Better Business Q4 2018

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B E T T E R B U S I N E SS Q4 2018/2019



Agents of



Masters Nutrition OF



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B E T T E R B U S I N E SS Q4 2018/2019



Agents of



Masters Nutrition

Welcome to Better Business, a magazine dedicated to the small business community.




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On the Cover: Bernie Butler, Managing Director of Sligo-based health food company Good4U Photography: Martina Regan

Editor: Colin White Creative Director: Jane Matthews Designer: Alan McArthur Design Assitant: James Moore Editorial Contributors: Conor Forrest, Clara Hester, Ian Maleney, Dean Van Nguyen Production Executive: Nicole Ennis Account Director: Shane Kelly 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 2019. 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.

As 2018 has drawn to a close, this issue looks at some of the main business trends of the year. Our sector spotlight looks at how traditional travel agents are competing with major companies based here and online. The HR pages focus on annual leave and public holiday entitlements for all types of employment scenarios, and we also speak with four energetic female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. Elsewhere in these pages you will find guidance on how to seek out and approach a business mentor if setting up or ready to expand or pivot your business, while we also offer some sound advice regarding office ergonomics. You’ll read about the finalists of the SFA National Small Business Awards, which were announced recently, and we also provide some top tips for retaining your best staff in the current business climate. Along the way, you’ll come across a diverse range of businesses whose experiences may well give you a fresh take on your own venture. 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 245,000 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 are found in every town and 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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Big News for Small Business News, views and profiles from SFA members and small businesses in Ireland

Organic Thinking Drumanilra Organic Farm’s Justina Gavin on paying attention to market feedback

Sector Spotlight A look at how travel agents in Ireland are adapting to technological advancements

Leader of the Pack Wicklow Wolf’s Quincey Fennelly speaks about Ireland’s craft beer revolution

Cover Story Good4U matriarch Bernie Butler talks family, healthy eating and breaking into new markets

The Mentor Method Dr Ken Germaine provides information for those seeking out a business mentor

The Seeds of Success We speak with female entrepreneurs based in rural areas about a modern and innovative support programme

Under the Skin Meet Sonia Deasy, an entrepreneur making waves in the skincare industry

Trading Places We hear from California-based Martin O’Brien about the growth of the cannabis industry

Electric Dreams We feature some of the latest and most exciting advances in electric driving

Travel All you need to know when away on business: Hong Kong-style

A Day in the Life... Edge Only’s Jenny Huston shares a typical day in her role as a jewellery designer

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Winter 2018/2019  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: Wicklow Wolf co-owner Quincey Fennelly on competing with the big multinational beer brands, page 22 // Bernie Butler of health food company Good4U discusses the impact of Brexit and working professionally with her family, page 24 // Sonia Deasy of Pestle & Mortar explains how she has carved out a successful business strategy for her skincare brand, page 38 // Donegal-based Arantxa Lopez sings the praises of ACORNS, a programme set up to support female entrepreneurs, page 32


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We’re financing your future Need help to finance your business? Talk to us about our small business loans. Or visit your Local Enterprise Office.

Simon Evans Owner & Inventor Little Big Bikes

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

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An Roinn Gnó, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation

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News  Updates


Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair speaking at the SFA National Small Business Awards 2018

Java Republic, Northwest Business Park, Dublin 15


The SFA is pleased to announce that Sue O’Neill has been re-elected as Chair by the SFA National Council for a two-year term. Sue O’Neill has served as the Association’s Chair since 2016 and her key priority for her new term will be to lobby Government for the introduction and implementation of a National Small Business Strategy for Ireland. This initiative is calling on Government to target the development of small business across all regions with just as much energy and strategic focus as they have put on attracting FDI from the 1950s to the present day. She will urge Government to safeguard small firms against rising business costs and the erosion of competitiveness and will remain focused on preparing members for the opportunities and risks to their businesses from Brexit. In addition, she will continue to raise concerns about the impact the proposed auto-enrolment pension scheme will have on the smallest employers.


