Better Business Spring 2022

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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 W A R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | S P R I N G 2 0 2 2





Ireland’s creative clothing manufacturers








Dressed for Success

772009 911007

Solutions that





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AC T I V E LY, P R AC T I CA LLY, W E ’ LL H E LP YO U T H R I V E AG A I N Close Brothers Commercial Finance provide asset based lending, invoice finance and asset finance solutions to businesses across Ireland. We can help you access the working capital you need. Contact us today on (0)28 9099 5701 / +353(1) 901 5224 or visit

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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 W A R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | S P R I N G 2 0 2 2








Dressed for Success

Solutions that

Ireland’s creative clothing manufacturers






772009 911007




On the cover: Brian Chamberlain, Technical Director and Shena Brien, CEO, IP Telecom Photography: Jason Clarke

Editor: Denise Maguire Creative Director: Jane Matthews Designers: Alan McArthur Neasa Daly Production Executive: Nicole Ennis Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email: 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 2022. 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. The opening months of 2022 have seen major ups and downs for the small business community. The first few months held great optimism when the economy was finally allowed to fully open up and resume trading. As the weeks and months went on the rate of inflation, the cost of doing business and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have caused pinch points for a significant number of small businesses. Not only are many small firms finding it hard to keep up with soaring utility and fuel bills, but many are now facing into supply chain issues that will contract as the weeks go on. Small businesses are in an uncertain time as the business outlook seems to be in flux. Right now, it is more important than ever for Government to support small business and the jobs they create. In this edition of Better Business, our Sector Spotlight takes a look at Ireland’s innovative manufacturing sector while our HR pages provide guidance on how to remain HR compliant. You’ll also read how IP Telecom is setting the standard when it comes to VoIP and connectivity solutions for small business in Ireland. We showcase our highly successful Business Connect event which was held on the 9th of March in person in the Aviva Stadium, highlighting the best of small business. 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 267,000 businesses in the country, 99% have less than 50 employees (small) and 92% have less than 10 (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 or on Twitter @SFA_Irl. Sven Spollen-Behrens Director, Small Firms Association


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04 10 12

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

Buying or exiting? Catherine McGovern and David Lucas discuss tax reliefs on exiting your business

Events For the first time in two years, the SFA hosted Business Connect in person

14 20 28 Sector Spotlight Technology is driving Ireland’s highly skilled manufacturing firms

Cover Story IP Telecom is setting the standard when it comes to VoIP solutions

RD&I KPMG’s Ken Hardy explains how SMEs can get the most out of the R&D tax credit

Trading Places Chicago-born Kristen Jenson is changing Irish cookbooks for the better

HR Compliance Brush up on your compliancy policies to avoid fees, penalties and even litigation

Arts and Culture Paper artist Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova on finding her feet in Ireland’s art world

The Big Read Sonja Tiernan’s new book showcases 33 inspiring speeches by women of Ireland

30 34 40

Entrepreneurs Irish clothing manufacturers are making their mark in a competitive environment

48 51 54

Travel Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city, is one of three European Capitals of Culture for 2022


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Spring 2022  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: Ibec President Frank Gleeson speaking at the SFA’s flagship event, Business Connect, page 12 // Shena Brien and Brian Chamberlain, IP Telecom, on setting the standard when it comes to VoIP, page 20 // Kristen Jenson on why it’s time to shake things up in the world of Irish cookbooks, page 34 // Paper artist Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova describes how she’s making her mark on Ireland’s art scene, page 51


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Updates  News


Eimear Cahalin, co-founder, Vivid Edge

INNOVATIVE TOOL TO HELP SMES has just revamped its popular tool, the MarketingCoachToolkit, which helps SMEs get access to expert marketing advice at an affordable price. The online tool helps business owners create the equivalent of a lean model canvas for marketing. They are then supported with a 1:1 call with a marketing expert to design an action plan to grow their business. The tool has been used by over 300 business owners from Ireland to Mongolia and is helping SMEs get access to marketing expertise in an affordable way. “We invested in this tool as we knew that there is an opportunity to scale access to marketing expertise and we wanted to be the company that did that for the SME sector. We are looking forward to a busy 2022,” said owner Muireann Fitzmaurice. marketing-toolkit


Energy efficiency co-founder is CFO of the Year

Dublin-based energy-efficiency company co-founder Eimear Cahalin has been named CFO of the Year at the Women in Finance Awards and was also included in the Business and Finance list of TOP 100 CFOs in the country. Eimear Cahalin is an experienced and versatile CFO, with a passion for helping climate change. She is co-founder of the 2020 SFA Sustainability winner Vivid Edge, whose mission is to help solve climate change and decarbonise the planet. The company applies the “as-a-service” concept to a broad range of energy efficiency retrofit products and decarbonisation projects, helping large organisations accelerate energy efficiency and sustainability goals. Eimear has led the expansion of Vivid Edge into the Middle East, which resulted in commercial successes and delivered a turnkey solution to achieve ambitious decarbonisation targets for the client. Judges stated: “She plays a key role in the overall business when it comes to client relationships, business development, her financial role and her strong sustainability credentials which she brings to the table.” In winning the CFO of the Year award, Eimear was one of three category winners to have received a vote from all judges of her category. They said: “Her leadership within her business has delivered real value to the company, with tangible results in the very important climate change solutions sector.” In December, she was also included in the Business and Finance list of top 100 CFOs in the country.



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News  Updates

Security and flexibility drive data centre adoption by Irish firms Leading Irish data centre operator Servecentric has seen a greater rate of change over the past 12 months than at any time previously over their 20 years in business. Driven by security and availability concerns, increased compliance requirements and new work practices, there has been a shift to remove core hardware from the head office to data centre colocation and public cloud services. “Our client portfolio has traditionally been concentrated towards telecommunications, multinational and IT services/software development sectors, but now we are seeing real momentum in the indigenous SME and enterprise market,” said Servecentric CEO, Brian Roe. He added: “It is difficult to fully determine why the Irish market has been slow to migrate core infrastructure from the head office (perceived incremental cost was certainly a factor), but SME and enterprise decision makers are now starting to appreciate the benefits of the data centre model which include improved communications services and choice, 24/7 support, lower maintenance overheads (with improved environmental conditions) and greater flexibility for their workforce location. There are also some clear benefits relating to insurance, compliance and regulatory related overheads, with the belt and braces security measures that come with purpose-built data centres. “A key driver for the momentum in the SME and enterprise spaces has been the need to establish independence from the head office – giving staff and management greater geographical flexibility. But as IT and operations staff dig deeper, they are also appreciating that there is a whole set of security, compliance, connectivity, support and reliability benefits that they may not have initially considered as part of the picture.”


Brian Roe, CEO, Servecentric

O’DONNELL O’NEILL DESIGN AWARDED FIT OUT LEADERS AWARD O’Donnell O’Neill Design has revealed that its Creative Directors Graham O’Donnell and Ann-Marie O’Neill were awarded the prestigious Fit Out Leaders Award at the Fit out Awards 2021, held on 24th November 2021 in the Clayton Hotel Dublin. Unlike other award categories on the evening, this presentation is made at the discretion of the panel of judges for the recipients’ leading contribution to the construction fit out sector. Specialising in interiors for the hospitality industry, O’Donnell O’Neill Design was formed by Graham and Ann-Marie out of their passion for creating unique interior design spaces and exciting and innovative design concepts. Their design philosophy sets out to create beautiful and experiential interior design from the outset that are desirable for their patrons. The variety of exciting interior establishments completed by the duo and their team range from the 5 Star Merchant Hotel Belfast, the new Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse, Press Up projects including The Mayson, The Devlin, Doolally, Roberta’s, The Dean Hotels Dublin, Cork and Galway and the internationally award winning Ragtrader & Bo Peep Cocktail Bar in the Garment District Mid-town New York. With design studios in Dublin and Belfast, O’Donnell O’Neill Design works with a talented team of 18 interior architects and designers. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 5

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Updates  News


Great insights on the Green Economy & the Future of Work this morning at #BizConnect, now for our final session on the Retail Phenomenon – learnings from successful digital business transformation with


Chairman Bobby Kerr, Rosie & Dott @mykidstime &

@BurrenSalmon @IbecGlobal

In the 2nd of our #IWD2022 #IbecGlobalTrailblazer profiles we spoke to @MarinaBleahen, Founder & CEO, @ie_works and @SFA_Irl National Council Member


The #COVID19 Credit Guarantee Scheme enables borrowers who have been adversely impacted by min. 15% of their actual or projected turnover/ profit and are having difficulty in accessing credit to apply for low-cost funding. Find out more at products/ covid-19-creditguarantee-cgs


Rising fuel prices can mean rising business costs. Engagement with the #ClimateToolkit can help you run your business more efficiently, saving you money. Find out how at the link below: https://climatetoolkit


Caroline Horgan, Founder, Scatter Box

Caroline Horgan Named All-Star Meath Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 The founder of luxury home furnishings brand Scatter Box, Caroline Horgan, has been honoured by the All-Ireland Business Foundation with its Meath Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 Accreditation. Caroline is the CEO of Abbeylands Furniture trading as Scatter Box and is a leading figure within the Irish furniture industry for over 40 years. She has been recognised for her outstanding career in entrepreneurship and for her impact on quality and standards within the furniture and homewares industry, in the areas of trust, commitment, performance and customer centricity. This achievement is the company’s second successive Business All-Star accolade after receiving the All-Star Homeware Supplier Of The Year 2021 accreditation. Caroline’s father Danny Fitzpatrick started furniture manufacturing in 1959. He established Abbeylands Furniture Ltd to continue manufacturing and as a supplier to the trade. Caroline took over the helm in 1999 and diversified the business into a specialist interiors wholesaler. She developed the brand Scatter Box, now one of Ireland’s leading luxury home furnishing brands and takes great pride supplying renowned national and international multi retailers. The business operates from a 40,000 sq. ft manufacturing facility in Navan, now employing 39 people.

NEW PRESIDENT AND CHARITY PARTNER AT NETWORK IRELAND WICKLOW Network Ireland Wicklow is thrilled to announce that Christina Clarkin of MX3 ( has been appointed the President of the branch for the coming year. Commenting on her appointment, Christina said: “I’m truly honoured to be the President of the Network Ireland Wicklow branch for 2022. It’s a privilege to be surrounded by such inspirational businesswomen, many of whom I now call my friends. The theme I’ve selected for 2022 is ‘Ignite’. Each and every one of us has demonstrated extraordinary grit and determination – true Power Within. However, if we are not nourishing ourselves and fuelling that fire, then our businesses will struggle to thrive.” With that, conversations this year will centre around three areas: usiness Stories to Inspire Us B Business Workshops to Empower Us Self-Care Workshops to Nurture Us As part of the Presidential run, Network Ireland has also appointed Jigsaw Wicklow as its charity partner for the year.

BREXIT Supports remain available to help your business manage the new trading arrangements with the UK from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Visit Getting Business Brexit Ready to view the many supports and resources available to your business.


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News  Updates


LARGEST EVER TRADE EVENT FOR PHARMACY AND GIFT SECTORS The Cosmetic Association organises the largest trade event for the pharmacy and gift sectors each year in the RDS. The dates for 2022 are:

“Many small businesses are still dependent on Government supports to prevent liquidity crises, something that needs to be managed prudently. Tax warehousing is going to be a pressing issue in the months ahead and needs to be dealt in a pragmatic way by Government and Revenue.” Graham Byrne, SFA Chairperson, CEO of Flender

“As women, it’s hard to juggle everything. My advice is to clarify what matters and make time for all your roles and people. Have no regrets and be smart with time management. Ensure that you celebrate achievements and make time for fun and health – it’s showtime, not a rehearsal.” Marina Bleahen, Founder & CEO, BusinessWorks Consulting, SFA National Council Member

“Decide what you want to achieve and ensure you have made progress in the right direction each year. Take the time for learning and personal development. Too often, people will tell me they are too busy to complete development programmes or courses. We get trapped in the everyday.” Caroline Ashe, Commercial Director, KORE Insulation

STORE DESIGN CELEBRATES 30 YEARS Store Design recently celebrated 30 years in business and launched a new website – your go-to destination for shop display equipment, commercial furniture and store interiors. Store Design is committed to providing outstanding quality and excellent client service. As a leading design-led specialist interior and commercial furniture manufacturer, the company services a diverse spread of sectors in the retail industry, from workplace to leisure. Store Design delivers innovative interior and commercial fit-out packages across Ireland and further afield, all supported by its Dublin-based manufacturing facility and Far East and European sourcing capability. The company says it is grateful to clients it has worked with over the years including Life Style Sports, Shannon Heritage, Newbridge Silverware, Guinness Storehouse, Best Menswear and many more.

