuitous call came in – this time from Limerick. A contact was looking to build up a support network of suppliers around the growing Troy Studios there – it is now the largest film production facility in Ireland. A plan was formed and Odyssey Studios was born. The company’s speciality is scanning small 3D sculptures and reproducing them on a large scale using what is known as a computer numerical control (CNC) machine. The machine can take designs produced by computer-aided design (CAD) software and converts the information to control the movement of the cutter. “It’s not the only such machine in the country. They are used in manufacturing, but it’s the only one doing what we do,” says Maher. His complementary business, Arachnid FX, which has staff in Dublin and Limerick, is a distribution company supplying the film industry with silicones and resins used to make props. Maher says the firm’s base in Corcanree Business Park in Limerick is the perfect location for them. “We’re based on the Dock Road and for supplies everything is here. We can just walk over and pick up supplies, whereas in Dublin you were gone an hour or even two hours in traffic. We can


literally go out the door and be back in five minutes with our products.” “The film industry can be a tough industry to be in. It can be absolutely non-stop work for seven months and then not much going on for two months,” says Maher. With this in mind, he has looked at ways to service other industries and has made inroads within the tourism and heritage sector. “If there is something new opening up, we can supply them with all their props: their fake weapons for the Viking or Norman era for example. Or if it’s wax figures, or sculptures, we can supply all that, as we do high-end silicone work as well.” “Because of Troy Studios and the huge success it has enjoyed in Limerick, the area has been very supportive of local industry. We’re just glad to be part of it.”


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Entrepreneurs  Limerick Focus

“In addition, a strong road network to medical device companies based in Galway, Dublin and Belfast has been very beneficial. We are in strong support for a new motorway to Cork, as it would really enable stronger business relations for us and our customers.” The company completed a facility expansion in February 2020 and has hopes for further expansion in the future. “We are fortunate to be based in Croom,” says Byrnes. “The rural scenery here is frequently a talking point with international visitors. The road network to Galway, Dublin and Shannon Airport offers pretty strong connection routes for visitors. In addition, we are very lucky to have a locally based team dedicated to getting the company to where it is today.”


Patrick J. Byrnes’ father founded Croom Precision Medical in 1984. As the name suggests, the company is based in Croom, less than 20 minutes from Limerick city, with employees currently involved in manufacturing highprecision components and medical devices. The firm’s pioneering R&D in the sphere of metallic additive manufacturing has gained the attention of the global healthcare and aerospace companies that make up its clients. Byrnes says: “The company strives for long-lasting strategic partnerships, working with over 72% of its customer base for over 20 years.” Operating at the highest standards in the sector, Croom Precision Medical trades in a global market. “We are in competition with medical device manufacturing companies from all over the world,” comments Byrnes. “There is a constant push-pull in our customer relationships on the reduction of cost of goods (COGs), on-time delivery and superior quality. It’s a very dynamic environment and if you don’t move as a team, you will not survive.” Skilled labour can be a challenge in this region of high competition and Byrnes credits Skillnet and Enterprise Ireland as being great allies in terms of upskilling and apprentice training programmes. Byrnes also points to the nearby University of Limerick and Limerick Institute of Technology on the company’s doorstep as being a source of high-calibre engineers trained in utilising advanced technology, and believes that working closely with students has further advanced Croom Precision Medical’s manufacturing processes and skills base. He states: “One of the more recent projects, which has been shortlisted for an award with Ibec, surrounded the increased performance efficiency of 3D printed titanium turbine blades. Student engagement and learning through digital manufacturing is key to our future success.” The Limerick firm has also benefited from being within striking distance of a diverse range of multinational companies. “Regeneron, ZimmerBiomet, Stryker, Cook, Johnson & Johnson, Edwards Lifesciences: these are all companies who are expanding and looking for our type of expertise and innovation,” explains Byrnes. “Limerick is an ideal location for a company within our industry due to our proximity to a metropolis of several multinational companies.



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Limerick Focus

Huggnote is an app for communication through music, founded by Jacqui Meskell and her sister Perry. “It curates music by emotion rather than words so users can find the perfect song for anything they want to express, and send it as a ‘Hugg’ to anyone, anywhere, instantly making their day!” explains Meskell. Huggnote has users in 195 countries with some of the strongest markets to date including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Philippines, US, UK, Argentina, Nigeria and Brazil. Meskell expects further growth. “Now, especially due to Covid-19 with so many people struggling with the effects of quarantine, we’re growing at such an exponential rate that we are ready to raise investment to take advantage of the incredible global opportunity we have.” The sisters are working from their apartment and the Bank of Ireland Workbench, using Dogpatch Labs when in Dublin, which Meskell notes is “super supportive of regional startups”. So far, the app has had a broad appeal. “Our user-base is also quite novel because our early adopters seem to be everyone else’s late majority – an almost 50-50 gender split and significant users in all age groups from 18 to 80,” explains Meskell. However, she points out, “It does present challenges in that B2C fast growth companies like ours are quite rare in Ireland, which means we’ve had to work hard at building out our global network, especially in the US.” She adds: “Our brand is all about meaningful connections through music, which is very much aligned with ‘brand Limerick’ – that Shannonside bridge between the US and Europe with an exceptionally strong music and cultural legacy. This idea of being at the centre of it all is critical for a global mindset.” A proud Limerick woman, Meskell says, “Working from here at this stage of our development means we’re close to our support system when we need it most. And we’re always inspired to dream big as regards being a source of job creation here as we scale.” The company was recently awarded ‘Best Emerging Business’ by Limerick Chamber of Commerce and Meskell has acknowledged the incredible support from the Chamber. Huggnote has also been awarded the Competitive Start Fund by Enterprise Ireland as a regional startup. Meskell says, “Our Development Advisor and the mid-west team generally have been incredible. And also a shout out to key players in the ecosystem here like Pat Carroll, the Community Enterprise Manager from Bank of Ireland. “Entrepreneurship is in Limerick’s DNA – that drive to succeed against all odds. We’re a tribe. We’re resilient. We support each other. And that’s very much evident in the ecosystem here.”

 Entrepreneurs



Entrepreneurs  Limerick Focus

PHILIP MACKESSY “Waste management is not something that sets anyone’s world on fire,” admits Philip Mackessy. However, his Limerick-based tech company is disrupting the way insurance companies handle vehicle end-of-life management. The idea for the company grew from a freelance job developing a small piece of software to assist waste management for a recovery operator. “I was exposed to the way that these companies would interact with people that had accidents and insurers and so on. I found that there was no way for all the stakeholders to interact.” He spotted a gap in the market and major insurance companies now use his software solutions for managing compliance, bringing together all stakeholders in the process. With real-time information reaching the platform from the multiple stakeholders, from Gardaí to assessors, the insurance company can quickly make decisions. “To put it into simple terms, we can take a standard insurance claim down from 17 days to three.” From starting out working from his brother’s garage in Adare, Limerick, Mackessy got his first major client, Liberty Insurance, onboard in 2015. “Insurers are risk measurers,” he states, “and their risk in taking on a one-man band, as it was at the time, was significant, but we are their sole supplier.” “The biggest challenge for us, apart from delivering a really nice piece of tech, was to get it validated,” explains Mackessy. “Once we had it validated and we were delivering the results that we thought we could, now we have no difficulty getting in to see the people we need to see. It’s a proactive contact to potential clients, as opposed to us knocking on doors.” Mackessy says the company’s team love the city centre location and a move to a new city centre premises to allow the company to



scale further is on the cards. Although he considered business parks on the outskirts of the city, he says, “We have people commuting significant distances and when we put it to them, to see where would suit them, they wouldn’t give up working in Limerick city for the world, they love it.” As a tech employer, the advantage of the location for him is access to high-quality graduates from Limerick’s third level institutions, without having to compete with the big tech giants for talent. “We can offer them that opportunity and they can stay in the city that they love.” As a small business, Mackessy sees quality of life as an important feature to offer employees, from providing access to parking in the city to introducing new working hours. “Money is always important,” he concludes. “You have to make sure that people are paid well, but they have to have a good quality of life. Limerick city does that. It’s a vibrant city with an incredible energy and atmosphere.”


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Thank you for your support!

GO RAIBH MAITH AGAIBH … We would like to thank all our sponsors for their valuable support in making the SFA National Small Business Awards such a success over the last 16 years. We look forward to continuing these relationships with another successful year in 2020.


84/86 Lower Baggot Street, D02 H720, Dublin 2 (01) 605-1664 awards@sfa.ie | www.sfa.ie/awards  SFA_Irl |  Small Firms Association | #SFAAwards2020

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05/05/2020 20/03/2020 12:04 12:46


Global Drinks Market  Sector Spotlight





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Sector Spotlight  Global Drinks Market


internationally renowned drinks brands are major players in the global drinks market. The quality, heritage and taste associated with Irish drinks products means we punch well above our weight in terms of drinks exports and now export to over 140 global markets. The industry has been a forerunner in international expansion and all this contributes significantly to Ireland’s international profile. From our renowned liqueurs and spirits, to our beers and ciders, Irish drinks products are recognised across every continent. According to Bord Bia, the value of Irish drinks exports was €1.45bn in 2019, up 8% from 2018. However, to continue this excellent performance, a stable global trading environment is critical, according to Patricia Callan, Director of Drinks Ireland. “The US and the UK are the top two export markets at present for Irish drinks products,” she comments. “We face challenges in both markets, with tariffs, Brexit, but both will remain pivotal for our exports in 2020 and beyond. There is also growing uncertainty about the impact of Covid-19 on trade, which we are continuing to assess in the context of how the pandemic is developing.” Irish cream liqueur exports have been hit by a 25% tariff in Ireland’s largest export market, the US. “Our industry is an enduring and historic alliance of brewing and distilling,” adds Callan. “With ongoing global trade uncertainties, it’s promising to see that Irish drinks brands are diversifying into new and emerging markets.” She continues: “Irish whiskey and cream liqueur in particular are well-positioned for continued growth, as they are both protected by Geographic Indications, which means they must be made on the island of Ireland and abide by certain standards.” Our heritage of brewing and distilling has also been beneficial to the Irish economy and domestic consumers, contributing €2.6bn in excise and VAT each year to the exchequer. Patricia Callan views this significant economic contribution as “an all-island effort” and states that Drinks Ireland “lobbied for minimum disruption to the all-island Irish drinks industry post-Brexit”. Arrangements have also been made around the globe to help Irish brands succeed. In July 2019, a trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) was signed, which will significantly increase opportunities for drinks producers in these markets, reducing tariffs over four years. While elsewhere in Latin America, exports

of Irish liqueurs to Mexico and Colombia have seen improvement and exports of Irish whiskey to Brazil were valued at €691,211, so there is scope for growth. And over the course of 2019, Drinks Ireland successfully secured legal protection for Irish whiskey in Australia, India, South Africa and Taiwan. It is hoped the protection will help spur further growth. These various protections mean that only Irish whiskey distilled and matured on the island of Ireland can be labelled and sold in these markets as Irish whiskey. In South Africa, a growth in disposable income resulted in an increase in demand for Irish whiskey during 2019 and the country has emerged to become the seventh-largest market for Irish whiskey in terms of volume. Elsewhere in Africa, Irish cream liqueur has an established presence in Nigeria, with First Ireland Spirits – which has brands including O'Mara's Irish Country Cream and Feeney's Irish Cream Liqueur – now exporting to Nigeria. Nigeria’s large population, urbanisation, economic growth, as well as the growth of the middle class, are driving the growth of the cream liqueur segment. Despite the fact that Irish whiskey has to compete against Japanese whisky, leading brands such as Tullamore Dew, Jameson, Bushmills and Teeling are spearheading the success of Irish whiskey in Japan. Elsewhere, some Asian markets – Taiwan and Thailand in particular – have shown significant promise. Looking to the emerging Middle Eastern market, despite the strict regulations on the sale and consumption of alcohol in some nations, promising results have been seen.