Java Republic celebrate 20th anniversary

2019 is set to be a big year for Java Republic, with the upcoming celebration of their 20th anniversary. 2019 is going to be a big year for Java Republic with the upcoming 20th anniversary celebrations. Following a successful 2018, which started with a brand refresh and saw Java Republic take strides to cement its place as a leader in the Irish food and beverage industry by winning four awards (Deloitte Best Managed Company, Best Marketing Campaign and two Great Taste Awards). The company’s training facility has also been certified as a Premier Training Campus by the Speciality Coffee Association, the first Irish roastery to be awarded this status. With an Origin trip to Rwanda and Sumatra, 2018 saw Java Republic go further and deeper than anyone else to ensure that its ‘coffee with a conscience’ ethos was upheld at all times. Java Republic’s training facility has also been certified as a Premier Training Campus by the Speciality Coffee Association, the first Irish roastery to be awarded this status. With an Origin Trip to Rwanda and to Sumatra, 2018 saw Java Republic going further to ensure that its ‘coffee with a conscience’ ethos is upheld at all times.

PAYE MODERNISATION KEY DATES IN 2019 From 1 January PAYE real-time reporting goes live. On the 5th day of every month, a summary statement of your payroll reports for the previous month will appear on ROS, while the 14th of every month is the deadline to check and correct your reports for the prior month. Revenue has indicated that in the early days of the new regime it will be adopting a supportive approach to employers and stakeholders. Revenue’s National Employer Helpdesk has been scaled to handle additional support requirements and can be contacted. Tel: (01) 738 3638.



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Updates  News



Exclusively for members and following the SFA motto, ‘Being in business for yourself doesn’t mean you have to be in business by yourself ’, the SFA Affinity Scheme was launched in May 2018, with special offers, cost savings, discounts, benefits, specialised services, and much more. All SFA Affinity Scheme offerings are designed to make your life as a small business owner just a little easier. The offerings can be divided into three categories: ■C ost savings: mobile phones, energy, logistics ■ I nsurance and financial services ■ Specialised services: GDPR, legal advice, employee wellbeing You can get an overview of the offers at To see the details of each special offer, log in with your member details. If you have any questions or if you are interested in becoming an Affinity Scheme partner, please contact



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TOP TWEETS Enterprise Ireland’s Customs Insights course is designed for businesses dealing with customs for the first time and will demystify key concepts and documentation required and highlight available supports. Register for free today

Enterprise Ireland @Entirl

Join us at Business Connect on 7 Feb – an exciting marketplace event designed to give delegates a window into the decision making and purchasing processes of Ireland’s leading companies

Small Firms Association @SFA_Irl

“Eschewing outliers again, a review of funding per cluster finds that startups in areas like Dublin 8, Smithfield and DCU have average funding of under €1M”


What small firms think should be done to fix the housing crisis make residential developments more “commercially viable” @SFA_Irl @ibec_irl


Check out our £2K/€2250K start to plan vouchers for SMEs to help you prepare for Brexit

InterTradeIreland @Inter_Trade


Water Conservation for Business Campaign launched

Following the drought of summer 2018, Irish Water launched the Water Conservation for Business Campaign to support businesses with tailored cost-effective solutions to help them to lower water consumption and operating costs. Christine Crawford of Irish Water said: “We’re here to support you in your efforts to lower your water consumption. Every drop counts, every contribution matters, no matter how big or small. There are many benefits to conserving water in your business: it will not only help protect your local supply and the environment, but it can also boost your reputation and reduce your water bills.” The first phase of the campaign focuses on the hospitality industry. Management and staff from the food and drink sector are encouraged to run their facilities efficiently by monitoring, reviewing and reducing their water consumption. Besides adopting efficient flow rates/flush volumes, they can use water efficient products and repair leaks promptly. For simple tips on how to lower your water consumption and operating costs, please visit


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News  Updates

“Tax policy can have a very significant impact on several areas affecting Irish small and indigenous businesses, such as investment, expansion and attracting new talent.” Sven Spollen-Behrens, SFA Director speaking at the launch of the SFA tax policy, ‘A Supportive Tax Environment for Small Firms’, in collaboration with PKF O’Connor, Leddy & Holmes

“Our latest small business survey found that compared to this time last year, there is a softening of confidence amongst our members. In the last few weeks, 59% of SFA members surveyed told us that they feel the business environment is improving, compared to 62% in November 2017.” Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair, speaking at the SFA Annual Lunch 2018


“The SFA welcomes this practical and important legislation and is encouraged to see that non-compliance with the PIAB process is being recognised and addressed within this Bill.” Elizabeth Bowen, Senior Executive, SFA speaking about the PIAB (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2018. See page 46 for more information.