S unday, May 15th 2022 Monday, May 16th 2022 Tuesday, May 17th 2022 The Association stated that it is delighted to back after two years of disappointments. “Unfortunately, there are a few casualties from our previous exhibitor members list, but we have a wonderful group of new members exhibiting with us for the first time and a few companies who took a break and are returning to us. This is strictly trade only. We cannot invite the public but promise a great experience for the buyers who are getting very excited with the opportunity to leave the retailers in the safe hands of their staff and come to the RDS where they can focus on restocking their brands and finding wonderful items for Christmas shopping 2022. We are really looking forward to seeing you in The Main Hall and Hall 3 of RDS.”

COVID Contact the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Business Support Call Centre for information on the government supports available to businesses and enterprises affected by COVID-19. Tel: +353 1 631 2002 Email: infobusinesssupport


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Updates  News


Michael O’Hara, Group Managing Director, DataSolutions

65% OF TECH FIRMS HAVE YET TO MEASURE THEIR CARBON FOOTPRINT DataSolutions, the specialist distributor of innovative IT and security solutions, has announced the results of recent research which found that while the majority of tech companies have plans to either reduce their carbon emissions or become carbon neutral, a large proportion have not yet measured their footprint. The study involved signatories of Techies Go Green – a collective of IT organisations committed to becoming more sustainable – and found that 82% have firm plans to reduce their carbon emissions and 78% have plans to become carbon neutral. In fact, 39% of respondents said they will be carbon neutral by the end of 2022 and a further 43% expect to be by 2025. However, almost two thirds (65%) have not yet measured their carbon footprint. Despite the fact that a large proportion have not yet measured their carbon footprint, the research did find that companies are taking steps to be greener. Eighty-eight per cent currently recycle the e-waste they produce and three quarters (75%) of IT leaders would consider buying refurbished IT equipment. Some 48% of respondents have employee incentives to encourage them to reduce their commute and travel and over half (51%) are using a green energy provider. Of the 49% that don’t currently use a green energy provider, 77% would consider changing to same. Furthermore, 59% of tech companies have an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy in place and 55% have a dedicated internal resource responsible for sustainability. The findings come as Techies Go Green, co-established by DataSolutions, reaches 180 members. The movement, which will be celebrating its one-year anniversary in March, aims to increase its membership to 300 signatories by the end of 2022.

RIPPLE MERGES WITH MSS GROUP Ripple has announced it has merged with the talented and well-known MSS Group. As with almost every company in Ireland, Ripple has faced lots of changes, progress and achievements in all aspects of the business and is excited to kick off 2022 with this new chapter in its journey. The reasoning behind its decision to merge is simple – to become bigger and better. With the overall goal of bringing more service offerings to current and future clients, the company says it is confident that the merge will help create a wider scope for the kind of projects it can undertake as an agency. Along with growing its offering, Ripple has the pleasure in welcoming four new experts to the team who will help craft an even more powerful team. Ripple outlines the top three advantages of a merger: Increases market share – our team is capable and ready to give 110% of ourselves to make your business grow. Our focus is delivering the finest services and retaining our clients in a high-quality perspective. Reduces the cost of operations – one of the great benefits of merging companies is the possibility of integrating expert professionals in a unique objective. As the professionals are already in situ, the investments on assets are now spread out over a larger output which leads to technical economies. The team knows exactly how, where and when to take action. Avoids replication – some companies producing similar services may merge to cut-off dealing with the competitor, avoiding any replications of the service. Ripple has a mission of delivering a unique and personalised service to each client. Our services were developed to reach all types of business such as social strategy, creative, events and sponsorship. We have the full package.


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Skills to Advance Make skills work for you

Developing Leaders for Hospitality and Tourism Boost the retention and development of key talent Avail of highly subsidised training for enterprise Contact your local Education and Training Board or visit

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Feature  Tax



for your

FOLLOWING ON FROM THEIR RECENT WEBINAR, CATHERINE MCGOVERN AND DAVID LUCAS AT PKF O’CONNOR LEDDY & HOLMES DISCUSS TAX RELIEFS AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS ON EXITING YOUR BUSINESS Are you a business owner and thinking about disposing of your business or transferring it to your children? Even if you do not intend to exit your business for a number of years, it’s important that you obtain professional advice well in advance of a sale/transfer of your business to consider: Th e value of your business C ommercial aspects that may arise on sale Th e tax implications and also the tax reliefs that may be available on the disposal

Key tax reliefs for business owners on sale/transfer RETIREMENT RELIEF




Exemption from Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax of 10% up to a1 million

Sale of qualifying subsidiary tax free (CGT)

• Tax deduction for co.

1. Disposal to Child • <66 years of age - No Limit • > 66 years of age - MV a3 million

Reduced rate of Capital Gains Tax • Lifetime Limit

• 25% free amount for Dir

• Balance at 33%

2. Disposal to Third Party • <66 years of age - Sales proceeds limit of a 750K • >66 years of age - Sales proceeds limit of a500K

Tax considerations on a sale The gain arising on an individual’s disposal of their trading company would normally be liable to Capital Gains Tax, which is currently 33%. There are a number of tax reliefs that may be available to reduce the tax arising on the disposal. All of the tax reliefs have varying conditions including time-related ones. The Holding Company Exemption is a significant relief as it can provide that the disposal of a qualifying trading subsidiary may be tax exempt, subject to satisfying qualifying conditions. It’s never too early to complete a tax review of your personal position and also of the company structure to ensure that:

Key conditions for retirement relief and entrepreneurs’ relief ENTREPRENEURS RELIEF


Who can claim?

Employee or Director No minimum age

Director over 55


Reduce CGT 10% on first a1,000,000

Up to a750,000 Sales Proceeds tax free Lifetime Limit (a500K post 66 yrs)

Working Requirement

“3 out of 5 years prior to disposal Min. 50% working in a managerial or technical capacity”

10 years director (5 years fulltime) in a managerial or technical capacity

Minimum Ownership

3 Years

10 Years

Qualifying Assets

Business/Shares in a company other than investment/ development land

Business Assets, Shares in Company, Personally owned assets used for business


5% Shareholding

25% of the shareholding, 10% shareholding (family own 75% shareholding)


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Tax  Feature

The company is structured as efficiently as possible throughout the various stages of your business from growth to your exit That you can obtain the relevant tax relief on your exit which depends on your particular circumstances and the valuation of your shares There can be various issues to be addressed in claiming tax reliefs and structuring your exit. Following on from the above, a tax review should be carried out to consider for example: Do you and your spouse both work in the company? If so, does one spouse own all of the shares? Do both spouses satisfy all of the conditions of Retirement/Entrepreneurs’ Relief? If so, the shareholding should be reviewed so that both spouses may be eligible to claim Retirement /Entrepreneur’s Relief. Do all shareholders qualify? For example, do they have the minimum shareholding requirement? Are there investment assets or excess cash held in the company? Is a restructure of the company required as a purchaser may not wish to acquire these assets? Is your company worth in excess of the Entrepreneur’s Relief threshold of €1 million? Consideration could be given to establishing a Holding Company and claiming the Holding Company Exemption. Does the company own the trading property? A restructure may be required to separate the trade and property if the purchaser does not wish to acquire it.

The right corporate finance team empowers you You should rely on a corporate finance advisor that has gained wisdom by completing large numbers of deals ‒ and seen some failed deals too. For the most important sale you’ll ever close, it is critical to engage the right corporate finance advisor who can empower you along the deal process, from start to finish. Our experienced corporate finance team will enhance the value of your business and increase certainty to close by providing these key seven skills:

Multiple deal options – the only way to know if you’ve received the best possible offers for your business is through a competitive process among buyers, including those you’re aware of and those you never knew existed. A strong corporate finance team has the capabilities, commitment and processes to present you with a range of options. Negotiating skills – while you may be able to skillfully negotiate various transactions related to running your company, the team working on your deal is better positioned to garner the highest value and best terms for your business.

Catherine McGovern, Tax Partner, PKF O’Connor Leddy & Holmes Ltd

A buffer between you and buyers – staying focused on keeping your business growing and profitable is crucial during the marketing and sale process. It is best to let professionals take the lead in negotiating value, deal terms and critical deal issues with buyers and other professionals throughout the transaction. Early warning system – The PKF corporate finance team will be able to recognise when the other party is not sincere or when the certainty of closing a deal is low. You don’t want to waste time or share sensitive information with a buyer who is displaying low odds of completing a successful deal. Guidance based on market trends and dynamics – understanding current market value and terms is key to setting realistic goals. The PKF team can identify and convey hidden value to buyers so you can receive a premium to market benchmarks when possible. Creativity and resourcefulness in resolving deal issues – anticipating business issues that are likely to arise in due diligence and preparing management to address them will reduce the risk of a broken deal. Since few businesses have no shortcomings, challenging issues may arise either before or during due diligence which will require corporate finance creativity to resolve. Maximum deal control to your advantage – the deal journey can be formidable. Corporate finance advisors are skilled at controlling the sale process and driving to the closing date.

David Lucas, Corporate Finance Partner, PKF O’Connor Leddy & Holmes Ltd

Catherine McGovern is a Tax Partner and David Lucas is a Corporate Finance Partner at PKF O’Connor Leddy & Holmes Ltd IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This publication has been distributed on the express terms and understanding that the authors are not responsible for the results of any actions which are undertaken on the basis of the information which is contained within this publication, nor for any error in, or omission from, this publication. The publishers and the authors expressly disclaim all and any liability and responsibility to any person, entity or corporation who acts or fails to act as a consequence of any reliance upon the whole or any part of the contents of this publication. Accordingly no person, entity or corporation should act or rely upon any matter or information as contained or implied within this publication without first obtaining advice from an appropriately qualified professional person or firm of advisers, and ensuring that such advice specifically relates to their particular circumstances. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 11

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Events  Business Connect

CONNECTING BUSINESS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO YEARS, THE SFA HOSTED BUSINESS CONNECT IN-PERSON AT THE AVIVA STADIUM ON MARCH 9TH 2022 This marketplace event is aimed at small businesses looking to supply to 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 Business Connect was officially kicked off by SFA Chairman Graham Byrne, CEO of Flender and Frank Gleeson, Ibec President and CEO of Aramark, returning MC RTE’s Richard Curran introduced the first session of the morning ‘The Green Economy – sustainability challenges and opportunities for business’ with Barbara Anne Richardson from Heineken, Fergal O’Brien from Ibec, Caroline Ashe from KORE Insulation and Errol Close from Eirgrid. In ‘The Future of Work’ Peter Cosgrove, Managing Director of Futurewise, led an insightful session on managing your talent in the new hybrid workplace. The final session, ‘The Retail Phenomenon’, was led by broadcaster and Chairman of Insomnia Coffee, Bobby Kerr, followed by a panel discussion with Siobéal Nic Eochaidh, Rosie & Dott, Jill Holtz, and Brigitta Hedin-Curtin, Burren Smokehouse. This session gave great insight into the learnings from successful digital business transformations. We were delighted to give our 300 guests the opportunity to network in-person once again. They also had the chance to visit the exhibition area of the SFA National Small Business Awards Finalists, who were displaying their businesses and showing why they are in the running to be named the next best small business in Ireland. Thank you to all the Awards Sponsors who were also exhibiting – DeCare, Cisco, Enterprise Ireland, Permanent tsb, .IE, Bord Bia, NSAI, One4all, SBCI and Sage. All delegates made the most of the chance to network, ask questions and identify real opportunities to grow their business.