Beer exports Ireland remains a beer export powerhouse and is the seventh-largest exporter of beer in the EU. The UK remains the top destination for Ireland’s beer exports. Irish beer companies are taking on local brands in Japan and South Korea and Irish liqueur exports to Japan are on the increase, mainly due to Intrepid Spirits, which sells Cocalero Clasico and Cocalero Negro (both of which are made in Ireland) in the region. Closer to home, Eastern Europe’s affinity for beer has proved beneficial for Irish brewers. Poland is one of Ireland's top ten EU markets for food and drink, and Irish drinks exports have grown significantly there in recent years, with further potential for growth identified in the premium and super premium categories, offering additional opportunities for premium beer and Irish whiskey. Exports of beer to Austria showed signs of


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Global Drinks Market  Sector Spotlight

CALLS ON GOVERNMENT According to Drinks Ireland, to secure industry growth the Irish government needs to:

Patricia Callan, Director, Drinks Ireland

encouragement during 2019, while Russia remains a major market for Irish spirits. Additionally, exports to Latvia – an important point of onward shipping to the Russian market – remain strong. Patricia Callan believes the beer sector has further potential for growth. “We hope Ireland’s beer production will continue on its current trajectory of moderate export growth, with the country’s heritage and provenance in the category allowing it to find a distinct space in a crowded market.”

Support an ambitious EU and global trade agenda, including ratification of trade agreements that benefit Irish drinks producers

Oppose protectionism in global trade and seek the reversal of US tariffs on Irish drinks products

Maintain ongoing frictionless trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as in the EU and the UK generally

Implement measures to support market diversification by Irish drinks producers, including targeted promotional campaigns in international markets

Mixing it up Passionate cider makers are producing diverse and distinctive local flavours today. On the whole, however, Irish cider exports have remained relatively static in recent years, and producers have focused on the home market and the more established markets like the UK. 2019 brought a strong performance in the UK market, after a challenging 2018. Good summer weather in Britain helped to lift consumption by an estimated 11%. Australia is a market of note for cider, with recorded growth becoming evident in recent times. With growth of the cider sector at home, there may be increasing opportunities in export markets in 2020 and beyond. For example, in January 2020, a number of Irish craft cider producers went to Oakland, California for a major global cider conference, CiderCon, in a bid to drive future exports to the lucrative US cider market. The craft cider movement is growing very quickly in the United States, with smaller producers delivering customised orders to local distributors. Also, as the Irish gin supply base expands in response to global trends, Irish exporters are well placed to take advantage of this over the coming years. “Gin has been a strong export performer in recent years, albeit starting from a low base,” Callan comments. “Gin exports in 2019 grew by 17% to €9m and gin will continue its repositioning as a strong niche export category. “Gin has an important part to play in the overall diversity of the sector. The US, for example, is a market with growing possibilities for some manufacturers. Producers will focus on markets with prevalent cocktail cultures.” Poitín is our third Geographic Indication, but unfortunately due to lack of awareness of the product (and even the fact that it is legal!) in its home market, it hasn’t garnered sufficient market presence to move significantly into exports yet. “There are great craft poitín brands now in the Irish market, but more needs to be done to support their recognition and growth by Bord Bia in the home market. I’d encourage everyone to go and try these fantastic brands, which are particularly good in cocktails,” Callan enthuses. While larger and more established destinations will continue to dominate over the coming years, the move to newer markets can solidify Ireland’s worldwide reputation for outstanding drinks products and offer Irish brands the opportunity for further expansion. Callan concludes: “Consumers around the world are responding positively to the quality and heritage associated with these products, as well as their great taste. We are very proud of the contribution of the drinks industry to the Irish economy and we are committed to responsible marketing, promotion and sales of our products and to the sustainable brewing and distilling of our beers, spirits and ciders.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 31

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Feature  Brand Awareness Awareness



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Brand Awareness  Feature


a crowded marketplace, standing out from the crowd – or, as we like to say, branding out from the crowd – is critical,” says Andrew Bradley, Director of Bradley Brand and Design. So it’s a pithy encapsulation of the ethos of a company that for 25 years has been helping predominately owner-managed companies maximise the value and impact of their brand. That core plan of standing out from competitors sounds simple enough. But according to Bradley – whose client list over the years has boasted the likes of Keelings and Applegreen – most companies have no consistent idea of what their brand means. “It never ceases to amaze me. You could talk to two co-directors and you could get different interpretations on what their brand stands for,” he asserts. A brand, after all, is the face of a business. It’s what comes into a customer’s mind when they hear a company’s name and its importance can’t be underestimated. Bradley believes branding is a key component right from a firm’s inception. “If you want to get traction early in your business, the more you can think about your brand and what it stands for, it’s much easier for people to understand you. On one level, brands are really just about getting your elevator pitch consistent, quick and understandable. Then you start to dig deeper into different layers after that.” Bradley Brand and Design has various tactics for building brands, as Andrew Bradley describes: “We find consensus and we then road test that consensus with customers, with suppliers, we’d go out and talk to people. We bring that alive through design, whether it’s online, through a store or piece of packaging. We’re skilled very much at the design component, but design without substance can often be a bit impotent. “We’re not chasing perfection here – we’re chasing something that’s relevant. A lot of companies get bogged down in trying to be perfect and I don’t think the consumer is looking for perfect, they want something that they understand and can engage with.”

Rebranding and engagement Though branding a company from scratch is a vital job, rebranding brings perhaps bigger challenges. Such alterations to a business, like a new brand name or logo, can feel incredibly risky. Others might be subtler, such as a slight shift in company messaging and brand promises.

Andrew Bradley, Director, Bradley Brand and Design

“It’s important from the outset to have realistic expectations of what this is going to achieve,” says Bradley of rebranding. “A review of your brand won’t necessarily double your customer turnover. Typically, what investing in a brand does is protect and grow your margin. A lot of companies will say, ‘We don’t get the margin we deserve for our product,’ and that’s often because you haven’t defined the brand. [Customers] don’t see it as the premium brand or whatever position you want in the marketplace. “So it’s about understanding the expectations of what brand can do. But increasingly we’re finding that people are investing in brand for an internal audience, not just customers. It’s important that everyone wants to be part of a company that understands what the brand stands for, so there’s a sense of purpose. Not just large organisations, but mid-sized businesses are realising, ‘We are lucky to have this team here, we need a strong brand that they can be proud of and that they can get behind.’ I do believe that if you look after your staff, your customers will follow. For a lot of businesses, it’s all customer, customer, customer, which is important, but if you look after your team and they’re engaged, customers will be engaged as well.”

Great potential As an example of the power of a rebrand, Bradley points to his work with Hale Vaping, which had previously been called Healthier Choice Vaping. “They were selling quite well but they were struggling to get into shopping centres, they weren’t seen as a brand,” says Bradley. “So we went in and understood the customers and the issue and we came up with the name Hale.” As part of the rebrand, Bradley wanted Hale’s customers to completely change their attitude to vaping. “Most of the vaping brands were around VIP – every promotion was about a nightclub scene, whereas Hale was very much about everyday life. That brand got traction very quickly and their sales have grown significantly. With branding you need to be bold. If you’re an Irish business and you don’t have big marketing budgets to advertise, you need a bold idea and to be true to it. So we’re very proud of what we achieved for that company from a business point of view. It made vaping everyday instead of something you might do in the evenings.” The Hale example shows the benefits of strong rebranding: reach new customers, expand your company’s influence, and stand out from your competitors. And such radical change can do a lot more besides – it can help alter the very DNA of a firm for the better. “What brand does is help companies define their culture,” says Bradley. “A strong culture beats a strong strategy. A strategy directs you where you want to go, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there or what sort of way you should get there.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 33

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Events  Business Connect

The event was aimed at small businesses looking to supply large indigenous and multinational firms and bigger businesses interested in diversifying their supply chains. Thanks to its position as part of Ibec, the SFA was uniquely placed to create this marketplace event, bringing its members together with leading companies from across the Irish business ecosystem. After the new SFA Chairman Graham Byrne, MD of Cardinal Capital, and SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens officially kicked off Business Connect, returning MC RTÉ’s Richard Curran introduced the first speaker of the day, Pat McCann of Dalata Hotel Group and Ibec President, who spoke about how Dalata Hotel Group works with small firms in many different parts of their business. The first session of the morning, entitled ‘Influencing to win the business’, was with motivational speaker and mentalist David Meade. David entranced the audience


with a comical approach to business and motivation, as well as his mindreading abilities. The next session, ‘Getting the business’, started with Emmanuel Heddin, Head of Procurement at daa, followed by Diarmuid Murphy, Brand Manager of Simply Better Food Collection at Dunnes Stores, Miena Rust, founder of Miena’s Handmade Nougat and Grant Gilmore, Operations Manager at InterTradeIreland. Emmanuel, Diarmuid, Miena and Grant all sat down with Richard Curran for a panel discussion. To finish off the day, there was a segment and panel discussion focusing on ‘Collaboration to achieve ambition’ with Rose O’Sullivan, Strategic Financial Analyst at Fexco, starting off the session. The audience then heard from Gráinne Lennon, International Funding and Collaborations Broker from InterTradeIreland, Declan Clarke, CEO of Zoan Biomed, and lastly Killian O’Flynn, Head of SME Banking at Permanent TSB. During the coffee break and throughout lunch there was a great buzz around the rooms where the finalists of the SFA National Small Business Awards were exhibiting. Delegates made the most of the chance to network, ask questions and identify real opportunities to grow their business. A number of agencies and sponsors also exhibited on the day, including the Office of Government Procurement, InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, NSAI, Vodafone, SBCI, Permanent TSB, One4all, DeCare, IE Domain Registry, O’Leary Insurances and Skillnet Ireland. Find all of the photos from Business Connect 2020 on the SFA’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/smallfirmsassociation.


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Managing the Pandemic

 Tips

Gerard Joyce CTO and Director of Risk Management, CalQRisk




Nominate a ‘Pandemic Coordinator’ to gather information from reliable sources regarding the pandemic and your organisation’s evolving arrangements and to communicate this to all stakeholders on a regular basis. Also identify a ‘Leader’ in each department/region who will act as the go-to person and link between the executive team and their department/region.



Keep aware of any payment obligations (including payroll) and ensure payment coverage. Review current/standing authorisation schemes for payments and agree a provisional extension in the event of individuals becoming unavailable.

Know your numbers Draw up a list of non-critical tasks (i.e. month-end, internal reporting, pipeline report, weekly reports, etc.) and suspend or delay. Stay informed on the state of affairs at key suppliers and partners. Be ready to take action if they have a delivery/supply problem.



Use online and communication tools such as Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, etc., to maintain strong communication with employees, customers and suppliers. Be flexible with working hours – let some start earlier, work later, take longer breaks in the middle of the day, especially if working from home.



Review business disaster insurance policy to confirm cover (if any) is included for a pandemic scenario, such as loss of income and increased cost of working. Keep aware of advice from trade organisations, government and health authorities, and consider this in your decision-making.



Consider enabling two-factor authentication (TFA) for all remote workers. Ban the use of public Wi-Fi; it is not secure and the risks are even higher now. Consider how a remote site with good, dedicated, internet connectivity might provide an option for a number of staff when residential connectivity is poor or absent. Freeze IT (no changes allowed) or at least permit only critical changes.



Maintain a cash plan and arrange for borrowing/draw-down in the event of no or reduced cash collections. Be aware of contractual obligations and to what extent a force majeure will excuse you from an obligation to supply/deliver a product/service.

Communicate Executive teams should meet (virtually) on a daily basis to assess status and issue updates, including any changes to plans for the coming week. Communicate with your customers – reassure them that you are still there for them, albeit with limited resources


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Events  SFA National Small Business Awards 2020





lthough the Awards Gala due to be held at the RDS Concert Hall was cancelled with the announcement of measures to protect citizens from the spread of Covid-19, the awards took place behind closed doors, with nominees watching eagerly and engaging online. Supported by its sponsors and partners, this is the 16th year of the SFA National Small Business Awards, a programme that celebrates the achievements of small business in Ireland and recognises the vital contribution of the sector to the Irish economy. The winners were selected from hundreds of applications received for the 2020 programme. SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens commented: “We continue to grow an awards programme that positions the small business brand as the backbone of the Irish economy. Small businesses are present in every village, town and city and contribute enormously, not only in terms of economic activity, but also in terms of community engagement. Congratulations to all the finalists.” Announcing the winner, SFA Chair Graham Byrne said: “KORE Insulation is a wonderful example of a family business delivering continuous growth; of how ongoing research can deliver up-to-date manufacturing of sustainable products for the low-carbon transition currently underway across Ireland and Europe.” The Small Firms Association would like to pay a huge thanks to the all nominated firms who made the event such as success despite the Awards Gala cancellation.

Pictured (l-r): Alan Shortt (MC), Sue O’Neill (Chair of SFA Awards judging panel) and Sven Spollen-Behrens (SFA Director)

Founded in 1997 by Jimmy Macken, and Tommy and Helen Brady, Cavan-based KORE Insulation employs 48 people. The company is an award-winning manufacturer of expanded polystyrene solutions for the construction and civil engineering industries. KORE is focused on continuous improvement, innovation and research development, taking note of their customer problems while offering real-world solutions. KORE’s leadership team includes Noel Brady (Managing Director), Caroline Ashe (Commercial Director) and Pauric Kavanagh (Operations Director).

SERVICES Riverside Spa Stradone is situated in a unique 200-year-old stone building dating back to the early 1800s. Its cobblestone floors, narrow windows and horse stables are a truly picturesque addition to the rural village of Stradone. The thermal suite area includes a Jacuzzi, amazing outdoor hot-tub, sauna, steam room and rain shower, while the converted stables host a relaxation suite. Announcing Riverside Spa’s win, Graham Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “Riverside Spa continues to grow, with spas in Stradone, Cootehill and a hair and beauty academy in Kells. The spa locations offer the latest in advanced beauty treatments and technology. Riverside Hair and Beauty Academy, the only hairdressers’ training school in Cavan, offers great training for local students and ensures well-trained staff for the Riverside Group on an ongoing basis.


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SFA National Small Business Awards 2020  Events

SUSTAINABILITY Vivid Edge specialises in stimulating exponential growth in energy efficiency to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations. The company helps organisations accelerate energy efficiency Pictured (l-r): Tracy O’Rourke, plans and sustainability Emer Cahalin and Paul Boylan goals without using their own capital. Announcing Vivid Edge’s win, Graham Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “This is a great example of a small business playing their part in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Vivid Edge delivers energy efficiency as a service for large energy users and helps them dramatically reduce energy consumption at zero cost.”

MANUFACTURING KORE Insulation also picked up the Manufacturing award on a big night for the firm. Climate action and sustainability are of central Pictured (l-r): Caroline Ashe Brady, Stephen importance Magee and Lisa Downey of KORE Insulation and KORE offers services and products that reduce reliance on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, without compromising on quality or performance. Partnership with KORE on any project will ensure that any client is backed by a dedicated team of problem-solvers with experience to deliver the right product, to the right place and at the right time.

WINNERS The category winners are: > Manufacturing (sponsored by NSAI)

KORE Insulation (Cavan) Highly commended Green Angel (Dublin) > Food and Drink

(sponsored by Bord Bia)

The Tipperary Cheese Company (Tipperary)

Highly commended Camerino Bakery (Dublin) > Services

(sponsored by Vodafone)

Riverside Spa (Cavan)

Highly commended On-site Refueling (Dublin) > Outstanding Small Business (up to five employees) (sponsored by One4all) Gill Opticians (Dublin) > Innovator of the Year

(sponsored by Permanent TSB)

Woodco Renewable Energy (Tipperary)

Highly commended Equine MediRecord (Kildare) > Exporter of the Year

(sponsored by Enterprise Ireland)

Smarter Surfaces (Dublin) Highly commended Carlow Concrete (Carlow) Highly commended Big Red Barn (Mayo)

> Sustainability

(sponsored Strategic Banking Association of Ireland)

Vivid Edge (Dublin)

> Workplace Wellbeing (sponsored by DeCare)

AVCOM (Dublin)


Caroline Thompson, founder, Riverside Spa

Gill Opticians is an independent optician with over 42 years’ experience looking after the people of Ireland. From the day the company opened its doors in Dalkey, its goal has been to offer the very best eye care and product to customers. Announcing the Gill Opticians win, Graham Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “Gill Opticians is a fantastic family-owned, second generation opticians based in Dalkey. For over 42 years they have specialised in offering exclusive bespoke frames, individualised lenses and promote the most innovative treatments, solutions and products available to the Irish market.”

Paul Gill and son Jamie Gill, owners, Gill Opticians


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Events  SFA National Small Business Awards 2020


Declan Crosse, Technical Director, Woodco Renewable Energy

Founded in the 1970s by Gerard Crosse, Woodco Renewable Energy began as a manufacturer of oil tanks and agricultural equipment. Since then, the company has diversified and strengthened the business, becoming a leading manufacturer and supplier of residential and commercial biomass boiler systems from its manufacturing facility in Tipperary. In recent years, the company’s R&D team has focused on complex waste to energy systems. Announcing Woodco Renewable Energy’s win, Graham Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “Woodco Renewable Energy is at the forefront in developing disruptive technologies to deal with climate change, increasing agricultural emissions, food security and sanitation treatment solutions for an increasing global population. They use the very latest in IoT and artificial intelligence to digitise resource recovery through the circular economy, highlighting that waste is a resource to be recovered.”

FOOD AND DRINK Situated in the rich pastureland of Tipperary is the Hayes’ Farm, home of deliciously smooth soft cheeses and yogurts. Over the past 400 years the farm has been handed down from generation to generation of Hayes family members and today, brothers Donal and Liam Hayes work together and farm the land to its full potential to provide dairy products of exceptional quality. Announcing The Tipperary Thomas Hayes, Cheese Company win, Graham Business Development and Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “For the Marketing Manager, past 30 years, the Hayes family The Tipperary Cheese Company have dedicated themselves to the production of a wide range of the highest quality cream cheese and yogurt products. Production to this day still takes place on the family farm with supply of milk coming mainly from their own herd, thus proudly claiming a policy of incurring ‘zero milk miles’.


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SFA National Small Business Awards 2020  Events

EXPORTER OF THE YEAR Smarter Surfaces is a global leader and producer of commercial wall coverings, films, paints and plasters. The company has gained a reputation for its ability to design and create innovative products and has a truly global presence, which currently extends to over 20 countries in five continents. Used by clients such as Microsoft, Google, Tesco, Coca-Cola, University of Sydney, University of Connecticut, to name but a few, the Smarter Surfaces brand is globally respected. Announcing the Smarter Surfaces win, Graham Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “Smarter Surfaces is the world leader in providing innovative surface solutions to a global range of customers. Specialising in export markets, Smarter Surfaces has ten ecommerce websites in five languages, with distribution partners in over 20 countries including the USA, Australia, Germany, France and Spain.”

EMERGING NEW BUSINESS The winners of the Emerging New Business Awards (sponsored by IE Domain Registry) were identified by the judging panel as companies that can grow significantly in the future. The winners of the Emerging New Business Awards (under two years) are: > Viztronics Smart Solutions (Meath) provides highaccuracy 3D cameras for industrial inspection, quality control and automation. Viztronics designs and sells imaging hardware combined with processing software to meet end-to-end inspection needs of customers and machine vision system integrators. > Soothing Solutions (Meath) manufactures natural products to promote comfort to young children when they have coughs and colds. Their first product is a childfriendly throat lozenge and is presented in a way that is appealing for a child to use. It contains 100% natural ingredients and is completely safe for the young user thanks to its uniquely designed delivery system. > The Salt Rooms (Meath) provides dry-salt therapy to relieve common symptoms for adults and children suffering from upper respiratory and skin conditions. Salt therapy is clinically proven and up to 98% effective. It’s a natural, drug-free treatment with zero negativ side effects.

Pictured (l-r): Marta De Giovannini (eCommerce Manager), Ronan Clarke (Director), Audiola Lumnica (Operations Manager) and John Byrne (Finance Manager)

WORKPLACE WELLBEING AVCOM’s mission is to deliver creative, exciting and technically impeccable events that exceed clients’ expectations. To achieve this, AVCOM uses the latest state-of-the-art audio, visual, staging and lighting equipment. Announcing AVCOM’s win, Graham Byrne, SFA Chair, said: “AVCOM brings the ‘wow’ to corporate events. As Ireland’s number one technical event specialists, they provide an all-inclusive creative production service and produce ‘end-to-end’ creative technical projects. They are passionate about delivering creative, exciting and technically flawless events that exceed expectations.”

> Vanguard HSI (Dublin) provides an integrated flexible whole system healthcare model based on international best practice through a range of healthcare services throughout Ireland. They are currently developing their first integrated network and virtual ward and a healthcare campus in Dublin. > BuildTech (Dublin) works with businesses such as property management companies in providing general maintenance and preventative maintenance solutions. They focus on providing a compliant and reliable service to property owners and managers in the face of increased regulations.

AWARD SPONSORS The SFA would like to thank this year’s award sponsors:

AWARD PARTNERS The SFA would like to thank this year’s award partners: Paul Murphy, Managing Director, AVCOM (pictured second from left)


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SFA HR  Stress

It is advisable that employers put in place support and control strategies to reduce the incidence of stress: ■ Create a policy that deals with work-related stress.

The Work Positive tool is a great starting point in identifying, defining and controlling those risks and hazards and will form the backbone of your policy on work-related stress or wellbeing policy. Ensure a grievance procedure is in place, as it will give the employer the opportunity to remedy the situation before an employee resigns and claims constructive dismissal, as an onus is put on the employee to raise the issue prior to taking a claim. ■ It is essential that you do not dismiss or ignore

THE STRESS SOLUTION SFA EXECUTIVE EMMA CROWLEY OFFERS A GUIDE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS IN THE WORKPLACE AT THIS DIFFICULT TIME FOR EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS ALIKE. At best, stress can be a source of great excitement and a stimulus for success. At worst, it can impair an individual’s quality of life and reduce their personal and work effectiveness. What this means is that stress itself is not an illness, but the impact of stress could bring about physical or mental illnesses. Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, the employer has a duty to ensure – so far as reasonably practicable – the health, safety and welfare of all employees’ mental and physical wellbeing at work. Employers must have a safety statement in place that outlines the hazards and risks in their workplace. It needs to document the control measures to eliminate or reduce those hazards or risks and this applies to both physical and mental hazards. Work-related stress is not a one-way street where the employer carries all of the burden; it is important that employees are made aware of their health and safety obligations and they need to inform the employer if they are experiencing work-related stress, as employers cannot resolve the issue unless they are aware of it.

complaints of work-related stress, even if they may appear to be frivolous. It is important to meet with and listen to the employee. Even the act of sitting with them and actively listening can make a big difference to the employee. It may be possible that both of you can work out a plan of action to reduce or remove the cause of the work-related stress, or some other workable solution for both parties. ■ The company should examine work practices

to ascertain any common potential problems. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the SFA promote the preventative and minimisation approach involving an assessment of individuals’ roles and their responses during standard tasks. Resources are available at www.sfa.ie. ■ An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a

Emma Crowley, SFA Executive

confidential counselling programme, that operates primarily within the workplace to assist and identify employee concerns and various difficulties that impair their personal and occupational functioning. While this is not always feasible for small firms due to fewer resources, support can be sought externally through outsourced support services. This programme is increasingly sought by employers, as mental health and wellbeing is an intrinsic part of our social, emotional and physical functioning. It has both a proactive and resolution approach which has proven to reduce and improve the effects of stress on individuals and organisations. ■ Businesses should create an open culture that

recognises and welcomes discussion on workrelated stress and this encourages employees to approach the employer. Encourage input from your employees, as they may be able to provide solutions to an issue that could be causing workrelated stress.


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Caroline Gray

 Trading Places





Caroline Gray pictured with Irish food writer and presenter Donal Skehan


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Trading Places  Caroline Gray


Irish have a deep-rooted connection with food. The country’s reputation as a haven for foodies has helped attract international visitors here for decades and, as a result, food journalism has enjoyed a golden era. In this competitive environment, Caroline Gray has forged a reputation through an informative editorial approach. Journalism was a natural choice for the Chicago native when deciding what to study in the US. “I had always loved writing, and journalism felt like a practical and purposeful outlet for it,” she says. “We had daily quizzes on global news, one-mistakeand-you-fail exams covering AP style guidelines [a grammar style to standardise mass communication] and countless articles to create.” Gray followed the traditional route for a few years: writing for the college newspaper and spending summers covering local news as an intern at a hometown paper. She explains: “My professors and editors laid out the path my career would take in the print news world: start on police reports or obituaries, move up to a section reporter, and then eventually become an editor. “About a year shy of graduating, the recession hit and we were all informed that we had to pivot as journalists if we wanted to make a career in the industry. The idea of a general reporter handing in a story for a big newspaper was out. Instead, we had to find a speciality and embrace the ethos of mobile journalism – becoming the one-stop-source for a story and its distribution.”

Caroline on the set of Weekend AM

Caroline with chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White

When tasked with finding a niche in journalism, Gray was drawn to the food sector, resulting in a journey that’s seen her become Editor of Easy Food magazine and its growing online food community. “I have always loved to cook and would spend hours every day devouring cooking programmes and recipe blogs,” the spunky Chicagoan informs. “After college, I completed an internship at the Food Network studios in New York City as a digital content creator, then saved up to attend Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Cork.” Gray describes her current role as a “delicious fusion of journalism and cooking” and is responsible for coordinating a team of writers, recipe testers, food stylists, photographers and digital distributors to make sure content is relevant, on-brand and exciting.