SFA EVENTS If you didn’t get the chance to attend Business Connect this year, we have plenty of upcoming virtual and in-person events that you can register for now at, such as our Employment Law Seminar on 28 April. If there are events that you are either interested in attending or hosting alongside the SFA, please contact


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Business Connect  Events


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R O R O W ’S


Sector Spotlight  Manufacturing



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 Sector Spotlight

Over the past 20 years Ireland’s manufacturing sector has been transformed by technology, globalisation and the growth of emerging markets. Fundamental shifts within advanced manufacturing in particular have led companies to develop innovative business models to keep up with changing demands and ongoing disruption. To embrace the benefits of digitalization, manufacturers are also reinventing their supply chains to fully realise the benefits of a connected ecosystem and improve operational efficiency. Change is never easy and for manufacturers, keeping up to date with the requirements of continuously evolving technology is a tall order for the sector. Training, of course, plays a major role when it comes to Ireland’s manufacturing sector and that’s where the AMTCE comes in. The Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centre of Excellence was established in January 2021 in Dundalk, Co Louth. Its aim is to maintain manufacturing’s place at the heart of Irish society, by providing high quality training through a variety of delivery modes using advanced

technologies for delivery and learning. Courses cover a variety of themes including Robotic Processes, Cobotics, Additive Manufacturing, IIoT, CAD/CAM, Industrial Control, Cybersecurity, Process Optimization (Lean 6 Sigma), BioPharma and Food Processing, to name just a few. With a lack of skills currently impacting so many industries across the country, the AMTCE is taking steps to ensure the skills needs of both current and future workers in Ireland’s manufacturing sector are met. A new schools’ programme focused on getting secondary school students interested in advanced manufacturing/ICT is underway, while the organisation is also best placed to support individuals through life-long opportunities to continuously upskill in the latest technologies and processes. The AMTCE can also act as a stepping stone


Martin O’Brien, LMETB; Robert Troy, Minister for Trade and Enterprise; Barry Kennedy, CEO of IMR

for people who wish to pursue higher level qualifications at L7 and beyond. Director of Technology at the AMTCE is Dr Michael McGrath who has been tasked with leading an expert team to develop innovative training and upskilling solutions for the high value manufacturing and technology sectors. According to Dr McGrath, manufacturing’s contribution to the economy accounts for 260,000 direct jobs and supports a further 200,000 indirect jobs, amounting to a third of GDP. A high percentage of those jobs are located outside Dublin, highlighting the importance of manufacturing for rural areas across the country. Mr Martin O’Brien, Chief Executive of Louth and Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB) and CEO at AMTCE, said:


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Sector Spotlight  Manufacturing

“It’s crucial that Ireland’s manufacturing sector is well positioned to adapt and prosper in the future, and that Ireland embraces innovation and advanced manufacturing applications.” Technology and innovation is at the heart of Graepels, a manufacturer of engineered metal products including perforated metal, woven wire and laser cutting. The Kinsale-based company was founded in 1959 by Harald Graepel, father of current owner and Managing Director Fred Graepel. Over the years, services provided by the company have extended to cutting, rolling, welding and bending of sheet metal. “There are other companies that perforate, wire weave and laser cut, but I think what differentiates us is that we specialise in it, many companies don’t do all three. We’re a dedicated perforating company and quite often, we get all the difficult work that other companies turn away. That has given us an edge over our 60 years of manufacturing custommade solutions to meet customer requirements and specifications,” said Fred. Since operations began, business has grown steadily year on year. Fred attributes that success to offering customers added value, investing in people, skills and machinery along with ongoing collaboration with universities. “Our services have evolved with the market. As well as perforating sheet metal, weaving wire and laser cutting, we offer additional services including cutting and folding, rolling or welding etc. We can also paint or apply finishes or treatments to our products. Items manufactured by us are ready to go on site.” Sourcing graduates from universities across the country brings people into the company with a discipline in thinking. “We want people who are solution-based. Everything we do here comes with its own problems or challenges; if you’ve got a team that can sit down and think their way through a problem, they generally come up with innovative results. When I took over the business in 2007, I didn’t have Tony O’Connor as General Manager, I didn’t have engineers working in the design office. Today, we employ qualified engineers, interior architects, an architectural technician and we have a marketing department and product development teams. Bringing in students from university makes us a more vibrant company.” Challenges to growth include a shortage in raw materials and in particular, steel. “There’s a global shortage of steel right now. The price has gone up dramatically over the last two years and shortages have increased lead times. Previously, a steel order from a local supplier would have been delivered on the same day,

while a UK order might have taken three days. Now, you could be waiting three weeks for steel and paying double the cost compared to a couple of years ago,” said GM Tony O’Connor. Raw material shortages have resulted in delays to some projects but haven’t interfered with the our development plans, said Tony. “Our customers understand what’s going on in the steel market. That has enabled us to continue to work and grow the company.” Graepels manufactures engineered metal products for a range of sectors. That diversity has stood the company in good stead in periods of recession. “We’ve got a great spread across a number of industries, along with a whole raft of different product applications in additional sectors. We also have a good geographic spread

Tony O’Connor, General Manager and Fred Graepel, Managing Director, Graepels UK / Ireland

between the island of Ireland and the UK. If a particular sector isn’t performing well, we can always rely on another industry that is. It’s been a great saving of the business over the years,” said Tony. Steel flooring from Graepels has been specified for a project in New York. “The architects saw our flooring and liked it, so all these guys who were tendering for the job were contacting us for quotes. It’ll be the furthest we’ve ever supplied a job,” said Tony. New product development is key to growth, says Fred. Picture-Perf is an excellent example of innovative R&D that’s paid off. “PicturePerf is a process similar to printing. Instead of printing tiny dots, different size holes are perforated into sheet metal to recreate an image, giving an almost photographic result.” Graepels doesn’t want to be the biggest;


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it wants to be the best in the market. Building a resilient company, capable of withstanding periods of economic difficulty is the ambition. “Balancing continuous investment without overextending ourselves is a challenge. This is a business that’s very demanding on finances. Every penny we make goes back into the business. If we can keep doing what we’re doing and investing in new product development, we’ll be happy.” Investment in new technology has also allowed Farrell Furniture to grow and innovate. The family business was founded in 1961, by brothers Ollie and Paddy Farrell in the shed of their family home in Ardee, Co. Louth. Currently run by brothers Paul and Brendan Farrell from a state-of-the-art facility in Louth, the manufacturer continues to pair innovation with tradition in designing, manufacturing and fitting commercial office and contract residential furniture. It’s all about the art of furniture-making at Farrell Furniture, a skill that hasn’t been lost despite a scaling up of production in recent years. “Like any business, we’ve faced challenges along the way. Brexit and the recession were difficult, but we got through them and have managed to continue to grow. I think our success is down to understanding the difficulties that go hand in hand with large-scale commercial and residential fit-outs. For 60 years, we’ve collaborated with clients that want to update their current office space or fit-out a new space. We’re very much a design-inspired furniture solutions provider; we always aim to provide our clients with ergonomic, functional and stylish spaces that let our craftsmanship shine through,” said Paul. Paul grew up working in the family business alongside his brothers, Brendan and Oliver. While at secondary school, summer holidays were spent travelling around the country delivering and fitting furniture. He studied business at college, followed by a course in furniture manufacture run by Anco, a forerunner of the State training agency Solas. It’s the only place he’s ever worked, a fact he’s very happy with. Back in 1961 when the company first began operating, Ollie and Paddy made occasional furniture like sideboards and trolleys. Today, the core of the family business is the manufacture of private office furniture, student accommodation and build-to-rent housing. Innovation and investment is key to the company’s success, says Paul. “We invest continually in machinery and that’s allowed us to compete in new sectors and markets. All our pieces are designed and manufactured on-site in the Ardee factory and installed by our own network.” Farrell UK Ltd was established in 1994, with

 Sector Spotlight

Brendan and Paul Farrell, CEOs, Farrell Furniture

“WE’RE VERY MUCH A DESIGN-INSPIRED FURNITURE SOLUTIONS PROVIDER; WE ALWAYS AIM TO PROVIDE OUR CLIENTS WITH ERGONOMIC, FUNCTIONAL AND STYLISH SPACES THAT LET OUR CRAFTSMANSHIP SHINE THROUGH.” offices located in Gloucestershire along with a showroom in Surrey. Today, the company has a dedicated staff of seven based in Yorkshire focused on sales, design and project delivery for UK clients. Sustainability is taken seriously by the two brothers; Farrell uses only FSC certified wood, chipboard and MDF and is a member of the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC). Materials are sourced locally where possible, or from sustainable sources. “When we work with veneers, we try to use sustainable cherries and oaks as opposed to over-forested mahogany and teaks. We also utilise solvent-free polishing and varnishing techniques. When we use metal in our products, our designers and crafters rely on aluminium as opposed to steel as it’s an easier material to recycle.” Going forward, the ambition at Farrell Furniture is to continue to create pieces that reflect the brand’s heritage. “Both myself and Brendan and those that went before us have worked hard to build a company that’s rooted in high quality craftsmanship. We hope to reinforce that ethos while continuing to grow over the next 60 years.”


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07/04/2022 16:13

Advice  Wise Guys




Envelopes Eugene Healy

Managing Director, Trimfold Envelopes Limited Key to any business is trial and error and not fearing failure. There are no mistakes when you’re trying to start or run a business, only adding to your knowledge base. The person that has never failed at anything will never succeed at anything. To know failure is the true measure of knowing what success is. Beware of paralysis by analysis!


Consultancy Rebecca Coffey Bids & Marketing Director, Duke McCaffrey Consulting Ltd

Be mindful of your employees and they will mind your business for you. The wellbeing of staff during the recent pandemic has proved vital to business leaders, particularly in the construction industry where increasing demands mean an everincreasing demand for skilled employees. Giving them your time and support will help them become a valuable team member.


Printing John Fennessy

General Manager, Multi-Color Corporation Castlebar Success in business is all about people. Three exceptional managers influenced me greatly and their approach is now my approach. For your colleagues to perform to their optimum, you must equip them adequately – including tools you can’t buy off the shelf. A positive mindset and attitude are as important as knowledge and learning. Prepare them well and your business will benefit.

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

“You only pass through this life once, you don’t come back for an encore”


Butcher Sean Kelly

Director, Kelly’s Butchers Newport “Stick to what you know” was my father’s advice to me many years ago and it is still sound advice for anyone in business. Use both your expertise and your knowledge as a sound basis for your business. Probe potential, push boundaries, seek opportunities and explore possibilities, but stay centred on your core strengths.

If you are a business leader


Marketing Helen Gavin

CEO, Bold Craft Marketing Go for it! Focus on your own personal development. Overcoming your fears will give your team the confidence to overcome theirs. The buck stops with you. Network with other business owners; entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey so find your people! Actively incorporate ways to empower your team with knowledge and embrace the changes this will bring.

Elvis Presley, American singer and actor (1935-1977)


Motoring Ron McNamara Director, DriverFocus

A goal without a plan is a wish. Good ideas need testing. Measure what you can and listen for cues like culture, bias and timing. Remember too Mark Twain – ‘It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so’. So ‘try before you buy’ and either win or learn.

and you feel you have some words of wisdom to share with he small business community please email


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07/04/2022 16:14


Cover Story  IP Telecom

n o i s t u l



Shena Brien, CEO, and Brian Chamberlain, Technical Director, IP Telecom


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Jason Clarke

IP Telecom  Cover Story


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Cover Story  IP Telecom

Quite often, telecoms don’t have the best rep. Customer service might be found lacking, solutions may not be up to par and a general yet pervasive sense of dissatisfaction can hang around a not-up-to-scratch telecoms company like a bad smell. Not so at IP Telecom. Customer service has been at the heart of the Irish VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) provider since it first began operating in 2010. The company was set up by CEO Shena Brien and Technical Director Brian Chamberlain. Twelve years ago, VoIP technology was only beginning to come to the fore. “Brian has always been ahead of the game when it comes to technology, always looking for the next industry disruptor. At the time, I was working for another broadband company and Brian was actually a reseller of mine. We started talking about what we could do in terms of providing VoIP solutions to the SME market,” said Shena. There was, says the pair, a noticeable gap in the market for a company offering first class, technology-led, telephony solutions. “Some of our competitors were

word of mouth has also worked in our favour. We provide customers with a collaborative solution and we work hard to build and maintain relationships with them,” said Shena. John Kirwan is Head of Sales at IP Telecom. He’s seen for himself the regard that customers have for the company. “I visited a customer recently who has been on our network almost from the start. The lady there talked about a girl that provided them with a solution way back in the day and how helpful she was. She said to me, the girl sorted it all out for us and it’s been working ever since. I said, yes that was our CEO!” Roles aren’t necessarily defined at IP Telecom; all 37 employees are encouraged to take calls, answer queries and try and solve any problems clients may have. Customer service isn’t just the remit of support staff, it’s a key element of everyone’s role. “We’re a small company ourselves, so we have a good idea what small business needs from a tech and telephony point of view. Large multinationals also form part of

considering going down the same road, but the key thing for us was our absolute focus on customer service and on providing solutions that just worked,” said Brian. It’s all very well coming up with a clever-sounding, cost-effective solution, quite another supporting customers once that solution has been delivered. Since setting up, IP Telecom has invested significantly in developing its own cloud-based VoIP telephone system to ensure it can provide excellent call quality, customer service and technical consultancy at all times. Growth has been organic, moving at a steady, sustainable pace. Extensive R&D at the outset went into developing the right solution. “At the beginning, we took our time when it came to taking on customers. We wanted to ensure we were able to provide them with the level of support we felt was necessary. That cautious approach paid off; today, we have customers on our books that have been with us from day one. We have a very low attrition rate and

our customer base, so we’ve the best of both worlds. I think small businesses trust us because we’re not a faceless, automated voice at the end of the phone,” said John. Before Covid, IP Telecom was cementing its position as a go-to VoIP provider for small Irish business. The effect of the pandemic on the business was like a rocket taking off. “I remember sitting down with the board in the very early days of Covid and nobody really knowing how long this thing was going to last. Some were saying it’ll be over in a couple of months, but we just didn’t know. We did know however, that our products were ready. We had long been extolling the virtues of hosted solutions for remote working and had actually been selling our Teams integration solutions for a while at that stage. Paddy’s weekend was when everything changed for us,” said Shena. Once the phones started to ring, they didn’t stop. Businesses wanted to find out how they could work from home, what equipment they needed,