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Caroline Gray

 Trading Places

“Easy Food is a kitchen companion for home cooks,” she says. “It contains tried-and-tested recipes, cooking tips, articles on Irish producers and food news in every issue. We cook, style and photograph every recipe that appears in the magazine right in our own test kitchen, so we know that we can wholeheartedly stand over the content we produce.”

Digital community In an age of mass online communication, publishers need to be strategic when it comes to the creation of engaging copy. Having dipped her toe in TV, writing and editing, Gray explains how her approach to each differs. “When I do a cooking segment on TV or write for Easy Food, I can have fun, letting my personality or opinions pepper the content. As an editor, I need to foster that same creativity in the team, while keeping it ever so slightly in line. “I play a game of mental checks and balances every time an idea is suggested, and may need to redirect an overzealous writer or food stylist when an article or photograph is too off-brand. This collaborative process is key to a successful team; the more we finetune the content we create together, the more targeted we can be from ideation to distribution.” Apart from the obvious shift to digital, Gray has seen the industry change immeasurably since becoming involved in the sector back in 2005. “I think consumers certainly expect more from their content now,” she explains. “With the over-saturation of content online and the multiple channels in which to get it, it’s more important than ever that an article hits the bullseye straight away and offers some kind of solution to what the reader is looking for. It’s been a shift for brands, too – moving to more targeted content marketing articles, rather than traditional display advertising.” “By keeping the ethos of Easy Food at the heart of everything we create,” she explains, “we can make sure to stay relevant for our audience. Easy Food is all about celebrating home cooks and Irish food, and we can customise that messaging through each of our channels.” By carrying out reader surveys and through engagement with its digital community, Gray and her team can tailor content to their audience’s tastes on specific platforms. “Our magazine readership is looking for weeknight recipes and in-depth articles on small producers,” she informs, “while our Instagram followers eat up quizzes. The best thing about food content is that there’s something for everyone, and the same goes for our food-loving audience.”

Sliding doors Dublin has become a second home for Gray since her arrival to these shores in 2012. Her Irish adventure has been successful to date, albeit not one that was meticulously planned. “The day before I flew back to Chicago after finishing my 12 weeks at Ballymaloe Cookery School I had met with the Editor of Easy Food,” Gray admits. “She mentioned that there was an opening for an internship, and it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up – plus, I had already quit my job copy editing a medical journal on colonoscopies, so this open door was very welcome!” She continues: “I agreed to stay on at Easy Food for five months at the time, but there was so much opportunity for growth, that five months eventually turned into eight years. “I love the variety of living in Dublin. I can make it across town

on foot, meandering through side streets that offer a world of cosy pubs, trendy restaurants and historic buildings. A 30-minute drive from my house will bring me to a seaside village, a mountain trail or countryside estate. The work-life balance is also a major draw compared to working in the US.” Operating out of an office in Bray, not even the considerable commute from her home in Dublin is cause for complaint. “Bray offers a nice balance of activity and serenity,” Gray enthuses. “On a busy day, I’ll often take a walk along the seafront to totally reboot between meetings. The commute from town for me is about an hour on the Dart, but that was always the norm for me working back home. At least now the view is of rugged cliffs and the Irish sea – a major upgrade from gridlock traffic on Chicago expressways.”

Back to basics The publishing industry has faced mounting challenges over recent years as the sector has increasingly struggled to monetise product offerings beyond the traditional business models. In journalism, as in cooking, it’s essential to first master the basics, according to Gray. “Just as you wouldn’t attempt a beef wellington without first learning how to chop mushrooms, you need to equip yourself with the essential skills needed to pivot and grow in the industry. Be accurate, thorough, objective and clear; and if it doesn’t come straight away, practice until thinking and writing as a journalist becomes second nature. “Learn how to ask the right questions when approaching a story and do your research – lazy reporting is one of the worst insults a journalist can receive.”


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Partner Profile  Health During Covid-19

Progress Positivity through


The World Health Organisation is encouraging people to seek information from legitimate sources only, stating we need to connect safely with those who are isolated, and to curb exposure to news that makes us anxious or distressed. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about Covid-19 can cause anyone to feel worried. Facts minimise fear and accessing only reliable information can help to ease anxiety and aid in the promotion of positive mental health. Emotions such as anxiety are important, as they orient us towards a threat and help us decide what to do next. Factual information keeps us informed as the situation develops. However, checking your phone every five minutes to monitor developments can only serve to increase your anxiety. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Fear and anxiety can keep us healthy and safe but also can be harmful to our health. It’s important to ask ourselves how we manage that fear. Look at fact-based sources, such as the Department of Health, WHO and HSE websites. Fear can lead to stigma and mark people out as different, therefore preventing them from seeking medical help. It is important not to attach or feed wording leading to discrimination in any ethical group; Covid-19 is now a global issue affecting everyone.

Stay connected

We need to keep empathy and kindness in our minds as we hear about new cases and numbers. These are people, families and loved ones in our community. While following the World Health Organisation guidelines of maintaining a social distance, people should safeguard against becoming socially isolated. We need to be mindful of people who may be feeling alone. While you may not be able to make physical contact with a person who is feeling isolated or alone, 44 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Health During Covid-19  Partner Profile

Coronavirus COVID-19

Coronavirus COVID-19 Public Health Advice

If you have fever and/or cough you should stay at home regardless of your travel or contact history. All people are advised to: > Reduce social interactions > Keep a distance of 2m between you and other people > Do not shake hands or make close contact where possible If you have symptoms visit hse.ieOR phone HSE Live 1850 24 1850

How to Prevent

Symptoms > Fever (High Temperature) > A Cough > Shortness of Breath > Breathing Difficulties


shaking hands or hugging when saying hello or greeting other people


your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and discard used tissue


yourself at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people, especially those who might be unwell


touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands


your hands well and often to avoid contamination

For Daily Updates Visit

www.gov.ie/health-covid-19 www.hse.ie


and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Ireland is operating a delay strategy in line with WHO and ECDC advice

it’s really important to still reach out to someone who might be isolated, vulnerable or identified as being in an at-risk group. Video calls, phone calls and social media platforms are all ways of safe social contact. Older adults and people with underlying conditions can be supported and encouraged to do regular exercising, cleaning, daily chores, as well as fun activities such as singing or painting. It is also important to have a plan in place if practical help is needed, like calling a taxi, having food delivered or requesting medical care.

Awareness and connections

Evidence shows that good relationships with family, friends, colleagues and the wider community are all important for mental wellbeing. Make time each day to connect with your family, friends and colleagues through calls, video and messaging apps. Ensure to check on elderly neighbours and if they need anything, while adhering to social distancing. There are lots of things we can do each day to mind our mental health in these challenging times. Being kind to ourselves and being kind to others around us is key at the moment. The saying, ‘You can’t change the direction of the wind but you can adjust your sails’ is particularly apt right now. By staying positive and focusing on what we can directly impact can make us better able to get through any low points. This includes talking about what’s going on in your life, eating well, getting plenty of sleep, keeping active and keeping a focus on being kind and compassionate. Remember, we will get through this. In these tough times we need to place focus on protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. The key with these unprecedented challenges is that we face it together. Stay safe – spread the word, not the disease.

ABOUT DAVID CASEY David works for DeCare as the wellness health promotion manager for Ireland and Europe. David Casey, RDN holds a national certificate in biology and a specialist in oral health with health promotion. He has finished an M.A. in Health Promotion with specialist interest in mental health and workplace wellbeing at the school of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science at NUI Galway. David also guests lectures on the outreach specialist certificate and postgraduate health promotion programmes in Galway. He has over 10 years clinical experience in healthcare and has worked over the last 6 years designing, building and implementing wellness and education programmes for over 500 companies, organisations and healthcare settings across Ireland and the UK. He is a trainer with Skillnet Ireland and trains companies in workplace health promotion and mental health practices. Dave was involved in the set up of the brand new SFA Workplace Wellbeing Award 2020 for smaller business in Ireland. In 2017 Casey received the Irish Gerontology Society’s 2017 Presidential Award for his research on health promotion and the ageing population. For information about DeCare’s range of insurance plans, wellness programmes and insurance services for individual and corporate members, visit www.decaredental.ie.


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Brief case

Supporting businesses We understand that businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We’ve introduced a range of supports for our business customers to alleviate some of these challenges and have set up a Business Hub on our website with the list of supports available. These include loan payment flexibility, a payment break* option and emergency working capital. During these uncertain times we want to support our business community as much as we can. To find out more, visit bankofireland.com/businesssupportscovid19

* A payment break means that you would pay more interest over the life of the loan than would be the case if it was not put in place, resulting in an increased cost of credit. This is because, no scheduled payments ( capital or interest ) are made to the loan during the payment break period while interest will continue to be applied. Level of security required and rate applicable, will be determined by the amount, purpose & term of facility, in conjunction with the nature and value of the security being offered. Lending criteria and terms and conditions apply. Over 18’s only. WARNING: If you do not meet the repayments on your credit facility agreement, your account will go into arrears. This may affect your credit rating, which may limit your ability to access credit in the future. Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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Bank of Ireland  Partner Profile

FACILITATING A REAWAKENING OF THE ECONOMY BANK OF IRELAND’S JUNE BUTLER OUTLINES HOW RESPONDING TO THE NEEDS OF IRISH SMES IS CRITICAL AS THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 IS FELT ACROSS THE COUNTRY. In these uncertain times, the need for practical information and advice has never been more necessary as we all grapple with the economic and human implications of Covid-19. In the face of significant disruption, Bank of Ireland is ensuring its resources are focused on those services most in-demand during the coronavirus pandemic and today over 161 Bank of Ireland branches remain open around the country. Furthermore, an online Business Hub has been set up with a range of supports for business customers during the crisis. The Bank has also donated €1 million in emergency funds to the Community Foundation for Ireland to help support the most vulnerable across the island of Ireland with urgent needs arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. In partnership with the Community Foundation for Ireland the Bank is fast tracking €500,000 of the funds to 13 organisations with support being delivered to projects which will support children and older people, domestic abuse, rural isolation, cancer support, mental health and food distribution. Although conscious of the immediate needs small firms are facing, Head of SME Banking and Sectors June Butler is focused on looking ahead to understand how the Bank can help play an active role in facilitating a reawakening of the economy. “We are acutely aware of the issues which small firms are facing,” she explains. “Proactive communication at all levels, both internally and externally, has been key to adapting our processes and products in a timely manner to respond to our customers’ needs. “Our team of sectoral experts are recruited from industry and are in daily contact with industry bodies. We have

been actively monitoring the evolving situation as it first affected exporters and then gradually intensified in the domestic market.” Bank of Ireland continues to support Covid-19 requests during this period of uncertainty. Its strong network of branch colleagues June Butler, Head of SME Banking and relationship and Sectors, Bank of Ireland managers – embedded in their respective communities – are providing support to Business Relationship Manager or call 0818 customers at a local level. 200 348. For more information on these

Delivering support

The Bank has a broad range of supports available. “I would encourage any small business with concerns to contact us,” advises Butler. “We’ll work with them to identify what supports they need, including options such as emergency working capital and payment flexibility on loan facilities – including a payment break* option. "We’ve announced the option to defer recently charged business current account fees where cash flow has been temporarily impacted by Covid-19, and there is also a provision of trade finance and foreign products to access new markets and to support sourcing products from new suppliers internationally,” informs Butler.

supports please visit: www.bankofireland. com/businesssupportscovid19. * A payment break means that you would pay more interest over the life of the loan than would be the case if it was not put in place, resulting in an increased cost of credit. This is because no scheduled payments (capital or interest) are made to the loan during the payment break period while interest will continue to be applied. FXPay Special Terms and Conditions apply. Level of security required and rate applicable will be determined by the amount, purpose and term of facility, in conjunction with the nature and value of the security being offered. Lending criteria and terms and conditions apply. Over 18’s only.


Customers who are concerned about the impact of Covid-19 on their business are encouraged to make contact with their

Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.


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Looking to offer your customers an additional service? We provide secure and reliable ATM solutions to suit all businesses.

Any time, any place.

For more information contact us on

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Euronet Ireland  Partner Profile

FINANCIAL SOLUTIONS MADE EASY EURONET’S TINA TWOHIG EXPLAINS HOW THEIR CASH MACHINE CAN HELP CONTRIBUTE TO A COMMUNITY BY OFFERING SECURE ACCESS TO CASH FOR CARDHOLDERS, AND BY ALSO PROVIDING COMMERCIAL RETURN TO ITS PARTNERS. Euronet is a global leader in electronic transactions and payments. They facilitate payments between financial institutions, retailers, service providers and consumers. In simple terms, they provide their customers with secure solutions that make financial transactions easy and accessible. A Euronet ATM has to meet the stringent guidelines and compliance regulations set by card issuers and leading payment providers such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and China Union Pay. “This type of practice is very important to us, as it means the consumer feels safe in the knowledge that when they use a Euronet ATM, it’s compliant and secured to high standards,” explains Euronet Ireland Manager Tina Twohig. “It also helps that our ATMs can be located in an environment they can feel safe in, such as a local store.” Twohig goes into more detail about what solutions Euronet can offer small businesses. “We offer two ATM solutions: the through-the-wall ATM (TTW) is ideal for busy high street locations and the internal lobby ATM works well in high footfall locations, such as retail, campuses and hospitality venues.” She continues: “Lobby ATMs deliver increased footfall as customers come in to use the ATM, this then encourages a rise in customer count, basket spend and impulse spend. A quick check on Google using ‘merchant ATM benefits’ will highlight the key advantages. TTW ATMs deliver rental from Euronet to the proprietor of the location so that they have additional revenue in their pocket from installation date, even generating income whilst they sleep!” Quite simply, Euronet makes access to payments convenient and affordable

Tina Twohig, Manager, Euronet Ireland

for global consumers. “Euronet will not be beaten on price,” announces Twohig. “We strive to offer businesses the best commercial terms in Ireland, whilst ensuring excellent after sales service from our countrywide Relationship Management team. “Our cash machines can be installed in diverse locations from rural areas to busy high streets. We think cash accessibility, plus the option for customers to withdraw cash in a secure environment, are the main key benefits. With so many banks withdrawing from rural communities, we’re proud to support and back fill those locations so that the consumer will always have access to cash.”

New technologies

Whilst ATMs still offer the same cash dispense capability as they did when launched in Ireland in the early 1980s, technological advances have meant the industry has had to evolve. “New technology means Euronet can offer additional services, such as

PIN change and foreign exchange,” says the experienced country manager, “and this has resulted in a reduced cost for ATMs, allowing us to deploy in locations not previously viable, whilst the increased transaction volumes allow us to present better commercial terms to our partners.” Twohig concludes by explaining how Euronet, which is currently the largest independent ATM provider in Ireland, will continue its growth and ponders what emerging trends she sees impacting the sector. Our working goal is to be the largest ATM provider, full-stop,” she says “We’re also looking for opportunities to benefit the communities we service through a partnership with a National Charity Retailer – still a work in progress. “The future will definitely see more digital functionality. With our consumers in mind, we are consistently developing our ATM solutions. This includes development in contactless card withdrawals and cardless cash withdrawals via barcode scanners. As technology continues to move forward, embracing the mobile phone as part of the ATM journey will become more necessary. We are aware of the rise in digital payments and a drop in cash usage, but we believe cash will always play a major role in society.” It therefore remains important that Euronet offers consumers continued access to cash to give them multiple payment choices. And judging by Twohig’s enthusiasm, the sky is the limit for this innovative company excelling in financial payments. For more information, visit www.euronetworldwide.com.


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Partner Profile  National Standards Authority of Ireland

THE STANDARD BEARERS HEAD OF MEDICAL DEVICES AT NSAI DR CAROLINE DORE-GERAGHTY DISCUSSES THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ORGANISATION BEING APPROVED FOR DESIGNATION TO THE NEW MEDICAL DEVICE REGULATIONS. Two new EU regulations on medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics have entered into force, strengthening the safety and testing requirements for device manufacturers. The new regulations affect existing devices, which need to be recertified, and any new devices entering the market. “What is expected in terms of patient safety is obviously paramount within this sector,” explains Dr Caroline DoreGeraghty, Head of Medical Devices at NSAI. “It is such a highly regulated sector because there are huge health implications involved, with end users being medical professionals, healthcare workers or patients themselves.” Manufacturers will need to start complying with this new medical device regulation from May 26th 2020 in order to continue to place medical devices on the market within the European Economic Area. Dore-Geraghty highlights the timesensitive nature of the designation. “As the current medical device and active implantable directives will cease in May 2020, it was imperative for NSAI to get designated to the regulation which succeeds the directives.” This designation helps NSAI’s position on the national and international stage as a leading provider of certification services. The Medical Devices team at NSAI spent over two-and-a-half years working towards attaining the designation, which will enable the organisation to ensure continued access to the European medical devices market for certified clients. “It was a big multidisciplinary team effort for us,” admits Dore-Geraghty. “Our team is proficient in the different scientific disciplines involved for assessing and reviewing devices to ensure they’re safe.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland team

“It was a long process, but the approval is significant as it makes NSAI only the 11th notified body in the world to be designated to the new medical device regulation. Our systems are constantly changing to meet the criteria within the regulations.”

Irish medtech

Ireland is widely recognised as a centre for excellence and a hub for medical technology companies. Nine of the world’s top ten medical technology companies have a base in Ireland and 60% of the 450 medtech companies based here are indigenous. The NSAI’s designation means that Ireland has an indigenous notified body to assess and certify medical device quality management systems and medical device products for placement on the European market. NSAI hopes to expand its Irish footprint by helping Irish SMEs, while also supporting a globally established industry. “This designation is good for Ireland as a whole,” comments Dore-Geraghty. “If there were no notified bodies here to certify medical devices, it would be

one cog missing in the Irish medtech ecosystem. We’re a public sector body too, so it’s our priority to promote and support small businesses in Ireland.” The scope of the designation mirrors the current designation under the directive, so continuity of service can be guaranteed to existing clients, while new clients can apply for certification under the regulation. Looking to the future, NSAI’s next goal is to achieve the in-vitro diagnostic regulation designation, which is set to be another game-changer in the medtech industry. “The smart tech revolution in medtech is coming,” states Dore-Geraghty. “It’s an ever-evolving industry and there are some amazing devices coming very soon. We’re lucky that we get to assess these exciting innovations to ensure they’re compliant with the regulation. It’s a very exciting industry to be a part of right now.” For more information about how NSAI aims to inspire consumer confidence and create the infrastructure for products and services to be recognised and relied on, visit www.nsai.ie.


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Microfinance Ireland  Partner Profile

SUPPORTING BUSINESSES THROUGH COVID-19 MICROFINANCE IRELAND IS HELPING BUSINESSES IN WHAT HAS BECOME A VERY SUDDEN AND SERIOUS ECONOMIC SHOCK AND DOWNTURN. When Microfinance Ireland (MFI) was set up in late 2012, the aim was to help businesses start up, expand and support jobs following the financial crisis. Since mid-March MFI has been active in putting in place a range of supports to help microenterprises who are struggling due to Covid-19 amid the various necessary steps that are being taken to curb the virus. The suddenness of the economic impact has taken everyone by surprise. Almost overnight, businesses have seen their volumes of business drastically reduce or temporarily close altogether. Microfinance Ireland’s CEO Garrett Stokes explains: “This is where MFI can help. For our existing customers that are making loan repayments, we are offering a six-month moratorium on repayments now and extending these repayments to the end of the loan term. This means that our customers do not have to worry about repayments while their business is closed before hopefully reopening in a few months’ time.” Stokes adds: “If this is not sufficient support for the business, we will also consider additional lending up to a total borrowing limit of €50,000 to support their cash-flow needs.”

Trading performance

For new customers, the new Covid-19 Business Loan from Microfinance Ireland allows businesses that were viable before the pandemic and have been negatively impacted by at least 15% of turnover or profit which cannot get bank funding to apply for financial support. Stokes says: “We can now offer loans up to €50,000 over a term of 36 months, which includes a six-months’ interestfree and repayment-free moratorium at the start of the loan period with the loan then paid-off over the remaining

30 months. This is a very attractive offer and should enable many viable businesses to help cover various overheads and expenses during the pandemic. These could include rent, wages or other overheads necessary to ensure the sustainability of the business until normal business resumes. “I would also encourage all businesses to speak to their bank, or any other lenders, to discuss payment deferrals on their existing debt. They should also see what the Department of Social Protection and Employment Affairs and Revenue supports are available for the business and their employees. There are also a range of financial supports available from Enterprise Ireland, SBCI and Local Enterprise Offices.” Businesses should also consider their working capital position when the time comes to reopen their business. The biggest challenge for all businesses at the moment is that they have no idea how long this pandemic will take to come under control. Business owners should start planning for a situation where their business is closed or significantly impacted for three to six months and that it may take a further six months before normal trading performances return. The longer the period of closure, the longer the economic recovery. To conclude Stokes comments: “I advise all businesses to act now, talk to your lenders, creditors, suppliers

and Revenue. Determine you cashflow needs during this period and get facilities in place. MFI is delighted to receive applications from eligible microenterprises in much need of financial support. “One of the main determinants of whether we can support you will be the viability of the business before Covid-19 and therefore your ability to recover. Some sectors will be more badly hit, particularly those with seasonable turnover, where the season is missed, but we will assess all applications in a fair and supportive manner. Our mandate is to support the economy, small businesses and jobs and we are needed now more than ever.” For more information, visit www.microfinanceireland.ie/loanpackages/covid19.

Garrett Stokes, CEO, Microfinance Ireland


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Now, more than ever, we know that support matters. So, whether it’s managing your accounts or cash flow support, our team are here to help.

You can talk to us in-branch, call your Relationship Manager or visit Business24.ie

Lending criteria, terms and conditions apply. permanent tsb p.l.c. is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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27/04/2020 14:57 12:03 28/04/2020

Permanent TSB  Partner Profile

A PERMANENT SOURCE OF SUPPORT MAGS BRENNAN, HEAD OF BUSINESS BANKING AT PERMANENT TSB, EXPLAINS HOW THE BANK IS PROVIDING SMALL FIRMS WITH THE NECESSARY SUPPORT TO GET THROUGH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. The coronavirus crisis has had a staggering impact on the Irish business landscape in recent times, with small firms across the country having been hit particularly hard. As well as offering critical banking services for its customers at this difficult juncture, Permanent TSB’s aim is to ensure that SMEs have the support to deal with the financial challenges arising from the pandemic. SME customers can now apply for an increase of working capital facilities and payment breaks on business loan facilities and the Bank is working with small businesses on an individual basis to offer solutions that best suit their circumstances. With extensive experience in banking, both in Ireland and internationally, Mags Brennan has significant experience in helping Irish business of all sizes since her entry to the industry. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the recently appointed Head of Business Banking with the role coinciding with the outbreak of Covid-19. “We’ve been busy implementing payment breaks both across secure and unsecured term lending,” she says. “And we’ve put increased overdrafts in place for customers, as well as new overdrafts for customers that have never had them before. Our three-month payment breaks support customers cash-flow as there are no capital or interest payments to the Bank during that period. She adds: “From an industry perspective, even in a post-Covid scenario, we’re going to find businesses that will need more support to help them get through this with some sectors, like hospitality and tourism, most impacted.”


With 25,000 SME customers, communication has been at the forefront for Brennan and her team since the outbreak. “The most important thing for us is keeping our customers’ updated of what we are doing to help and support them in terms of payment breaks and overdraft facilities. People’s livelihoods are at stake here, particularly for micro companies. It’s really important that step-by-step we inform them of exactly what we’re doing to help.” In line with World Health Organisation and Health Service Executive recommendations, the Bank has implemented protocols for its colleagues throughout a branch network that remains open to the public. “We felt it was important to keep our branches open, but with limited opening hours to protect both our staff and our customers,” says Brennan. “We’ve also put increased resourcing into our call centres to ensure all of our customers, including our SME customers, have access to the right support. We’re in a remote world now, so we need to make sure there are many different ways in which customers can contact us.” Early and meaningful engagement is recommended for small firms across all sectors. But what is Brennan’s advice for any SME customers who haven’t yet been in touch with the Bank? “We don’t know how this pandemic is going to pan out, so get in touch today,” she urges. “Many businesses need to think about how they can manage cash-flow, so maybe we can offer a payment break or an overdraft to help them through this.” Future planning will be critical for small firms to lay foundations for

Mags Brennan, Head of Business Banking, Permanent TSB

eventual recovery and to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. “We want to be a challenger bank for the future, as we believe SME customers need more choice and support,” says Brennan. “We’re already looking at what the landscape will look like over the coming months and how we can adapt to our customers’ needs.” She continues: “It’s really important that everyone is proactive. There’s no time to sit back and wait for the next stage to happen. That’s why we’re working closely with organisations such as the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland on what funds or support might be required for SMEs. Outward communication is key and we’re looking at how we can help SMEs to look at their business in a different way for the future.” For more information, visit www.permanenttsb.ie/business-banking. Lending products are subject to lending criteria, terms and conditions. Security and Insurance may be required. Fees and charges may apply. Applicants must be aged 18 years or over. Permanent tsb p.l.c is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.