Jason Clarke



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IP Telecom  Cover Story

Shena Brien, CEO, and Brian Chamberlain, Technical Director, IP Telecom

how it all worked. A huge number of Teams solutions were sold to customers who were forced to adopt an entirely new way of working pretty much overnight. “Suddenly you had all of these employers who pre-Covid, could look out their office window to check productivity amongst staff. That loss of control was evident from the phonecalls we were receiving in March 2020. Thanks to the solutions we provide, we were able to put their minds at ease. For example, they would still be able to see staff logging into Salesforce or Zendesk and monitor productivity. I think businesses very quickly began to realise that remote working was a very real, viable option,” said John. Businesses already using IP Telecom’s hosted voice solution were also initially confused. “Our customers were ringing us and asking, what do we do now? It took a minute for it to sink in that all they needed to do was bring home their laptop and switch it on. Our core hosted product can be controlled from anywhere. It’s not like you have to come in and pull a few wires. It’s an extremely easy to use, intuitive system,” said Brian. Remote working has, says Rory Whelan, Head of Marketing at IP Telecom, completely changed the way we do business. “People flipped their outlook and the results have been amazing. I remember writing blog posts before Covid about how remote working was the future. We could see very clear trends in the Irish economy pointing towards working from home and we wanted to be seen as the people that could help firms make that transition and bring in a remote working policy. It took a global pandemic for the tide to eventually turn.” IP Telecom customers can be found around the world. Although there are plans to push their presence further across global markets, the team at IP Telecom have enough on their plate right now with the Irish market. “Our aim is to continue to provide small businesses with a robust, intuitive solution, one that we’ve developed ourselves through our own in-house development team. We’re constantly looking at new technology coming down the road that we’ll eventually incorporate into our solution,” said Brian. IP Telecom wants to be seen as the go-to company for innovative voice solutions in broadband, as well as connectivity. “We’re also determined to never lose our personal touch. As we continue to grow, we’re conscious of the need to continually invest in resources so we can manage our customers in the same way we always have. Retaining that small business culture that we developed at the start and showing that we care about every single customer is what we’ll continue to do,” said Shena.


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Take charge of your energy use and reduce your energy costs

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07/04/2022 16:47

RD&I  Feature

Innovation stems from


RD&I GRANTS AND SUPPORTS ARE HELPING SMALL BUSINESS PUT THEIR BEST FOOT FORWARD Companies wishing to engage in research, development and innovation (RD&I) in Ireland are spoiled for choice; there is a myriad of initiatives and grants available from the likes of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and other organisations that enable small business to flourish. RD&I enables companies to make products and services that are more innovative, better or cheaper than those in global markets. Companies that want to export must innovate; for Irish small firms to remain sustainable and competitive, they must ensure their products and processes are leading edge. Engaging with RD&I and availing of the vast range of Government supports will allow firms to fulfil that ambition.

RD&I INITIATIVES AND GRANTS ENTERPRISE IRELAND RD&I Fund The RD&I Fund from Enterprise Ireland supports the development of new or significantly improved products, services or processes which will have a competitive advantage in a company’s target market. The development must involve the resolution of some technical challenges, be non-routine and represent a ‘step-up’ for the company in terms of the level of RD&I capability.

High Potential Start-Up (“HPSU”) Feasibility Study Grant The aim of this feasibility grant is to assist an early stage company or individual entrepreneur to investigate the viability of a new export orientated business or proposition. The grant funding available is up to 50% of eligible expenditure, capped at a total grant amount of €15,000.

Exploring Innovation Grant This grant can be used to investigate the feasibility of developing a new product, process, technology or service offering. The grant funding available is up to 50% of eligible expenditure, capped at a total grant amount of €35,000.

Innovation Partnership Grant Programme The Innovation Partnership Programme encourages Irish-based companies to work with Irish research institutes resulting in mutually beneficial co-operation and interaction. Companies can access expertise and resources to undertake research towards the development of new and improved products, processes, services and generate new knowledge and knowhow. This programme provides grants of up to 80% towards eligible costs of the research project.

IDA IRELAND Innovation Vouchers Worth €5,000, Innovation Vouchers are available to help IDA client SME firms to collaborate with a registered college or knowledge provider in Ireland and Northern Ireland to explore a business opportunity or solve a technical problem.

RD&I Feasibility Study Grant This grant, which provides grants up to a max of €250,000 or 50% of eligible expenditure, can be used to investigate the viability of developing a new product, process, technology or service offering. It has been designed to support exploratory work required to develop and justify longer term and more sustainable RD&I programmes within IDA client companies.

RD&I Grant Aid Designed to support large and technically ambitious R&D projects, the RD&I Grant Aid is available for current and for potential IDA clients. The amount of funding is dependent on an independent technical assessment and assessment of the strategic and commercial importance of the project.


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08/04/2022 09:46

WHEN BUSINESS AND RESEARCH CONNECT, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Knowledge Transfer Ireland is the national body responsible for helping businesses like yours to maximise innovation and competitiveness by accessing Irish research, technology and expertise. Get in touch, and discover the possibilities.

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Client Name  Partner Profile


Ireland has a wealth of world class research, knowledge and expertise available to business from across our third level institutions that can be tapped into and benefitted from commercially. Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) is the national office, whose role it is to make the process of accessing that research simpler and more straightforward. We do this by providing tools and resources to help direct companies to research and research providers, who they can work with to innovate their business and boost competitiveness.

How can small firms benefit from working with the Irish research industry? Now more than ever, Irish companies of all sizes need to innovate to remain competitive and to compete globally. For small firms, collaborating with third level organisations is a great way to advance their R&D capabilities and service or product innovation. Engaging

with expertise available from higher education institutes gives companies access to skills, knowledge, talent – and often specialised equipment – that they are unlikely to have in-house. The benefits are tangible and we are seeing an increasing number of companies engage with State research to improve their production processes, explore ideas to develop new products and solve challenges particular to their business.

What kind of small businesses (and in what sectors) should consider engaging with Ireland’s research industry?

Opportunities exist for companies in almost all sectors and businesses can link directly with researchers regarding their particular field of expertise. The Directory of RD&I Supports for Enterprise available on the KTI homepage provides an overview of the research system in Ireland and includes details of institutions active in particular fields or sectors. It is an excellent place for any company to start.

In what way can KTI help SMEs collaborate with State research centres and third level institutions?

KTI encourages all SMEs to visit the KTI website as a first port of call if they are interested in building out their R&D capability by working with third level researchers. The site is geared towards providing businesses with a range of resources to help equip them with the background, understanding and practical tools they will need to engage with the research system in Ireland. Businesses that are interested can use the KTI interactive directories to find the right institution to work with and who to contact there. They can access individual researchers in a particular field or find out about funding that might be available to them to support their R&D endeavours.

Is it easy to engage with KTI? Are the tools easy to access?

KTI is all about making it more simple for businesses to navigate the Irish research system. KTI’s website and the tools available there are geared towards helping them find what they need to do that. For example, KTI’s interactive map lets people search and locate the right institutions and contact people in a particular location or by area of expertise. The funding tool brings companies through a few short questions to generate a list of financial supports that may be available to them for the R&D activity. We also have a suite of template agreements and practical guides that can help throughout the process. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 27

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Feature  RD&I


the most of the



drives significant economic growth in the Irish economy, not only in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical devices sectors, but also in ICT, heavy and light engineering, food, drink and other related areas. As a result, it’s critical for companies conducting R&D to be aware of the valuable R&D Tax Credits (RDTC) and claim what they are entitled, to support further growth and potential in their business. The Irish RDTC plays a vital role in providing SMEs with additional funding for their R&D activities. It provides companies with up to 25% of their R&D expenditure as a tax credit or as cash (subject to certain conditions being met). This 25% credit is made available in addition to the 12.5% corporation tax which currently exists for all companies operating in Ireland. In essence, companies may be entitled to a net subsidy of 37.5% (ie 12.5% corporation tax deduction + 25% R&D tax credit).

What can be done to make the RDTC more accessible to SMEs? The Irish RDTC is competitive and compares well with similar reliefs in other jurisdictions. However, it could be improved and made more accessible to SMEs, with limited cost to the Exchequer. Modest improvements, as outlined below, would be impactful, and at a modest and controllable cost: Increasing the RDTC rate from 25% to 35%, for all qualifying R&D expenditure up to a threshold of say €500,000, with the existing 25% rate applying to all expenditure in excess of that Increasing the existing outsourcing restrictions from 15% of all qualifying R&D expenditure, or €100,000 whichever is the greater, to say 25% of all qualifying R&D expenditure up to a threshold of €300,000, whichever is the greater. This would particularly benefit smaller innovative businesses that would not have resources for substantial onsite R&D activities An acceptance that rent and other general overheads, which are a significant drain on cash for SMEs and which are a necessary cost for carrying out the R&D work, be treated as qualifying R&D expenditure, subject to a capped amount A new provision should be introduced to allow SMEs claim the credit before trading begins, allowing more SMEs to see an earlier return on R&D investments The Finance Act 2019 proposed a regime for small and micro companies, however it ran into a number of challenges from the European Commission and did not proceed. The suggestions we are making above should however be acceptable, as the measures would be available to all eligible taxpayers.


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 Feature

‘Valley of death’ The process whereby an innovative idea is translated into a profitable endeavour is often a lengthy and challenging process. It requires a significant investment in personnel and infrastructure. In industries that are highly regulated, development of new products and systems can take even longer to achieve. SMEs, in particular, are exposed to the dreaded ‘valley of death’ in the development cycle, a critical period where the probability of failure is highest and attracting funding is at its most critical and difficult to come by. RD&I grants can be leveraged from the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to support companies during this critical phase, as well as RDTC funding from the Revenue Commissioners.

Do SMEs claim their fair share of RDTCs? We often find that SMEs are unaware they qualify for the RDTC, or if they are claiming, that they are not claiming their full entitlement. In 2019, the latest year for which statistics are available, the Irish Government supported businesses with €626 million in RDTC funding (cost to the Exchequer) and SMEs accounted for the significant majority of the claims made (89%), but only a fraction of the total RDTC funding provided (28%). It’s important to bear in mind that two thirds of claims made each year are for €100,000 or less (ie 1,080 claims out of 1,601 in 2019) and 80% of claims are for €200,000 or less (1,270 out of 1,601 claims in 2019). So, there are a large volume of relatively low value RDTC claims being made by SMEs each year. It’s also important to note that while the RDTC is a cost to our Exchequer, it is also a pull factor for companies considering coming to Ireland and for existing companies considering expanding their reach. Encouraging investment in R&D and the use of new technologies and innovations is also important for society as we grapple with challenges such as climate change, housing issues and greater demands on health services.

What should SMEs do before claiming RDTCs? Get informed. The RDTC is a valuable source of funding and just like many other areas of business, appropriate time and effort will need to be invested in making a claim. Taking advice at the right time can however make your time investment more efficient and targeted to maintaining the right types of records and evidence from the get-go. Also, it is a tax relief, and SMEs should expect that the Revenue Commissioners may want to understand the details of their claims. It’s a good idea to factor this into your claim preparation process, so that you are ready to share the relevant details when needed. This is a specialist area and SMEs should ensure that they and their advisors fully understand

Ken Hardy, Tax Partner and R&D Incentives Practice Leader, KPMG Ireland

Why are SMEs not submitting more claims and larger claims? We often find that SMEs believe that there is a significant staff burden and cost in claiming the RDTC and as result, are discouraged from claiming it. This does not necessarily need to be the case. If the appropriate systems are established at the outset of the R&D project, the information required to meet what the Revenue call the ‘Accounting Test’ and the ‘Science Test’ should fall out in a reasonably straightforward manner – it’s all about planning for the claim.