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Credit Review Office  Partner Profile

A HEALTHY OUTLOOK CREDIT REVIEW OFFERS SOME TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR BUSINESS HEALTHY OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. In the likelihood that business is going to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic for several months, businesses need to reevaluate their financial needs for at least the next three to six months. As always, cash is king for any business to survive in choppy economic waters. Either your business’s own cash reserves, or access to working capital bank finance – overdrafts, stocking loans or debtor finance. If you think that cash-flow could be an issue, and do not have access to already agreed credit facilities, now is the time you should be talking with your bank to arrange a new or increased

facility. It will take time to apply and get this facility sanctioned by your bank.


It is always best to get your bank on-board before any financial pressure comes on your business – this shows you are proactively managing the situation, and is more likely to get a favourable response.


Where relationships with banks become more difficult is when your business has exhausted the cash reserves or the unutilised overdraft, and payments start to be referred and dishonoured through ‘lack of funds’. You may find the information sheets on our website helpful in applying for credit, in the ‘Resources’ section of www.creditreview.ie. If you are having difficulty, contact our helpline at 1850 211 789 or 087 121 7244; or visit www.creditreview.ie to request a callback.

Credit where it’s due during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Considering your credit needs during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic? Having difficulty getting a business loan from your bank? Have your credit facilities been reduced or declined? Established by the Minister for Finance, we are here to help. Call our helpline on 1850 211 789 or visit creditreview.ie

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COVID-19 Support

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION: SUPPORTING BUSINESS SURVIVAL THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION IS MOBILISING ALL POSSIBLE RESOURCES TO SUPPORT BUSINESSES AND ECONOMIES THROUGH THE COVID-19 CRISIS. As the coronavirus outbreak grips European and global economies in a stranglehold, the European Commission and the EU have mobilised all possible resources and set in motion a range of macroeconomic measures designed to make funding available to underpin the budgetary, liquidity and policy measures of individual Member States to increase the capacity of their health systems and provide relief to those citizens and sectors that are particularly impacted.

Economic Forecast

On 6 May the European Commission published its Spring 2020 Economic

Forecast, revising last Autumn’s growth projections downwards by 9%. Due to the economic shock caused by the pandemic, it is projected that the EU economy will contract by 7.5% in 2020 and grow by around 6% in 2021. The economic recovery of each Member State will depend on the evolution of the pandemic at national levels as well as on the structure of the economy and the state capacity to respond with stabilising policies. To cushion the blow to people’s livelihoods and the economy, the European Commission has adopted a comprehensive economic response to

the outbreak, applied the full flexibility of the EU fiscal rules, has revised its State Aid rules and set up a €37 billion Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative to provide liquidity to small businesses and the health care sector.

Protecting small and medium-sized businesses

The survival of small and medium-sized enterprises is essential for national economies across the EU. Supporting them is part of a comprehensive package put together by the Commission and the European Investment Bank Group. On 6 April, the Commission announced

Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission


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COVID-19 Support

that financing estimated to €8 billion would be made available to provide immediate financial relief to small and medium-sized businesses across the EU. The Commission has unlocked €1 billion from the European Fund for Strategic Investments to serve as guarantee to the European Investment Fund in incentivising local banks and other lenders to provide liquidity to at least 100,000 European small and medium enterprises. EU Funding is available for all types of companies of any size and sector. The decision to provide EU financing, and exact financing conditions – the amount, duration, interest rates and fees – will be made by the local financial institutions such as banks, venture capitalists or angel investors.

Banking Package

On 28 April, the European Commission adopted a banking package to ensure that banks can continue to lend money, thereby supporting the economy and significantly mitigating the effects felt by citizens and businesses. In applying the full flexibility of the EU’s banking rules and proposing targeted legislative changes, the Commission enables banks to keep on providing liquidity to those in need. The Commission engages with the European financial sector and explores how it can develop best practices and further support citizens and businesses. The banking package includes an Interpretative Communication on the EU’s accounting and prudential frameworks, as well as targeted “quick fix” amendments to EU banking rules.

Mitigating Unemployment Risks

SURE - Support mitigating Unemployment Risks in Emergency - is a new initiative launched by the European Commission in April to preserve jobs and support families. The SURE initiative provides financial assistance of up to €100 billion in total to Member States in the form of loans granted on favourable terms to cover the costs of national short-time work schemes. In Ireland this takes the form of the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy



Green lanes / flow of goods / cross border workers

Repatriation of EU citizens


Strategic stockpile RescEU / JOINT PROCUREMENT


Production of medical equipment and supplies


Research on vaccine



Global response monitoring

C.R.I.I. + €8 billion EIF credit guarantee


Temporary framework State Aid Stability and Growth Pact general escape clause


“TO CUSHION THE BLOW TO PEOPLE’S LIVELIHOODS AND THE ECONOMY, THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION HAS ADOPTED A COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC RESPONSE TO THE OUTBREAK.” Scheme, which was announced on 24 March, to provide the payment of income supports to employers in respect of eligible employees on their payroll where the employer’s business activities have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19.

Exchequer Funding

In light of the European funding supports underpinning national initiatives, the Irish Government has provided additional Exchequer funding to support liquidity measures of approximately €1 billion in total. Some of the many measures include: ● A Sustaining Enterprise Fund, operated by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, of up to €180 million. This is specifically aimed at vulnerable but viable firms with 10 or more full-time employees and provides repayable advances of up to €800,000 in accordance with new EU State Aid rules. ● €450m in lending under the SBCI COVID -19 Working Capital Loan Scheme. Loans, with terms from 1 to 3 years, can be between €25,000 and €1.5m at a maximum interest rate of 4%.

● An additional €200m in COVID-19 funding for the Future Growth Loan Scheme to provide longer term loans to COVID-19 impacted businesses. ● MicroFinance Ireland has received increased funding and upped its potential loan threshold from €25,000 to €50,000 with terms that include a six months interest free and repayment free moratorium. Interest rates have dropped from 7.8% to 4.5%. ● The Credit Guarantee Scheme (operated by the SBCI since 2018) has been repurposed and will be provided by the pillar banks to affected firms. Loans of up to €1 million are available. ● Extension of supports for online trading for business, extension of the trading online voucher scheme and free mentoring as well as free online training for all businesses. Businesses should explore the full range of supports available through Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Office and Údarás na Gaeltachta.


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The Energia Family Business Awards have been deferred to a later date in 2020 due to the COVID-19 health crisis. The awards ceremony was due to take place on the 15th of May in the InterContinental Hotel.

For more information visit www.familybusinessawards.ie

For all queries contact Michael O’Donoghue, Event Manager e: michael.odonoghue@ashvillemediagroup.com t: 01 432 2224

Thank you to our Sponsors

In association with

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Nadine O’Regan  Arts and Culture




Nadine O’Regan in Gutter Books


At this

complicated period in our history journalism plays an important role in informing and inspiring a flustered public. As the ramifications of Covid-19 become increasingly apparent, many Irish journalists are focusing on the creation of engaging pandemic-related content to educate and entertain the masses. Nadine O’Regan, host and producer of Business Post’s Coronavirus Ireland podcast series, is one such example. As well as Arts Editor and columnist with Business Post Media Group, she also specialises as a podcaster, voiceover artist, TV contributor and broadcaster. It’s this level of versatility that has propelled O’Regan’s career and she has garnered a reputation as one of the nation’s most respected arts correspondents. Her progression in journalism has not been linear, according to the soft-spoken Corkonian. “I hadn’t set on a SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 59

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Arts and Culture  Nadine O’Regan

career as a journalist, let alone as a broadcaster,” she admits. “But I found the deadline culture quite suited me.” Following a somewhat fortuitous introduction to the world of broadcasting, O’Regan evidently tackles each of her transmissions with fervour. She has served as a reporter for RTÉ’s late-night arts show The Works, been a frequent contributor on The View and has worked as a radio presenter on Phantom 105.2, TXFM and Today FM. It was in 2006 at newly launched Dublin indie station Phantom 105.2 that O’Regan got her break in broadcasting. The station’s modus operandi was to shake up the humdrum backdrop of Irish radio and to shine a light on unsung Irish acts. Although Phantom ceased operations in 2014, O’Regan remembers her time fondly at the ill-fated station. “Phantom was a really great experience,” she says. “I was working as a freelance arts journalist at the time and didn’t have any experience as a presenter, so it was a big leap of faith from their side and mine. I presented and produced The Kiosk, the station’s flagship weekend arts show, for seven years. I worked really hard to pull in the big names. Looking back I’m kind of amazed at some of the people we had on the show.” O’Regan’s claim isn’t hyperbole: the guest list included no small amount of heavy hitters, such as Quentin Tarantino, Kate Bush and Colm Tóibín. “There was so much excitement around Phantom as a commercial entity in the radio world – the idea that this indie rock station could survive in such a commercial landscape,” explains O’Regan. “Working at the station has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my career to date.” In an ever-evolving industry, today’s journalists can ill-afford to align themselves to a single medium. Having built up a reputation as a multi-faceted journalist, O’Regan explains that, although each media platform requires a different approach, there are certain methods that are common across all. “The differences across each are subtle,” she describes. “In print, I’m thinking about how to elicit the best or most interesting response from the interviewee. While, on the other hand, editing audio is fundamentally different as a process. During podcast or radio work I need to be aware that my vocal is really captured. If I have wandering questions that are not well structured, it’s going to make the edit very difficult. Even if your tone isn’t great, people will pick up on that.”

Nadine O’Regan and Graham Norton

“I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERTAKE CERTAIN PROJECTS BECAUSE THEY FEEL LIKE THE RIGHT THINGS TO WORK ON. I THINK IT’S FUN TO MOVE FROM DISCIPLINE TO DISCIPLINE. I’M CERTAINLY ENERGISED BY THIS AND I’VE BEEN VERY LUCKY TO BE ABLE TO WORK ACROSS DIFFERENT MEDIUMS.” Today, the boundaries between the various channels of distribution are more fluid than ever. Interestingly, O’Regan sees television as a tabloid medium – a superficial bedfellow to print or radio. “I’ve found that people will talk about the outfit I’m wearing when I’m on TV, rather than the content discussed. This made me realise that you’re limited with how in-depth you can go into the subject detail on television. As a general rule of thumb, I’d see print as a better medium for in-depth reporting.”

Diversification Journalism is no longer a predictable pathway and a fluctuating media environment is changing how users access content. The definition of what a journalist does is certainly diversifying. O’Regan views the shifting trends in journalism as an opportunity, rather than a constraint. “The move to digital has been very transformational,” she states, “and the speed of this change has posed a new set of challenges. We’re all struggling to stay ahead of


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Nadine O’Regan  Arts and Culture

the curve, but it’s really exciting. Leaders within the industry have often had to take a punt in terms of how they plan budgets and forecast for the year ahead.” Print-based and long-form will continue to play a role in the evolution of content, according to O’Regan. “We live in an age of bite-sized news in terms of how we process information. Everything is coming at us so fast and from so many sources. Research has shown that when we read online, we don’t retain the information as well as in print. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to read those long pieces, or to pick up a book, and remember to sit with a topic for a longer period – and simultaneously remember to calm down!” Social platforms have taken greater command of our attention over the past decade. This has altered

Nadine O’Regan and Kevin Barry

how journalists interact with their audience as increased connectivity has resulted in increased opportunities for feedback. “Social media has been an incredibly important shift,” says O’Regan. “It can be an amazing tool. I like to engage online and love the fact that I can publicise things like my podcast or an article from the Business Post. But I’m now more cautious about what I post, which is a pity. Over the last three years Twitter has become a far more divisive medium and trolling has become so rampant.”