“THE IRISH RDTC PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN PROVIDING SMES WITH ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR THEIR R&D ACTIVITIES.” and document thoroughly the Accounting Test and Science Test mentioned earlier. This can be a complex area and professional judgement and experience are often necessary. KPMG recognised the importance of this specialism in 2004 when we established our dedicated R&D Tax Credit practice – a multidisciplinary practice comprising of finance, tax professionals, scientists and engineers who exclusively work on RDTC claims. Our SME team have filed RDTC for companies of every size and scale and in all industry sectors. Find out more at Ken Hardy is a Tax Partner and R&D Incentives Practice Leader, KPMG in Ireland SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 29

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Entrepreneurs  Clothing Manufacturing Manufacturing

Dressed FOR



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Clothing Manufacturing  Entrepreneurs



ishers of Newtownmountkennedy isn’t just a department store. It’s a proper day out, a place to try on a new outfit, have a bite to eat or even get your hair done. It’s a case of come for one, stay for the rest, says Rebecca Harrison, who took over as MD in 2011 when her parents retired. The retail side of the business is complemented by the Fisher community hub, a space for other businesses to trade, share ideas and cross-promote to each other’s customers. “Along with the trading income from the shop, the community hub brings in an invaluable rent roll. It’s hugely beneficial in that it brings people to the site who naturally gravitate to the other businesses.” Encouraging other businesses to rent space at the premises began in 2008, in an effort to recession-proof the store. “The idea was to try

and pool resources, work with each other and have economies of scale. When Covid hit, we brought even more businesses to the site. We reconfigured the shop and opened up the courtyard, which became our business hub. It’s worked really well.” On the retail side, Fishers’ success is based on a ‘quality, sustainable clothing at a reasonable price’ mantra. “We’re not into selling top designer labels, but we’re also not into fast fashion either. We stock pieces that become wardrobe staples, clothing that the customer will always look timelessly stylish in.” Like so many businesses, the Fishers website came into its own in March 2020. Prior to the pandemic, a substantial digital investment meant it was all systems go when

“FISHERS IS A CONSTANT EVOLUTION. WE’RE OPEN TO NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND I THINK THAT’S PLAYED A BIG PART IN OUR SUCCESS.” lockdown forced the store to close its doors. Turnover from online sales went from 1% pre-Covid to 100% during the crisis. “We got up to about 20% of our normal turnover during that period. Funding from Enterprise Ireland went towards improving the website and fine-tuning our online marketing strategy.” Since reopening, online sales have reduced to about 8% of total turnover. Plans are in place to grow that side of the business, but the website isn’t just a sales tool, says Rebecca. “It’s also an important marketing tool to drive people into the store. We often get phone calls from people that have seen something online and they want to come down and try it on before buying.” For now, the future is all about maximising existing resources. In-store events are coming back, contributing to the overall Fishers ‘experience’. “Fishers is a constant evolution. We’re open to new opportunities and I think that’s played a big part in our success.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 31

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Entrepreneurs  Clothing Manufacturing



Rochford is the face behind FéRí, a slow fashion brand with creativity and nostalgia at its heart. The business formally launched in March 2020, although the idea for the brand had taken root several years before. After graduating from the National College of Art and Design, Faye soaked up invaluable experience in various cities across the world, at respected fashion brands like Primark, Philip Treacy, Diane von Furstenburg and Free People. After spending some time in the US, Faye moved back to Ireland and decided the time was right to launch her own brand. “I think my time in America really opened my eyes in terms of following my own aesthetic. At that stage, I was married and six months pregnant and just thought, what am I waiting for? With so much experience under my belt, I knew I was ready.” Faye’s first port of call was a ‘Start your own Business’ course in her Local Enterprise Office which, she says, opened her eyes to the serious side of running your own business. Help from LEO has been ongoing; since trading commenced, Faye has availed of a priming grant, online trading vouchers and feasibility study grants. Conversations with fellow members of the Council of Irish Fashion Designers and the Design & Crafts Council Ireland have sparked fresh ideas and created a sense of community that’s proved invaluable, says Faye. All FéRí clothing is designed by Faye. Every item that’s created is made consciously and in small limited edition quantities, from natural and organic or upcycled fabrics. Some pieces are made from a fabric that’s created using the

“I WANT TO MAINTAIN THE BRAND’S VALUES AND TO CONTINUE TO DESIGN BEAUTIFUL PIECES TO BE VALUED AND TREASURED. OPENING THE BRAND UP TO A WIDER AUDIENCE WOULD ALSO BE GREAT.” cellulose of oranges, a by-product of orange peel. The result is a luxurious draping fabric that feels like silk. Print is the star of the show, built into the story of each piece. Inspiration comes from vintage jewellery, clothes, furniture, anything with a story. “I often compare my collections to the dressing-up box I had when I was a child; that sense of coming across items that were new and exciting, but also quite nostalgic. You never knew what you’d find.” With brand recognition ramping up, business is good. Slow, sustainable growth is the main aim for 2022, says Faye. “I want to maintain the brand’s values and

to continue to design beautiful pieces to be valued and treasured. Opening the brand up to a wider audience would also be great; I have an agent in the UK and the plan long-term is to expand into other European markets, maybe even the US and Australia.”


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Clothing Manufacturing  Entrepreneurs



stablished in 1985, Waterford-based Apparel Supply has evolved from a company that specialises in the manufacture of protective clothing and sportswear to a HSE-approved medical device supplier. It’s been an interesting and sometimes difficult journey, says Director Miriam Molloy. “Back in March 2020 when everything fell off a cliff, we began making face masks for charity. The idea was that we would donate them to hospitals, nursing homes and other medical environments that required them. Following on from that, we started to supply them as part of our business. We were then contacted by the PPE Taskforce who asked us to become part of their supply chain. From that moment on, the whole thing took on a life of its own.” Certification wasn’t new to the company; manufacturing high spec protective clothing such as fire suits required accreditation and a knowledge of the complex certification process, but this was new, unchartered territory, says General Manager Corinna Dower. “It was almost like starting a business all over again. We were lucky in that Enterprise Ireland provided great support from the get go and to be honest, we needed all the help we could get. At the time, there was a worldwide shortage of critical medical products, including face masks, so the pressure was on to deliver and meet order deadlines.” Massive investment to the tune of €1.75 million went into new machinery, skilled staff and a new manufacturing facility in workLAB, IDA Industrial Estate in Waterford. “The expansion has been a real team effort. We’re grateful for the support we’ve received along the way from Enterprise Ireland, the HSE, Local Enterprise Office Waterford and various local representatives,” said Corinna. Since March 2021, Apparel has been supplying medical grade, CE marked face masks to corporate clients, the HSE and various healthcare organisations. Demand from the public for face coverings may fall off as health restrictions continue to ease, but with the bulk of the product going to medical facilities, the impact on the business will be minimal. Achieving ISO 13485 medical device certification means the workLAB facility is primed to produce other products that fall into the medical device category. “We’re ready to take advantage of any new opportunities that present themselves and although there’s hard work ahead of us, we’re really enthusiastic about the future. We’re also currently partnering with WIT Seam and Ulster University on an R&D project that’s looking at ways in which we can recycle our reusable face mask range. It’s an exciting time,” said Miriam.


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Shaking things up

Illustrated by Nicky Hooper

Trading Places  Kristen Jenson



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Kristen Jenson


Nigella Lawson tweets about your new cookbook, you know you’ve made it. ‘Tacos’ by Lily Ramirez-Foran was described by the UK chef as a ‘small but mighty’ book and one that should be purchased if only for Lily’s Chorizo and Potato Tacos recipe. ‘Tacos’ is published by Blasta Books, a new kid on the publishing block and one that’s determined to change the way cookbooks are published in Ireland. Blasta is the brainchild of Kristen Jenson, a US born editor turned publisher who was getting tired of the ‘same old’ approach taken to Irish cookbooks. “There’s a lack of representation or diversity when it comes to cookbooks in Ireland which to an extent is understandable; traditional cookbooks are very expensive to produce but quite often this means that only high-profile people and the most mainstream topics or trends tend to get published. The cookbooks getting published don’t reflect the broad spectrum and diversity of what’s actually available in Ireland in terms of our food offering,” said Kristen. She felt that many voices and parts of our food culture in Ireland weren’t being represented and set out to do something about it. In May 2021, Kristen launched a Kickstarter campaign for a cookbook series. From the get go, the reaction was positive. Over €55,000, which went towards the production of the first four books in what will be a quarterly annual series, was raised from the campaign. “Kickstarter was a great way to generate a buzz around the project, people got on board from the start. It was interesting to hear people agree with the ideas behind Blasta Books and say, it’s time to shake things up.”

 Trading Places

Pork Pibil Tacos (Serves 4–6) 1kg pork shoulder, skin left on, cut into three chunks 350g ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters 1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole 1 x 7cm Mexican cinnamon stick ½ tsp black peppercorns 50g Mexican achiote paste 75ml apple cider vinegar Juice of 1 large orange 1½ tsp flaky sea salt 80ml water

FOR THE TACOS 16 corn tortillas, warmed de árbol salsa roja red onion pickle 1) Preheat the oven to 150°C. 2) Place the pieces of pork in a large heavy-based casserole, skin facing up so it doesn’t stick. Add the tomato and onion quarters, wedging them in between the pieces of meat and on the top. Set aside. 3) Place the whole garlic cloves in a hot, dry frying pan over a high heat, turning them every minute or so – the aim is to have lovely golden garlic with plenty of charred bits and a sweet smell. This will take about 6 minutes. Halfway through, add the cinnamon stick to the same pan and toast it for 2–3 minutes before adding the peppercorns and toasting for 1 minute more, until they are fragrant. The kitchen should smell beautiful by now. 4) Transfer everything from the pan to a blender followed by the achiote paste, apple cider vinegar, orange juice, salt and 40ml of the water. Blend until smooth, then pour the sauce over the meat in the casserole. Use the remaining 40ml of water to rinse any leftover sauce out of the blender and pour this into the casserole too. 5) Cover with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit your casserole and cover the casserole with its lid. Transfer to the oven and roast for 3½ hours. 6) Take the casserole out of the oven and uncover the meat. Everything should be soft so, using two forks, shred the meat and crush the tomatoes and onions, making sure to mix everything together – there should be enough sauce to coat everything well. I normally just carry the casserole to the table and let the meat rest and soak up all the flavours of the sauce while I get everything else together. 7) S et the table and bring over bowls of the de árbol salsa roja and red onion pickle to add a little heat. To assemble your tacos, add some pork to a warm corn tortilla, then spoon over some of the salsa and red onion pickle.

Kristen Jenson

From Blasta Books #1: Tacos by Lily Ramirez-Foran €15, published by Blasta Books | SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 35

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Trading Places  Kristen Jenson

‘Tacos’ is the first in Blasta’s cookbook series to be published. It’ll be followed by ‘Hot Fat’ by Russell Alford and Patrick Hanlon, ‘The United Nations of Cookies’ by Jess Murphy and Eoin Cluskey and lastly, ‘Wok’ by Kwanghi Chan. They’re all standalone books says Kristen but as a series, they provide a more inclusive snapshot of Ireland’s modern and diverse food culture, from tacos to tapas and sushi to spice bags. They are, says Kristin, little books with big voices. Before inspiration for Blasta Books struck, Kristen worked for over 20 years as a freelance editor and food writer. She moved from Chicago to Drogheda in Co Louth in 1999 ‘for love’; Celtic Tiger Ireland was a great place for her now husband to work as an architect so she decided to join him. They only ever intended to stay for a few years. “As the years went by, we realised that if we moved back to the States we’d be starting over. Our family and friends back home started moving around the country, so it was almost

difficult for Kristen to pinpoint exactly what she misses about the US (apart from the weather). “I used to be fiercely homesick but I’ve lived here for so long that apart from family and friends, I don’t especially miss anything about the US. I do remember when we had three very bad summers in a row here and by the third, I was ready to move back to Chicago. I’d be sitting at my desk looking out at the rain, wearing a jumper and missing the times when I could eat my dinner outside and enjoy a proper summer.” In the US, the person that pulls themselves up by their bootstraps and succeeds in life through hard work and determination is prized. Not so in Ireland. “There are some cultural differences that are hard to get on board with. In America, you’re encouraged to make your own way, it’s a fundamental part of US culture. In Ireland, there’s an element of begrudgery about people that succeed. It’s something I notice constantly and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to reconcile myself to it.” Community and a sense of togetherness are aspects of Irish life that Kristen


Blasta Books cookbook range

like there was no home to go back to. Eventually, we decided to stay.” With no Irish qualification, Kristen soon realised her ambition to become a teacher wasn’t a realistic one. A lifelong love of books made publishing seem like a good alternative. “I got a job at a publishing company in Temple Bar in Dublin that published law and business books. In terms of a first job, it was amazing. I was right in the heart of Dublin and could explore the city on my lunch break.” Roles in other publishing houses followed until Kristen retrained as a TEFL teacher and worked at a school in Drogheda, while editing on a freelance basis part-time. When the freelancing began to take off, the TEFL teaching stopped. “I did that for about 20 years. My first cookbook editing job was actually Rachel Allen’s first cookbook and really it went from there. Up until then, I had mostly edited novels, non-fiction and general trade publications. A growing interest in food and cooking dovetailed nicely with building a name for myself as the go-to editor for cookbooks.” After living in Ireland for over 20 years, it’s

appreciates. “I like knowing the names of my butcher and the people who work in the post office. I grew up in a big, sprawling suburb where we didn’t have that same sense of community at all. That idea of looking out for each other really came to the fore during the pandemic. It’s something I really like about Ireland.” If Blasta Books had been a US venture rather than an Irish one, Kristen’s not sure it would be enjoying the same level of success. “When I think about trying to do this in the States, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence. The Irish market is much smaller and I think probably more receptive to new ideas. I often say that if I don’t know something, at least I know the person who can point me in the right direction to get the right answer. I don’t think the same would apply in the States.” So far, there have been two reprints of ‘Tacos’. “The success so far has been really gratifying. The second series is in the works and due out in 2023. I’ll continue to prioritise new, previously unpublished voices in Ireland. I have high hopes for the longevity of Blasta Books and making a difference to the Irish publishing landscape. It’s time to move the story forward.”


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 Tips

Geraldine Magnier, Director, Idiro Analytics


If there was one thing I wish I had started earlier in my professional life, it would be networking. When I did eventually take it seriously and cracked the networking nut, I couldn’t promote its effectiveness nor the feel-good factor enough. So, fellow business people… Network! Network! Network! Get over any fear of networking and get out there and while admittedly it is challenging to begin with, feel the fear and do it anyway!



Networking opens up a new way of being as you meet your ilk, who are also in pursuit of positive business making and giving. If nothing else, networking sources energy within and feeds the networker with a sense of accomplishment as you never know the hour or the day that a networking event will benefit you in some fashion or another, be it via knowledge or contact power.



Trust is the springboard to prospective work collaborations with your fellow networkers; they’re your potential co-collaborators and co-creators. Additionally, we become each other’s external colleagues exchanging expertise and experience during the course of business life and this becomes a bedrock in trying times. Placing relationships at the heart of what we do generally means that there’s a win-win. Relationships are everything, the fluid that oils all scenarios and that’s why your network is your stabilising platform.



There has never been an in vain moment resulting from the exercise of networking. At a minimum, it is a place to process thoughts through articulation on shared business challenges, growth etc, with peers. As you advance in networking, it also helps cultivate deeper business acumen and relationships. Meaningful business relationships form as your respective faces become familiar to one another. That familiarity and continuity morphs into a trust and that’s where the magic happens.



It’s been very difficult to get out and meet peers over the past two years. With the onset of the Covid pandemic, the last thing on anyone’s mind was having to try and network over the medium of Microsoft Teams or a plethora of other virtual platforms. It didn’t seem natural and a lot of valuable networking fell by the wayside, but now with baby steps we are returning to the world of in-person events at long last. We may feel nervous about returning in person and everyone will know their own limits, but it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to meet people again.


I will never forget the first time I networked. It felt fake, I was embarrassed, self-conscious and went home early having stayed beside the exit door! Now, I see it as a healthy exchange of war or glory stories for encouragement purposes, contacts, insights, outlooks and even care. I now know that networking is about sharing; selling is the last thing that I do when I network, so it all feels easy, pleasurable and meaningful now. Getting a deal comes at the end of all of that, without having to ever sell your soul or wares!


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07/04/2022 16:40

DeCare SFA partnership Ad Print.qxp_Layout 1 20/10/2020 12:25 Page 1

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DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland DAC trading as DeCare, DeCare Dental & DeCare Vision is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland Ltd

 Partner Profile


As the option to convene presents itself once more, reclaiming what we’ve lost and retaining what we’ve gained presents a unique opportunity to design meaningful connection, as what happens between us is what truly matters. As we enter another year of uncertainty and change in our work practices, 2022 will shine a spotlight on our organisational needs. This will highlight that as employers, we must do more for the duty of care of employees. Workplaces now need to look beyond interventions in the workplace that target basic modifiable health risk factors such as diet, physical activity sleep etc and expand wellbeing to look at the whole person. My own doctoral research at Trinity College Dublin looks at ‘Unravelling Us’ as human beings and what makes us connect. Social capital is the value of connections around us. It is evident that social connection is a key determinant to our health. Connection should be considered in the same category of risk factors such as smoking, diet and exercise for example. It underpins our overall wellbeing and is a basic human need throughout our life course, from cradle to grave. Social connection is the experience of feeling close and connected to others. This involves feeling loved and cared for, valued and forms the basis of interpersonal relationships. Human connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued. It is crucial to every business to understand that for 2022, that

significant and chronic influence on our health and wellbeing. The influence of these relationships or lack thereof may affect individuals across the spectrum of workplace environments, roles and hierarchy. According to a recent Harvard

David Casey, Wellness Health Promotion Manager, Decare

connection underpins everything from productivity to overall health. As human beings we are one of the most social species and connection is the most essential basic human need after food, water and shelter. Lack of connection or loneliness and isolation has been linked to inflammation, accelerated aging and cardiovascular health risk, suicide and early morality. Regardless of hybrid working, many adults spend more waking hours at work, whether in an office or at home. This is more than time spent with their own families and this may have a

“AS HUMAN BEINGS WE ARE ONE OF THE MOST SOCIAL SPECIES AND CONNECTION IS THE MOST ESSENTIAL BASIC HUMAN NEED AFTER FOOD, WATER AND SHELTER. Business Review CEO snapshot survey, half of CEOs report experiencing feelings of loneliness. The feelings of isolation and associated repercussions are also reported by others in leadership positions and the global pandemic has made this worse. Make 2022 a year of fostering connection. Companies have the power to drive change at a societal level not only by strengthening connections among employees, partners and clients but also by serving as an innovation hub that can inspire other organisations to address loneliness, isolation and lack of connection. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 39

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SFA HR  HR Compliance


Every firm should establish a clear set of policies and procedures for all employees. These should be written in accordance with Irish employment law and should accommodate your business's specific needs. They should explicitly outline expectation of code of practice and standards of the business. These policies can be updated as EU and Irish legislation and regulations change.


The implementation of policies and procedures is not enough; open communication, engagement and training should be facilitated to ensure full compliance. Employee training can be conducted online or in person and it can be facilitated by your internal HR team or an external party. As part of induction, employee’s onboarding should include trainings on policies such as bullying and harassment, dignity at work and equal opportunities. These trainings should be followed with refresher courses every few years to mitigate the risk of future claims and demonstrate the commitment of your company to keeping your workplace free of unfair treatment.


How to stay



When an employee makes a complaint, it’s important the company investigates it, whether written or oral and even those that are anonymous through social media. It is imperative that all types of complaints are dealt with without delay so as to avoid them festering and becoming a larger issue. A standard procedure for investigations should be devised to include the company’s precedence and a relevant policy which both parties have agreed to. An investigation meeting could consist of either the complainant or accused employee, along with the representative if they so wished, a manager who is chairing or investigating and a note taker who may be a HR professional or another manager. All witnesses can listen to the minutes at the end of the meeting, which can minimise conflict on what was discussed. The outcome manager (should be different to the investigations manager) should make their best effort in dealing with disciplinaries or resolving all complaints as soon as they can. Employees should then be followed up with on the outcome of the disciplinary or grievance.



Once an investigation is complete and you've determined that an employee has violated one of your policies, take the appropriate remedial action as outlined in your employee policy/procedure. Such actions could include disciplining or terminating the accused. The sanction should be reasonable and fair and the company should consider the implications of implementing a harsh sanction if they did not adequately train the employee (eg if an employee breached a company policy, does the company have proof that the employee had been trained/retrained on such policy). Fair and equal treatment of all employees is an essential element of HR compliance. No employee should get special treatment or be "let off the hook" due to their position or otherwise. This is key to ensuring your company doesn't face Employment Equality litigation.

Although maintaining HR compliance can take a lot of time and money, it is certainly worth the effort. Non-compliant businesses are at risk of major penalties, fees and litigation. The steps to mitigate these risks and ensure HR compliance are as follows:

During an investigation, it is essential that management keep comprehensive documentation of the situation and retain it in line with GDPR retention rules. Accurate and up-to-date HR compliance documentation will be helpful during a company audit, but also if the company is facing litigation.



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Gender Pay Gap  SFA HR

Putting equality first With the Gender Pay Gap Act coming into play, now’s the time for employers to take appropriate measures to ensure they comply There has been significant development of legislation in favour of gender equality in the Irish labour force in the past decade. Promoting equality of opportunity for both men and women through family and parental leave has greatly changed the way we work. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), there has been an increase of 10% of females in the workforce from 2006 to 2019. Supporting its commitment to gender equality in the Irish workforce with the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021, the Government announced that the commencement order for reporting obligations for employers in Ireland in 2022 will be published in the coming weeks. Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman said: “Advancing women’s rights and equality is a priority for this Government and taking real and effective action to end pay inequality for women must be key to that. The Gender Pay Gap Act requires employers to not only report on the gender pay gap in their organisation, but also places on obligation on employers to provide details of measures being taken to reduce that gap.” Employers will choose a ‘snapshot’ date of their employees in June 2022 and will report on the hourly gender pay gap for those employees on the same date in December 2022. The information that employers will be required to publish is set out in the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021, which includes: The mean and median gap in hourly pay between men and women The mean and median gap in bonus pay between men and women The mean and median gap in hourly pay of part-time male and female employees The mean and median gap in hourly pay of temporary male and female workers

The percentage of men and of women who received bonus pay and benefits-in-kind The proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands. Where such differences exist, employers will be required to publish statements detailing reasons for any such differences and the measures, if any, taken by them to eliminate or reduce the gender pay gap. The regulations are expected to provide further clarity for employers on what will be required and the Government will also publish guidance for employers on how gender pay gap calculations should be performed. While initially relating to larger organisations of 250+ employees, all firms can expect to be impacted by the Act over the coming years and should therefore take appropriate measures now. This Act could have implications for businesses in terms of two key areas: Attracting and retaining talent Satisfying customers that the diversity and inclusion programmes operated by the company are genuine and operating to reduce any identified gender pay gap. Employers should consider what measures can be taken now to tackle any structural organisational issues or working practices which may hinder the support of this act within the organisation. This might be through initiatives like mentoring, training, gender balanced shortlists and interview panels, gender neutral advertising or flexible/remote working. Employers should investigate whether they have the resources to comply with the requirements of the Act. Accurate information on gender pay differences will require involving various departments within your firm, such as human resources, payroll and accounts. Employers should start reviewing current pay data to ensure that it is capable of thorough analysis. Accurate reporting will ensure that pay transparency exists in the company and will support the role in achieving gender equality in the workplace.


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SFA Policy  Insurance



In December 2020, while the country was deep in a level 5 lockdown, the Government published the long awaited Action Plan for Insurance Reform. The stated aims of this action plan are:

ACTION PLAN ake relevant legislative amendments to the Judicial M Council Act 2019 to have the Personal Injuries Guidelines adopted by 31 July 2021 T he Judicial Council to adopt and publish Personal Injuries Guidelines to replace the Book of Quantum ommence Sections 98 and 99 of the Judicial Council C Act 2019. These will provide that (a) the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) will no longer be responsible for preparing a Book of Quantum and (b) the court shall, in assessing damages in a personal injuries action, have regard to the Personal Injuries Guidelines and where it departs from those Guidelines, state the reasons for such departure in giving its decision eport on the implementation and early impact of the R Personal Injury Guidelines and examine relevant policy response nhance and reform the role of the Personal Injuries E Assessment Board including through legislative proposals xamine changes to the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995 to E strengthen waivers and notices to increase protections for consumers and businesses. Taking account of the Programme for Government commitment, make proposals to Government to implement any changes deemed necessary rovide recommendations regarding changes to be P made to reduce insurance fraud. This will include examination of penalties for insurance fraud I mplement recommendations including through the introduction of legislation if required nact and commence the Perjury and Related Offences E Bill 2018.


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Insurance  SFA Policy

These are extremely important issues in reforming the insurance sphere, particularly for small businesses. The small business community has long been at the coalface of the inequality that exists within the insurance market. With the spiralling costs of insurance and eye watering awards that are being handed down by the Courts, the actions in this plan are long overdue. One of the most important aspects of the Action Plan is the need for periodic progress reviews by the implementation group to Cabinet. We in the SFA believe that this is vital, as it allows stakeholders and Government to see how the action plan is progressing. The most recent progress report was on the 1st of March 2022. The implementation group reported to Cabinet that approximately 80% of actions in the Plan are now being delivered, with the remaining initiated. The principal actions delivered to date were: The Personal Injuries Guidelines have been given effect Legislation to strengthen the laws on perjury has been enacted The Office to promote competition in the insurance market has been established The Insurance Fraud Coordination Office has been established. One of the most important aspects of the Action Plan is to tackle the inflated levels of awards being handed down by the Courts and the reform of the Book of Quantum, which PIAB uses to set the level of compensation that is awarded. The General Scheme of a Bill to enhance and reform PIAB was published on 9 February 2022 by the Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital & Company Regulation. The policy objective of the General Scheme is to facilitate an increase in the number of personal injury claims that may be resolved through the Board’s process and without recourse to litigation. Encouraging more claimants and respondents to avail of the Board’s model through mediation and/or assessment should lead to cost savings in the claims environment and contribute to reductions in insurance premiums. Amendments to the discretionary powers provided to the Board as set out in section 17 of the

Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003-2019 and amendments to section 51A of the Act are intended to increase the number of personal injury claims which can be resolved through the Board. As the General Scheme proposes to place an increased emphasis on the resolution of claims through an amended personal injuries framework which facilitates mediation and assessment as means of resolving personal injury claims, it is proposed to rename the Board as the Personal Injuries Resolution Board. The General Scheme also contains several amendments to the Act to enhance the advocacy and outreach of the Board, to provide for additional data analysis and reporting and to facilitate the prevention of fraud. The issue of fraud pushing up the prices of premiums is one which the SFA has been highlighting for a number of years and it is important to see that in the implementation report of March 2022, the Government recognises this by giving The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) increased resourcing in 2021 (from 95 personnel at the end of 2020 to a total of 127 at the end of 2021) and an Insurance Fraud Coordination Office was opened in July 2021. The establishment of this office will improve cooperation and coordination with the insurance industry, bring consistency to the handling and investigation of insurance fraud referrals and should facilitate more cases being referred to the DPP for prosecution. To facilitate a greater understanding of insurance fraud within the service, the GNECB has been proactively sharing guidelines on investigating insurance fraud with all divisions across An Garda Síochána. Furthermore, it is also providing training and support to all Garda divisions in how to investigate fraud. Insurance is just one facet of the ever-increasing cost of doing business for many small firms, but it is one which has been on the Government’s radar for a number of years. The small business community is glad that at long last, tangible measures are now being taken to reform this industry. We will watch with interest how this process plays out and will ensure that it is fair and equitable for all small businesses.