Roots manoeuvre Before joining Business Post Media Group, O’Regan had built a reputation as a formidable freelance writer through her work for prominent newspapers and publications such as The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, Hot Press, Magill, The Observer and The Guardian. She describes the transition to her current role after seven years’ freelancing as a “formative point” in her career. “It took six months to a year to understand how to inhabit that space well,” she admits. “It was during a difficult point in the paper’s history [during the economic crash that hit in 2008] and I needed to learn how to work effectively within a team environment. I was lucky to work with a succession of really good editors.” She adds: “A level of security and stability came from the role, but I was also allowed to continue to work on really interesting freelance stuff as well. Thankfully, they’ve always been really supportive of that.” One of O’Regan’s passion projects is the arts and culture podcast My Roots are Showing. The show has featured a number of well-known personalities since its inception in 2018, including Graham Norton, Lenny Abrahamson, Domhnall Gleeson and previous Better Business interviewee Kevin Barry. O’Regan’s intention is to stay creative amid all the madness of the current pandemic. “Loneliness isn’t the absence of company, it’s the absence of meaning,” she says. “I think it’s important to undertake certain projects because they feel like the right things to work on. I think it’s fun to move from discipline to discipline. I’m certainly energised by this and I’ve been very lucky to be able to work across different mediums, so I’ll keep following my nose in that respect and keep challenging myself to take risks.” The Skibbereen native ends the interview by imparting some words of wisdom to aspiring journalists. “No matter what level you’re at in the industry, everybody is grappling with the same sense of uncertainty. I’ve benefited from good advice over the years from those who have been kind enough to give feedback. People like Jim Lockhart [radio producer] have been invaluable in taking the time to offer that little bit of advice to steer me in the right direction. “Every journalist is a brand now; that sounds harsh, but it’s true. If you’re good across a multiplicity of mediums, that will really be seen as valuable. “Don’t be afraid to start small. Get out there and keep increasing your knowledge base. And don’t forget to be nice to people too – being sound pays off in this industry!” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 61

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Motoring  Mazda3



Vehicle FOR



aving made its debut at the 2018 Los Angeles Motor Show, Mazda Ireland has announced pricing and specification for the new Mazda3 hatchback and saloon. The Mazda3 is the first of the Japanese firm’s next-generation vehicles and reflects the very latest in Mazda’s engineering, design and manufacturing. Offered initially with either a 122ps 2.0 litre Skyactiv-G petrol in hatchback or 116ps 1.8-litre Skyactiv-D diesel engine in hatchback and saloon, the Irish model line-up sees a choice of four trim levels: GS, GS-L, GT/Platinum (Hatch/Saloon), GT Sport/ Platinum Sport (Hatch/Saloon). The Mazda3 will come with an unprecedented list of standard equipment including high-end technology, such as an 8.8-inch colour entertainment screen, 7-inch digital dashboard, window projected colour active driving display, LED headlights with high beam control, Mazda radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, e-call, lane keep assist and much more. Every model in the line-up also features navigation, Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto and an advanced eight-speaker audio system. All trims are offered with both diesel and petrol engines, while a choice between manual and automatic gearboxes is also offered.

Rankin x Mazda3


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Mazda3  Motoring

GS-L includes a reversing camera, smart keyless entry, heated front seats, while the GT model is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels and a black leather interior. At the top of the range, the GT Sport/ Platinum Sport sees an enhanced cabin with additional chrome detailing, a frameless rear view mirror, rear privacy glass and Bose 12-speaker audio system. The first car based on Mazda’s next generation of Skyactiv-vehicle architecture, the Mazda3 takes things to the next level when it comes to handling, ride comfort and refinement. Every element from the seat, body, tyres and suspension has been developed with a humancentred approach to ensure that Mazda’s sense of oneness between car and driver is more finely balanced than ever before. Under the bonnet, for improved efficiency, the Skyactiv-G petrol engine now features a cylinder deactivation system and Mazda’s M Hybrid 24V system. This mild-hybrid system improves fuel economy by recycling recovered kinetic energy. A belt-driven integrated starter generator (ISG) converts the energy in the 600kJ lithium-ion battery, while the DC-DC converter supplies it to the cars electrical equipment. Inside, the stylish cabin environment takes a minimalist approach with every aspect of the cockpit laid out in perfect horizontal symmetry with the driver to deliver both ergonomic simplicity and beautiful design.

Slick design Mazda’s focus on Japanese-inspired craftsmanship is evident in both high-class materials found throughout the interior and the impressive build quality. All models feature a 7-inch colour TFT driver instrument display, while the latest version of Mazda’s MZDConnect infotainment system features a larger 8.8-inch central display, improved navigation and a revised multimedia commander control dial, to name just a few of the enhancements. Sure to turn heads, the Mazda3 exterior styling adopts a more mature interpretation of Kodo design that exemplifies Mazda’s artful design and clean Japanese aesthetics. The first production car to embody this evolution, the elimination of unnecessary

character lines means the design relies on beautifully curved body panels that reflect the surrounding environment, while the dark metallic colouring and bold contouring of the signature wing and grille distinguish it from the forthcoming saloon model. The Mazda3’s striking proportions are further highlighted by the low nose, slender LED headlights, reduced wheel arch gaps and long wheelbase. Mazda’s newest paint colour, polymetal grey, makes its debut on the Mazda3. GS and GS-L cars feature 16-inch silver wheels, while the GT/Platinum boasts 18-inch

Mazda3 will vie this year for the World Car The distinguished title of World Car of the Year, as as the World Car Design of the Year award, of the Year well it was announced in March.

grey/silver metallic wheels. Rear privacy glass and piano black window garnish distinguish the top of the range GT Sport/Platinum Sport model. Mazda Ireland Managing Director John Perry said: “Since the launch of Mazda3, it has continuously witnessed strong sales in a very competitive segment and is reflective of the continuously received praise in its segment, aesthetically and as a driving experience. The Mazda3 is the first of our seventh generation products with its stunning exterior Kodo design complemented with Mazda human-centric interior design further raises its profile as a segment leader and a true alternative to premium rivals.” He added: “With Mazda’s new 1.8D and 2.0P Skyactiv-X engine technology now available in the Mazda3 and with improved driving dynamics to further strengthen Mazda’s driving philosophy ‘jinba ittai’, the All New Mazda3 should be a genuine consideration for any driver looking for a premium yet fun to drive offering.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 63

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The Big Read  Dream Big





This is an abridged extract from Dream Big: An Irish Woman’s Space Odyssey by Niamh Shaw, first published by Mercier Press.

I imagine you are probably in a room in your house. Maybe you’re outside in your garden. Right now, I’m sitting on my couch, which I have moved to face my back yard (it helps me to write if I can see a bit of nature). We’re both in different places, but wherever we are, we are occupying a piece of space on our planet. What city or town are you in? I’m in Dublin. Let’s zoom out a bit more. What country are you in right now? While I can hope that this book will be read globally, I’m going to conservatively estimate that we’re both in Ireland right now. Ireland is 84,421 square kilometres and occupies 0.7% of Europe, which is 10.8 million square kilometres in size. Yet Europe occupies just 2% of Earth’s surface, the total area of which is 510.1 million square kilometres. And we occupy such a teeny tiny part of that. And we are all aware of that. As we sit, stand or lie, wherever we are, we are a tiny part of this planet. If it’s daytime while you’re reading this, take a look up (or


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Dream Big  The Big Read

out) at the sky. It’s pretty bright, isn’t it? The light is coming from the Sun, which I’m sure you already know. The Sun is roughly 149 million kilometres away from you right now. In fact, the light that you can see is light that left our sun eight minutes ago. Which means that if the Sun decided to down tools and shut off for the day, our sky wouldn’t darken for eight minutes. Let’s zoom out further. The Sun is one of millions of stars in our local interstellar neighbourhood, the nearest of which, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light years away (a light year is 9.46 trillion kilometres). And all of this is part of one galaxy, the Milky Way, which is 100,000 light years in diameter. Meanwhile, the Milky Way is one galaxy of hundreds of other galaxies grouped together in a cluster called the Virgo Cluster. These clusters are grouped into superclusters. There are 55 superclusters within the observable universe, the edge of which is 46.6 billion light years away from us. Right now. And that’s where we are. As you sit, stand or lie there, reading this book. And that’s just what we know today. There is so much more to know and to explore. The urge to explore starts from when we take our first steps. For some, that exploration never ends. After all, the universe is a big place and we’ve always been trying to define our place in it. From the Egyptians or the Aztecs worshipping the Sun, to the Chinese naming the stars, or the Babylonians inventing astrology, we have always been connecting our lives to the cosmos. The stars have been our gods; they have guided us. They have inspired our calendars and almanacs, and all the while we believed ourselves secure, at the centre of an orderly universe.

Then, in 1608, with the invention of the telescope, we realised it was our planet orbiting the Sun, not vice versa. And in 1610 Galileo discovered that our star was part of a much bigger system of stars, a galaxy. Not until the 1920s did we realise that there were other galaxies out there, hundreds of them. And only 20 years ago did we discover that our solar system, our planetary system, wasn’t unique; there are, in fact, as many as 40 billion planetary systems. And that’s just what we know today. The more we look at the skies, the smaller we become. How simple a life would be without questions, if we didn’t need to know. But we do need to know. Since the dawn of time, humans have been curious, have always wanted to know what lies over the hill. The urge to explore is an inherent part of who we are. If we know anything we know one thing: we need to know. And I need to know too. People’s lives from the outside all seem so well planned, don’t they? Well, I can tell you now, for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wish life were that simple. Because the real story of my life is quite different. I have been haunted by my dream to go to space my whole life. Even when I was lost in life, I always knew that I was destined for something bigger. Unfortunately, I forgot what that destiny was for a very long time. But in the very back of my mind, my subconscious kept that hope and dream safe, locked away in a vault, for the day when I would be ready to share it with myself again. Life would have been a whole lot simpler if I had been brave enough to devote all my life to this one quest. But that isn’t my story. I went along a number of paths in my life only to end up back where I was when I was eight years old, deciding what I wanted to be. It’s exhausting to deny yourself the right to be who you truly are. I’m Niamh Shaw and I want to go to space.

Back to earth I think that we can be many things. It is okay to change our minds, to make mistakes. There are so many different ways to live our lives and so many paths from which to choose. It is important to realise that confronting our fears can set us free. That our reality is often based on our perceptions and that we can change those perceptions at any time. That the true reward in life is the effort in working hard towards something that truly matters to us. To realise how truly tiny we are in this universe, gives me a tremendous sense of freedom. I think that we’re all part of something much bigger than ourselves. In the story of our universe, we exist for such a very short period of time, so it’s up to us to create the very best life for ourselves and to each leave our own legacy for the next generation to build upon. So don’t wait around. Don’t waste precious years thinking about the ‘what ifs’. Waiting is failing. Success is walking forward. Live a life that has meaning to you. And embrace it all – the good and the bad. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 65

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Travel  Cardiff



Welsh Red Dragon Cardiff Castle

The Wales Millennium Centre


Cardiff has a great story to tell: the Welsh capital has transformed itself from its industrial past and coal mining tradition to become a major hub for financial services, technology and science. You’ll find culture, history and stunning architecture in equal measure here, not to mention some of the most innovative and exciting food the UK has to offer. Post-Covid-19, Cardiff should be well placed to continue to secure new occupiers from a business standpoint. A high demand for office space has accelerated Cardiff ’s regeneration and alongside improved amenities and connectivity, top-notch office facilities have attracted a growing talent pool. Cardiff has become an increasingly desirable location to call home and was listed as the number two city in the UK for employees’ quality of life, according to a recent Cushman and Wakefield report. Cardiff also regularly features in ‘best cities to live’ surveys due to its affordable cost of living and wide variety of housing. Its resident population has grown by over 10% in the past decade, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the UK over this period. The city has been developing as a significant economic driver for the UK and has put innovation at the forefront of developments in technology, engineering, energy and life sciences. There’s a thriving tech meetup scene here too and the city’s startup ecosystem has access to investment, funding and a budding entrepreneurial community. Improvement plans for transport infrastructure could act as the next gamechanger for the city. The recently proposed regeneration of Cardiff Central railway station and plans for an integrated Metro transport system will create modern gateways fit for any capital city. Projects such as these would open up new areas of the city and allow for increased ease of movement for people across the region.


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1 2


Post-Covid-19 you’ll find deals with Aer Lingus, KLM and Air France, all of which offer direct flights from Dublin to Cardiff.

Cardiff  Travel

Cardiff Bay


Hotel Wynford (also known as OYO Cardiff Central) is situated within walking distance of Cardiff’s lively entertainment scene and provides simple and modern ensuite bedrooms with all the usual accoutrements. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense stay amid a fun atmosphere, this threestar lodging won’t disappoint.