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Health  Psychological Safety


safety AT WORK

PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY ALLOWS ORGANISATIONS TO ADMIT MISTAKES WHILE ACHIEVING GREAT OUTCOMES, WRITES DAVID CLANCY This year, I co-founded an online learning and leadership development group called ‘The Leadership Bunker’ with Warren Engelbrecht, Alistair Rogers and David Cosgrave to compliment my work with Hauora. It brings together leaders from around the world from the areas of health and wellbeing and highperformance sectors. The reason why this network has grown and become successful is the psychological safety that has been created and consequently the stories and reflections of vulnerability that have been shared. People have not been afraid to speak up, to share their thoughts and to challenge one another. Psychological safety allows organisations and high-performance teams to admit mistakes whilst they achieve great outcomes.

The 4 stages of psychological safety are:


INCLUSION feeling safe in the team



feeling safe asking questions


CONTRIBUTING feeling safe contributing ideas

David Clancy, Founder and Director, Hauora


CHALLENGING feeling safe when questioning

A safe team, according to David Cosgrave, is one that believes they will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up about ideas, concerns or mistakes. High-performance leaders that focus on developing a culture of wellbeing must build the tools that give everyone a voice, de-stigmatise failure, nurture diversity and show genuine care and consideration for the rest of the team. In 2012, Google brought together the best sociologists, statisticians, psychologists and engineers and launched an internal study named ‘Project Aristotle’ to figure out what made teams and organisations successful. For half a decade they researched scientific literature, asked questions and examined every variable imaginable. They assessed team effectiveness in several ways and the concept of psychological safety seemed to be the golden nugget that closed the gap between performance and output. Amy Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School and has a PhD in organisational behaviour. According to her, teams and organisations that feel safe learn at a higher rate and thereby perform better. Challenge, adversity, struggle, uncertainty, reaching out of our comfort zone can all stimulate growth. Feeling psychologically safe helps us engage in these behaviours that are part of the learning process. If we want better outcomes – to be healthier, more well, have more positive habits – we must nurture psychological safety. Modelling is one of the three core factors to build psychological safety, along with setting the stage and monitoring the response. Hauora has done about 200 sessions on Zoom since the pandemic started. We focus on micro-interventions and on driving engagement and interaction from the group listening to us. Every time we ask them to write into the chat bar or answer a question – silence! That awkward moment, but then someone speaks up. Others pipe in – the action of one made it less frightening to speak to the floor. It’s usually challenging for us to get back speaking then, but that’s a good complaint. Modelling creates safety. Whether you work for one of our trusted partners, a private or public company, a non-profit organisation, a sports team or lead the wellbeing or health and safety department in your company, creating psychological safety is not only the right thing to do for members of your teams and employees in your workforce, but the right thing to do for your business or your organisation. Visit and download the psychological safety action pack from Tom Geraghty, another thought leader in this field.


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07/04/2022 16:45

SOLAS  Partner Profile

SKILLS TO ADVANCE UPSKILLING PROGRAMMES FROM SOLAS AND ETBS ARE HELPING TO SUPPORT THE HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM SECTOR The 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) around Ireland provide a broad range of training programmes specific to the hospitality and tourism sector to deliver upskilling and reskilling opportunities for employers and their employees. In 2021, two new highly subsidised ‘Skills to Advance’ programmes were introduced to complement existing provision, delivering critical team leadership and supervisory management skills to the sector. Over the past two years, 243 Skills to Advance courses were delivered to 1389 employees in the sector, with employers availing of training and upskilling in a wide variety of areas such as Training Needs Identification and Design; Implementing Food Safety Management Systems; Patisserie

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and Confectionery; Barista, Customer Service & Hospitality Skills; Fifty Shades Greener and Social Media for Business. In 2021, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, launched two national upskilling programmes for employees in the sector, which were developed by SOLAS and the ETBs in consultation with the Irish Hotels Federation, Failte Ireland and the Regional Skills Fora. The Developing Leaders for Hospitality and Tourism programmes are positively received by the sector, with employers recognising that investing in their employees and providing career development is a vital element in both attracting and retaining key talent. These are also critical factors in rebuilding the industry.

Skills to Advance works collaboratively with the ETBs, employer bodies and key stakeholders to design, develop and cascade targeted regional and sectoral initiatives to provide agile and relevant upskilling opportunities. These initiatives include Leadership and Management, Developing Leaders for Hospitality and Tourism, Green Skills and Digital Skills for Business Improvement. ETBs work with employers to help them identify their future skills requirements and to encourage them to avail of training programmes to upskill their teams, which will positively impact their business recovery. Find your local ETB contact at

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Partner Profile  CRO

ENSURING VIABLE SMES GET ACCESS TO BANK CREDIT MAKING A BUSINESS PLAN AND TELLING THE STORY OF YOUR SMALL BUSINESS CAN IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF MAKING A SUCCESSFUL CREDIT APPLICATION. With the lifting of Government restrictions and business activity increasing, many SMEs will be considering their finance and funding needs, and approaching the banks for credit for working capital or investment purposes. To improve your chances of making a successful credit application, tell the story of your business and ensure the bank understands it well. You should have a business plan which includes trading records showing what your business trading was like pre-Covid and during Covid, and credible cash flow projections for your business going forward. Businesses that demonstrate they were

profitable and viable pre-Covid will get a much better hearing from their bank. If your business changed substantially during Covid, your business plan should address these changes. For example, if you negotiated rent concessions from your landlord that will have to be paid back. Similarly, if your business warehoused its tax debts, indicate your repayment plan with Revenue. These payments will impact your cashflow and your ability to repay the bank you are seeking finance from, and the bank will want you to show that you can make all repayments comfortably.

Apply for a Loan’ which can be found at in the ‘Resources’ section. If you are refused business credit by your bank, or have your existing facilities reduced or withdrawn, Credit Review can help you to appeal this decision. Set up by the Minister for Finance in 2010, Credit Review’s mission is to ensure viable SMEs and Farms access the bank finance they need for their businesses.

More detailed information is available in the information note ‘How to

visit or call 087-1217244.

For more information on our independent appeals process,

Credit where it’s due. Having trouble getting a business loan from your bank? Have your credit facilities been reduced or declined? Credit Review is here to help. Call our helpline on 0818 211 789 or visit

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07/04/2022 16:52

Close Brothers Commercial Finance

 Partner Profile

SOLUTIONS FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES ACCORDING TO THE LATEST CLOSE BROTHERS BUSINESS BAROMETER, BUSINESSES ARE CONFIDENT ABOUT THE FUTURE DESPITE RISING COSTS IMPACTING CASH FLOW The survey, which canvassed the opinions of 900 senior SME decision makers in Ireland and the UK, found that 39% were confident that the economy would continue to grow. A further third said that while it could be a slow path to prosperity, the worst was behind us. Overall, 88% also believe their business will perform well, either expanding or broadly staying the same over the next 12 months. However, many also flagged the impact that rising costs are having on working capital. Nearly half of decision makers said that the increased cost of trading is causing cash flow issues. Businesses reported that the increased costs of food, fuel and energy were having the most impact. In addition, 43% said that they have had to raise wages in the past six months and two fifths passed additional charges onto customers. Companies in the Republic of Ireland were more likely to feel the impact of rising costs, with 43% saying they had experienced cash flow issues as a result. This compares to 35% in Northern Ireland. Paul Stephens, Head of Corporate and ABL at Close Brothers Commercial Finance said: “It’s encouraging to hear that firms are feeling more optimistic. While global uncertainties and rising costs continue to create challenges, our solutions are designed to help business owners overcome issues in different scenarios, from providing immediate capital to boosting longer term cash flow strategies. “With a range of finance products, including invoice finance, asset-based lending and asset finance, we’re well positioned to help SMEs navigate the near-term future. Our local specialists


Close Brothers

Close Brothers is a leading modern merchant bank, recognised as a FTSE250 company and listed on the London Stock Exchange. We provide lending to a range of companies, with a core purpose of helping the people and businesses of Ireland and Britain thrive over the long term.

To achieve this, each of our diverse, specialist businesses have a deep knowledge of the industry sectors and asset classes we serve, so we can understand the challenges and opportunities that our customers and clients face. We support the unique needs of our customers and clients to ensure that they thrive, rather than simply survive, whatever the market conditions. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 47

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07/04/2022 16:53

Travel  Novi Sad








Doček The two celebrations of New Year’s Eve


Serbia Fashion Week


Mountaineering Marathon at Fruška Gora


Sterijino Pozorje (Theatre Festival)


Zmaj Children Games (Children’s Festival)


Interfes (International Wine Festival)


Exit Music Festival


Sitting on the banks of the Danube River Novi Sad, also known as the ‘Athens of Serbia’, is a colourful, creative city with beautiful squares, secret passages, museums, galleries and a vibrant cultural legacy. It’s generally regarded as more liberal than other Serbian cities and it’s one that’s as unique for its history and architecture as it is for its artists and scientists; little wonder it’s been chosen as one of the three European capitals of Culture for 2022. ‘For New Bridges’, Novi Sad’s theme as European Capital of Culture, represents the idea of building new bridges of cooperation and exchange between artists and organisations from Novi Sad and Serbia with the European cultural scene. Throughout 2022, the city will host over 1,500 cultural events including festivals, exhibitions, plays and concerts, addressing issues like migration, peace, multiculturalism and the role of women in art and youth culture.

Petrovaradin Fortress Fruška Gora

Tamburitza Fest


Street Musicians Festival


Kaleidoscope of Culture


Novi Sad Music Festival


‘Icy Forest’ Open-Air Ice-Skating Rink


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Novi Sad  Travel

Th eD anu be

OUTDOORS THE DANUBE The Štrand, a 700m-long beach alongside the Danube, is the place to go in Novi Sad to build sandcastles or have a swim. At low tide, you can walk over to Fisherman’s Island and find a secret spot for a picnic or enjoy a late-night drink at one of the floating bars.

EXPERIENCE PETROVARADIN FORTRESS One of the largest and bestpreserved fortresses in Europe, Petrovaradin Fortress is a true masterpiece of Baroque military architecture. Known as “Gibraltar on the Danube,” it was built in the 17th and 18th centuries and currently accommodates the City Museum of Novi Sad, one of five tapestry ateliers in Europe. Within the Fortress, you’ll also find the ‘drunken’ clock, a gift from Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in the mid18th century. The clock’s long and short hands are reversed, with the short showing the minutes and the long the hour, hence the ‘drunken’ moniker. EXIT Music Festival, one of the biggest and best music festivals in Europe, also takes place at the Fortress every July.

EXPLORE FRUŠKA GORA This is the oldest national park in Serbia and less than 30 minutes from the city centre by car. Thirtyfive monasteries were built in the park between the 15th and 18th centuries and today, 16 remain and are open to the public. Alongside the protected landscapes and rare plant and animal species in the park, you’ll also find wine; Fruška Gora is famous for its small but select wineries. Bermet, a dessert wine from this region, is said to have been served on the Titanic. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 49

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Travel  Novi Sad



Street art is taken seriously in Novi Sad. Muralists and graffiti artists decorate and revive every corner of Novi Sad on a daily basis and across the city, building facades have been turned into colourful large-scale murals. Art is set to play a central role this year as Novi Sad celebrates its European Capital of Culture role.

Visit Novi Sad for the rakija (fruit brandy), burek (filo pastry filled with spinach and cheese), ćevapi (grilled meat served in a flatbread with sour cream) and the Index Sandwich (a roll stuffed with melted cheese, ham, mushrooms and lots of sauce), which was invented in Novi Sad. With an abundance of čardas (river fish restaurants) along the Danube or salaš (farmsteads) in the surrounding areas, there’s something to suit every palate.

SEE THE SIGHTS Novi Sad is a city for the cyclist. With its mostly flat terrain and extensive bike paths, it’s a great city to see by bike. Visitors can also see the sights from the water; rent a canoe or kayak and take a trip along the Danube.