Cardiff Library

The Mansion and the Clock-Tower of the Cardiff Castle and The Millennium Stadium



It’s easy to navigate this compact and flat city by foot, but there are a raft of decent options to get around. Cardiff Bus runs an extensive system throughout the city. There are 20 railway stations in Cardiff, most of which form part of the commuter rail network – Queen Street and Cardiff Central are the main hubs of the city. Feeling adventurous? Then jump on the Water Bus at Bute Park near Cardiff Castle and enjoy panoramic views of Cardiff Bay. For information on transport in Wales, see www.traveline.cymru.



The Greazy Vegan’s aim is to bring joy to junk food-loving vegans across Cardiff. It’s a great spot for a tasty lunch – think 100% vegan burgers and hotdogs – in the heart of the city.

An international outlook The region is a hotspot for corporate gatherings and can boast numerous superb facilities on its doorstep. Celtic Manor Resort (don’t miss its world-class golf course) and the recently opened International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) both cater for a wide range of national and international events. ICC Wales is a state-of-the-art meetings venue that has opened its doors to UK and international conferences, meetings and events. The development is part of an ongoing plan to draw further business events into Wales to showcase the country’s reputation for innovation and invention and to attract an ever-increasing number of sector-related conferences and meetings. Introbiz Expo, which returns for its ninth consecutive year in November 2020 across two floors at Cardiff City Stadium, is one such meeting. The event in 2020 will welcome thousands of visitors and 100 exhibitors, ranging from SMEs to large corporate companies and the gathering represents a great networking opportunity for business leaders and entrepreneurs alike. Sport also acts as a catalyst for growth in this city with a proud sporting tradition. Cardiff is home to one of the world’s most iconic arenas: The Millennium Stadium. Initially built to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup, not only does the stadium host the most amazing sporting spectacles, but is one of the most memorable conference venues in the UK. Cardiff is on a journey to build a reputation as a key location for invention and industry. It is a city of innovation with a truly global outlook – a place where you’re guaranteed an adventure to meet your mindset. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 67

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Travel  Cardiff



JOLYON’S BOUTIQUE HOTEL Nestled in the heart of Cardiff Bay, Jolyon’s Boutique Hotel is an intimate location with seven individually styled bedrooms. The pick of the bunch (for this writer, at least) is Room 2, a stunning double room tastefully decorated with a lavish Italian marble finish overlooking Wales Millennium Centre. W: www.jolyons.co.uk E: reception@jolyons.co.uk

Cardiff Bay



Kick-off the day with a coffee fix at Stag Coffee, a great little spot delivering local and organic produce located on Crwys Road.

Housing Wales’ national art, natural history and geology collections, National Museum Cardiff is well worth a visit. Then take the short stroll over to Cardiff Castle, one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions, before strolling through centuries of history at idyllic Bute Park.


Head to the west side of the city and step back in time at Wales’ most popular heritage attraction: St Fagans National Museum of History. The museum stands in the grounds of a late 16th-century manor house. 1PM | CARDIFF BAY

Head south to the Wales Millennium Centre, situated at the heart of Cardiff Bay, one of the most unique and lively performing arts centres in Europe. Nearby you’ll also find Techniquest, a science centre in which to explore a variety of fascinating creations.


Highly recommended is a visit to The Clink, a restaurant located within the grounds of a category B prison! All of the food here is lovingly prepared and served by prisoners and has been receiving a multitude of plaudits since opening in 2012.

W: www.radissonhotels.com/ en-us/hotels/radisson-blu-cardiff E: reservations.cardiff@radissonblu.com


There’s a thriving entertainment scene in Cardiff and you’ll find a warm welcome in the city’s many friendly pubs. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit different, look no further than The Dead Canary. A visit to this quirky underground bar will raise your cool status (if you can find this hidden bar!). 9PM | CHECK OUT SOME LIVE MUSIC

Bute Park

RADISSON BLU HOTEL Book a room on one of the higher floors of this contemporary hotel and enjoy superb views of the capital from the floor-to-ceiling windows during your stay. It’s the perfect base for business travellers, offering six meeting rooms, a business centre and a lounge.

Regular gig-goers are advised to take a trip to a relatively new live music venue in the city: The Tramshed. Check out one of the many local and international acts that visit this hub for music and arts.

THE EXCHANGE HOTEL This grandiose option – previously used for trading coal – is one of Cardiff’s most iconic hotels. Don’t miss the chance to dine at Culley’s Bar and Restaurant, where some of the finest local and regional produce is up for grabs within an historic setting. W: www.exchangehotelcardiff.co.uk T: +44 2920 107050


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14/05/2020 15:54

Drinks Industry  Lifestyle

Patricia Callan, Director, Drinks Ireland





he Irish drinks industry has joined the national effort to respond to the Covid-19 crisis in many different ways, including making donations to support unemployed bar workers and charities working with more vulnerable groups in our society. Patricia Callan, Director, Drinks Ireland, says: “The industry has itself been hard-hit by the pandemic, with the global closure of the on-trade as well as restrictions in supply to many off-trade channels (e.g. multiple retailers), which has imposed severe commercial pressures on businesses in the Irish drinks industry. Our visitor attractions have also had to close, in order to protect staff and the wider public. “In terms of the policy response, it is essential that Irish drinks production is protected, provided we are able to comply in full with social distancing guidelines, as we work to fulfil contracts in over 140 global markets. Enhanced cash-flow supports are critical, including deferrals of payments to Revenue; ensuring that government, its agencies and semistate organisations, pay their own bills on time; and cancelling commercial rate charges for the period of the crisis. Measures such as credit guarantees and interest-free loans should be implemented in the short-term.” She adds: “We also need to start planning for the reboot of the economy and what is likely to be the gradual reopening of the hospitality trade and how we can encourage everyone to ‘support your local’. This is particularly important for businesses who usually attract foreign tourists that are unlikely to return before 2021 and will need to tap into that great spirit of community and connectedness that is evident everywhere at present in order to survive.




The White Hag is an independent craft brewery from Sligo, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, brewing innovative and groundbreaking beers, inspired by ancient and classic styles. The team at White Hag announced Phantom Hazy IPA, a golden, hazy and sessionable IPA with a soft, juicy mouth-feel, in late March. The beer’s intentional haze is caused by withholding the finings in the kettle, allowing the proteins to remain in suspension, ultimately binding with the hop oils to deliver the freshest, hoppiest flavour possible. The team at The White Hag is an eclectic bunch, with several skill-sets and backgrounds from across two continents combining to create Sligo’s first brewery in over 100 years. The brewery has built up a reputation for its award-winning stout range and a stellar set of IPA’s that make up most of its core range.

IRISH DRINKS INDUSTRY JOINS BATTLE TO FIGHT COVID-19 Distilleries around the country have committed to joining the fight against the spread of Covid-19, responding to the huge demand for alcohol-based hand-sanitiser gel. In west Cork, Clonakilty Distillery is creating sanitisers with an alcohol content of 63% ABV and is going into production immediately. Also in Cork, Irish Distillers has said that it is creating large-scale quantities of alcohol for free to manufacture hand sanitiser gel, in partnership with Cork firm Mervue Laboratories. In Leitrim, The Shed Distillery has announced it will commence the distribution of emergency alcohol and surface cleaner across the region.


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14/05/2020 15:40

Profile  A Day in the Life

A COASTAL LIFE CO-FOUNDER PATRICK SUGRUE TALKS US THROUGH A DAY AS CFO AND COO AT SKELLIG SIX 18 DISTILLERY, A NEW HOME FOR ARTISAN GIN AND WHISKEY ALONG KERRY’S SCENIC COASTLINE. 8AM I am on my final year of school runs and I will miss it after 20 years of such a routine. That dictates the morning ritual. When travelling to Dublin, which I do regularly, I take the train because it means I can keep abreast of work. The Skellig Coast has always held an international perspective and we want to build an international brand from here in Cahersiveen. As Skellig Six 18 looks to move into export markets, more travel will be required. 9AM We have a board meeting every Monday morning to set the week’s agenda. As we are building a new whiskey distillery – to complement the existing gin distillery – we are in the midst of commissioning a new plant. That requires a few project meetings. 11AM A distillery is a complex piece of kit with lots of equipment with different purposes, so I’ll spend some time managing this capital expenditure programme with its myriad of requirements and regulations that all need some form of professional and expert oversight. 12PM There’s always a need for phone calls. I like to have a genuine interest in the wellbeing of all our stakeholders. I believe in fostering good business relationships, and that takes time. 2PM My favourite part of the day is watching a pallet of Skellig Six 18 gin being loaded onto the back of a delivery truck. The thought that people want the product that we work so hard to get right is what makes it all worthwhile. 3PM I’ll work on emails and license legislation. I have two degrees and I am a qualified accountant, but I often have to read emails and regulations that to me may as well have be written in another language! Additionally, when you’re a startup with small resources, you spend a lot of time doing essential micro stuff too, like buying a kettle, getting fire extinguishers or installing a doorbell! 4PM Small teams with never-ending task lists and few resources need to prioritise and structure. So we hack out time for some formality. Of course, one needs to strike a balance and not have too many meetings. We use Microsoft Planner software to keep the task list to the fore. During Covid-19, we all need to keep believing and stay strong. It’s at a time like this that we see the importance of leadership and confidence. 8PM I try to get out and about. I enjoy golf, gardening, hillwalking, boating and attending matches. I have golf clubs, garden tools, boots and a boat – all of which I wish I could use more often. But to be Patrick Sugrue, honest, a startup requires long days. founder, CFO and COO, Skellig Six 18 Distillery



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14/05/2020 15:35


Supporting your business through COVID-19 Business Loans up to â‚Ź50,000 Contact us about our Covid-19 business loans. Or visit your Local Enterprise Office.

Microfinance Ireland (MFI) benefits from a guarantee funded by the European Union under the programme for Employment and Social Inclusion (EaSI)

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05/05/2020 30/03/2020 11:47 25/03/2020 12:08 18:01

Reopening Business Getting Ireland Back to Work—Safely The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our communities and our businesses, but now – thanks to your patience and sacrifice – we’re looking ahead to a careful, phased reopening of our country. National and local government, State agencies and representatives of employers and employees have worked together so that businesses can resume, safely and effectively. There are four pathways to help get your business back on its feet:





There is a guidance roadmap in place for gradual business reopening – in five phases – beginning on 18th May, with different starting dates for different business sectors and always subject to change based on health advice at the time.

Employers and Employees – make yourselves aware of the full advice contained in Return to Work, the National Return to Work Safely Protocol — available at Gov.ie

There is a wide range of financial supports available through your Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland, Microfinance Ireland and other agencies to help with cashflow, payroll, working capital and long-term investment – for example:

If your business model needs to change, the national network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant State agencies can help through:


Phased return of outdoor workers, more retail, construction and manufacturing.

As an Employer there are things you must consider, for example:

COVID-19 Trading Online Grants up to €5,000


Limited return to onsite working subject to compliance capability.

Keep your workplace safe and clean

Sustaining Enterprise Fund

Provide training on new work practices and hygiene


Return to low- interaction work.

COVID-19 Business Financial Planning Grant


Return to work, where employees cannot remote work.

Make sure your employees know how to reduce the risk of infection

Restart grants up to €10,000

Mentoring to help businesses identify immediate challenges and solutions. Mentors are business experts working alongside business owners and managers providing practical, useful advice and guidance.

Phased Return to Business


Phased return to work across all sectors. For all phases, remote working continues for all that can do so.

Staying Safe, Staying Healthy

Have a procedure in place to identify, isolate and safely transfer from the workplace a worker displaying symptoms of COVID-19 Make sure your customers are safe As an Employee there are things you also must consider, for example: Participate in training on new work practices and hygiene Make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19

Financial Supports

Three-month commercial rates waiver ‘Warehousing’ of tax liabilities Wage Subsidy Scheme Lean Business Continuity grants

Advice & Guidance

Online Training to develop the skills to steer your business through this challenging time.

COVID-19 low-cost Business Loans Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme vouchers SBCI Working Capital Loans through the banking sector.

Monitor your own wellbeing Report to managers if any symptoms develop at work.

Remember — the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to use proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and practice social distancing.

Tailored business supports for individual sectors are available from all of Ireland’s enterprise agencies.

Please stay the course—help make the return to work safe and effective—and please pay close attention to the health guidelines. For more information go to gov.ie/business

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11/05/2020 11:57 11:43

Profile for Ashville Media Group

Better Business Spring 2020  

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