Trg Republike

Svilara Cultural Station

GO SHOPPING Get an authentic Serbian experience by bargain hunting at the city’s markets. Locals stock up on cheap seasonal fruit and veg at Riblja, Pijaca and Futoška Pijaca. The fish market, Trg Republike, is also worth a visit. If you’re looking for some unique souvenirs, The Manual Company, which dates back to 1985, is well known for its leatherwork. When you’re ready for a break, head to Trčika, a cafe housed in a former city tramway car, for a coffee and side of Serbian pancakes (palačinka).

FOR CULTURE VULTURES As one of the European Capitals of Culture, more venues have been added to the city including the Cultural Station Eđšeg which hosts theatre, exhibitions and literary events inside a former belle-époque shooting club. An old industrial silk-dyeing factory, now known as the Svilara Cultural Station, has also been given a new lease of life and is filled with contemporary art on ongoing cultural events.


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Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova  Arts and Culture




e h t




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Arts and Culture  Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova

most people, art and maths mightn’t seem like natural bedfellows but for Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova, the combination makes perfect sense. Geometry and mathematics inform and inspire her work, which she calls ‘Paper on Edge’, resulting in 3D paper artwork that’s visually striking, contemporary and fresh. A tricky sum has never fazed Miriam, even as a small child. Growing up, her mother was a maths teacher and her sister went down the same career path. “I was raised not to see maths as a scary subject, but rather something that was fun and challenging. In my work, it’s all about the numbers. When I have a vision for a design, I break it down – how many papers will I need, how many shapes, how many strips will I need to cut, how many pieces will I need to fold etc. I’m so lucky that I get to combine my two passions in my work. Not many people can say that,” said Miriam. Originally from Slovakia, Miriam has been living in Kingscourt in Co Cavan for almost 20 years. Back in the early 2000’s Ireland’s construction sector was in its boom phase and as a qualified furniture designer, it made sense to take up a role in that field. “I worked as a structural engineer at a firm in Kingscourt for 15 years. My role involved building 3D models for houses; 3D has always been in my life in some form! My interest in art never went away and in my spare time, I came across paper art and the traditional art of paper quilling.” Quilling, the coiling and shaping of narrow paper strips to create a design, has been around for hundreds of years. It’s thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt and was practiced as an art form in Renaissance France and Italy, as well as in 18th century England. During the Renaissance, nuns and monks would roll gold-gilded paper remnants trimmed during the bookmaking process and use them to decorate religious objects as an alternative to expensive gold filigree. Quilling later became a pastime of 18th and 19th century young ladies in England, who would decorate tea caddies and pieces of furniture with paper filigree. “For me and my technical brain, I enjoy doing sharp objects like square, triangles and certain polygons. It has become more like geometry.” That initial interest in paper art led to exhibitions in the RDS and a realisation that it was much more than just a hobby. “I saw how people were connecting

Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova

with the work. I began selling larger pieces and it got to the stage where I knew I could take it further but needed to invest more time in it.” With three small kids and a full-time job, something had to give. “I decided to quit my job and pursue my career as an artist full-time. Around then I turned 40 and when anyone would ask what I wanted from life, I always said, more time for myself. By giving up my job and becoming a full-time artist, I was giving myself the best present ever, the gift of time to pursue the career I always wanted.” Miriam has been working as a full-time artist for the past three years and in that time, has built a solid relationship with The Gallery Kinsale in Cork. “They’ve been amazing. I’m lucky to have a great relationship with such a well-regarded gallery.” A global pandemic and the period of uncertainty that it ushered in gave pause


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Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova  Arts and Culture

Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova

“IT’S A NATURAL FLOW AT THE MOMENT. EVERYTHING INSPIRES ME; I WAS AT THE AIRPORT ONCE AND SAW A SUITCASE WITH A LOVELY, INTRICATE PATTERN. THAT SPARKED THE NEXT WORK. I SEE DESIGNS AND PATTERNS EVERYWHERE I GO.” for thought, and not a small degree of panic. “I had quit a secure, well-paid job and now, I didn’t know what was going to happen! But actually, it turned out fine. People were spending more time on social media, they had nowhere else to spend their money so they began investing in art. Over the past two years, I’ve had a few nice commissions, both from individual and corporate clients and they have led to interaction with international galleries. I now have a representative in the US, which is great.” Inspiration can strike anywhere and everywhere, says Miriam. Once one artwork is finished, an idea for the next follows almost immediately. “It’s a natural flow at the moment. Everything inspires me; I was at the airport once and saw a suitcase with a lovely, intricate pattern. That sparked the next work. I see designs and patterns everywhere I go.” Studio time is a reward for the business side of being a

full-time artist. To succeed and make a living, you must regard it as a business like any other, says Miriam. “When I was a child, there was no such thing as a job as a full-time artist. Now as an artist, it’s crucial that I take it seriously and commit to the business side of it every day. The marketing, bookkeeping, promotions and social media side of things are so important.” Being able to price the work and knowing how much you can invest in the next adventure, which will hopefully bring a return, is key. Studio time is lovely, but that alone doesn’t pay the bills. Good business acumen was acquired through LEO courses and mentoring programmes. “It’s also crucial to be surrounded by like-minded people. When I moved to Kingscourt, I knew no artists in the area but through local events and RDS shows, I realised that some of my fellow artists were living only 20 minutes away. We meet regularly to talk about opportunities or ideas, or even just to cry on each other’s shoulders!” As the latest ‘Artist in Residence’, Miriam’s work is currently on show at the Montenotte Hotel in Cork. It’s just one more reason to feel validated for the choice she made six years ago, says Miriam. “I remember the reactions when I told my old colleagues I was leaving to be a full-time artist. It would have been easy to be swayed by their scepticism, but you just have to believe you’re on the right track. Now, they all support me. I hope that by going for the career I wanted, I’ll inspire my own kids to follow their dreams.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 53

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The Big Read  Irish Women’s Speeches



System THE

On 29 June 1962, Frances Condell became the first woman elected as mayor of Limerick in its 750-year history.

This is an extract from Irish Women’s Speeches, by Sonja Tiernan, published by University College Dublin Press.

At the time of her election, much political discussion surrounded a prospective visit of the President of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, to Ireland. Among her many attributes, Condell had a keen eye for Irish business development and international trade. Condell was undoubtedly mindful of the economic benefits that such a high-profile visit could yield for Ireland. This was to be the first state visit to the Republic of Ireland by a United States president. The Irish Embassy in Washington estimated that Kennedy’s visit would produce publicity worth millions of pounds to the Irish economy. Condell set an optimistic goal of including a visit to Limerick in Kennedy’s Irish itinerary.


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Irish Women’s Speeches  The Big Read

Extract from Frances Condell’s Speech to welcome President John F. Kennedy to Limerick Greenpark Racecourse, 29 June 1963 “Because of our proximity to the airport, we have the pleasure of welcoming each year many of your fellow countrymen and our returning emigrants. Now, with the setting up of the Industrial Estate at Shannon, in which five American firms have established themselves during the past couple of years, we have seen the introduction of a new type of American who is taking his place in our civic and social life, and who is bringing to our people the skills and techniques of industry. We welcome you, Sir, on their behalf, as we welcome them on your behalf, and we trust that you will use your influence to send many more industrialists like them, not alone to Shannon but to our city of Limerick. I assure you that we shall be very pleased to see a concentration of American industry in Limerick. . . .”

Since 1945, Shannon airport, situated just over 20 kilometres from Limerick city, was the gateway between Europe and the Americas. A compulsory stopover at Shannon was a legal requirement for transatlantic flights until as recently as 2008. Before being elected as mayor, Condell worked as a welfare officer for the Shannon Free Airport Development Company, assisting families, mainly from overseas, to settle into the area. If Condell could promote Limerick as a location destination for American visitors, the county could be easily reached by incoming tourists, and the area would benefit immensely from income generated. Limerick was not originally considered as a location for Kennedy during his busy four-day itinerary in Ireland. The President was scheduled to fly to Dublin airport on the evening of 26 June 1963 as part of his European tour. While in the capital city he would address both Houses of the Oireachtas. To underline the importance of Kennedy’s visit, a joint session of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann was held on 28 June 1963, for the first time in the history of the Irish state. As well as travelling to Dublin, Kennedy was scheduled to visit the counties of Cork, Galway and Wexford. Much attention was given to Kennedy’s planned visit to Dunganstown in County Wexford. The President’s paternal great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, emigrated from Dunganstown in 1848 to escape the Great Famine. Less attention focused on the fact that Kennedy’s maternal great grandfather, Thomas Fitzgerald, was born in Limerick in the town of Bruff. The Limerick connection on the Fitzgerald side of his family had deep significance for the President. At Kennedy’s presidential inauguration ceremony on 20 January 1961, it was his mother’s family bible that he placed his hand on to swear into office; the bible was originally owned by Thomas Fitzgerald. Conscious of such connections to Limerick, Condell contacted the then American Ambassador to Ireland, Matthew McCloskey, so often requesting a Limerick visit that he remarked, ‘heaven protect me from a persistent woman’. Condell was indeed persistent. After numerous letters and phone calls to Irish and American officials, she visited Dublin the month before Kennedy was due to

arrive in Ireland. While there, she met with Ambassador McCloskey and the Minister for External Affairs, Frank Aiken. Condell’s sole purpose for her trip to Dublin was to discuss the possibility of awarding Kennedy the freedom of Limerick city at a public ceremony. The mayor was accompanied on her visits by Donogh O’Malley, then parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Finance, James Ryan. One month before Kennedy was due to arrive in Ireland, Limerick still did not appear on the presidential schedule, a fact noted by a representative from the American Embassy in Dublin. When questioned on this by journalists from the Limerick Leader, the unnamed Embassy source said, ‘Limerick people would no doubt visit Shannon, which was not far from the city.’ Shannon may well be geographically nearby, but it is in the neighbouring county of Clare and Condell refused to accept anything less than a visit by Kennedy to Limerick county. Condell and O’Malley were undeterred in their aim. The pair were received on 23 May by President de Valera at Áras an Uachtaráin. After her meetings, Condell rang the Limerick Leader offices to inform newspaper staff that she was ‘very pleased with these interviews, and most hopeful that the citizens of Limerick will be given the opportunity of seeing the President in person prior to his departure from Shannon’. Yet, over two weeks later, on 12 June, the Limerick Leader published a disappointing headline, ‘Visit from U.S. President unlikely.’ Condell remained persistent: she orchestrated a meeting with Pierre E. G. Salinger, the White House press secretary, when he arrived in Dublin and pleaded with him to arrange the visit. In all, she visited ambassador McCloskey four times, wrote numerous letters, and phoned him requesting that he arrange for Kennedy to visit Limerick. In an interview conducted for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Condell describes how this persistence paid off: ‘So eventually he [McCloskey] rang me up one night about a quarter to one, at least, one morning . . . and he said, “You’ve got your wish, now will you get off my back?”’ This left Condell with just one week to find a venue and make all the necessary arrangements for a presidential visit. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 55

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07/04/2022 17:00

Profile  This Farming Life



LIFE in the

6.15AM I wake up and check the weather. We breed racehorses so I’ll do a quick scan on the weather, check that the horses are ok and turn on the business news. I’m usually the first up and I love this quiet time to myself. 6.45AM I cook breakfast for the family, race outside to feed the dogs, chickens and check the sheep. They’re adorable but have long coats so they’re prone to getting stuck in the hedge! 7.20AM I do the school bus run and then it’s back to the office. 7.35AM I check emails for any urgent issues. I’m trying to get more disciplined in terms of cutting down on the time I spend reading them. 8AM It’s time to log in to whatever project we’re working on. At the moment, we’re working with the BBC interior designer Laurence Llewellyn Bowen. If I’m working on a project for our spinout Planet Hologram Studios, I’m normally designing 3D body display systems, ensuring they are visible to students, that the timing is right for teachers etc. 9.05AM We log in to the Daily Huddle with our coffee. Nothing is off the table. The rest of the morning is filled with client catch-ups or project work. 1.15PM I’ve gotten into a bad habit of continuously working so I’m trying to force myself to switch off for at least half an hour. 2PM I check back in on emails for 20 minutes and delegate some work. The afternoons are kept for actual work; I never do a meeting after 4pm. 5PM I update my to-do list for the next day, which signals the start of my winding down from work. 7PM Dinner with the family is followed by a check on the horses. I really work to farm, that’s the dream. 8PM We normally watch something together as a family. 10.30PM I try to get to bed early, watch something on Netflix and fall asleep 10 minutes later. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to restart programmes because I keep falling asleep. It’s a running joke in our house. WWW.THEBUSINESSFAIRY.IE WWW.PLANETHOLOGRAMSTUDIOS.COM


Aisling Hurley, Founder, Business Fairy and Planet Hologram Studios



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