Natalia Romanova, Managing Director, 5 Quests Escape Rooms

Just a little over a year after its launch in Cornelscourt, Dublin 18, the immersive escape rooms start-up 5 Quests is set to double its capacity with the addition of two new puzzle-solving challenges in 2019. Owner Natalia Romanova founded 5 Quests back in September 2017 when the first two escape rooms were initially opened. Since then, over 3,000 people have passed through its doors to enjoy this new leisure activity, including many corporate teams on team building days. In January 2019, their third escape room will be opened called ‘Wizard’s Castle’: yet another interactive puzzle-solving adventure, but this time transporting the players into the wizard’s world with magic wands, spells and many new immersive puzzles. In 2018, 5 Quests was included on the 100 Hot Start-Ups list complied by the Sunday Business Post and Enterprise Ireland.

SPERA – A NEW NAME WITH A HISTORY FOR INNOVATION Spera, formerly Reprographic Systems, is a leader in print reproduction, flexographic plates and wide-format digital printing. To futureproof the company’s growth, Spera has rebranded the business and has added brand management to its list of services. First incorporated in 1969, the company’s vision is to be a global brand management company known for its service delivery, and its mission is to develop long-lasting relationships based on trust with customers. Tom Fitzpatrick, Director of Spera Brand Management, said: “We know great relationships build great brands. Since 1969 we have been watching the market and listening to clients, making sure that we don’t just meet and exceed their needs, but anticipate them. Our ability to foresee change and harness innovation has always given our clients the edge in all areas.”


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Updates  News


Guinness Enterprise Centre invests €200,000 in CoConnect initiative

The Guinness Enterprise Centre has announced that it has invested €200,000 in its innovative new CoConnect initiative. The programme, a home-away-from-home for businesses and employees, will build connections between the GEC and the 120 enterprise hubs across the island of Ireland. Through CoConnect, start-ups and scale-ups based in participating enterprise hubs can avail of CoWorking space in the GEC, while GEC-based companies can benefit from CoWorking space in connected enterprise hubs. The funding for the initiative was supported by the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which is provided by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland and the GEC. The CoConnect programme is one of 21 initiatives to receive funding through the Regional Enterprise Development Fund as part of the Government’s overarching strategy to support regional enterprise development.

Richard Curran presenting at SFA Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium

SFA LAUNCHES BUSINESS CONNECT 2019 The SFA Business Connect showcase takes place on Thursday, 7 February 2019 in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Now in its second year, Business Connect is an exciting marketplace event designed to give delegates a window into the decision-making and purchasing processes of Ireland’s leading companies. At the showcase, delegates will learn from experts on how to unlock big deals with large organisations, while they’ll also hear informative case studies on small firms that have successfully secured major customers and clients, along with key insights on issues like Brexit. The finalists for the SFA National Small Business Awards will exhibit at the showcase along with awards sponsors. Business Connect 2019 runs from 8am-3pm with structured speed networking from 2pm-3pm and journalist Richard Curran will compère the event. Tickets are priced at €49 for SFA Members and €99 for non-members and can be booked at

John Ohle Photography

Employees in small enterprises receive the highest Christmas bonus on average

Pictured at the announcement of investment in the CoConnect initiative are Julianne O’Leary, Partnership Programme Manager, GEC and Eamonn Sayers, Manager, GEC

New research by One4All has found that small enterprises (businesses with 10-50 employees) reward their staff more generously than large organisations at Christmas, with an average bonus of €425, compared to the €355 given by large enterprises (over 250 employees), which is 16% lower on average. There is also a significant difference in the average bonus paid to male and female workers in Ireland, with men receiving a 50% higher bonus on average at €485, with women receiving €240. The research also looked at Irish people’s preferred form of recognition from their employer at Christmas, with multi-store gift cards seen as one of the most popular rewards among workers, second only behind a cash sum. Other forms of recognition valued by employees at Christmas is an extra day off and a free Christmas party, which placed third and fourth mostpopular respectively.


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Updates  News

Paradyn, Ireland’s only end-toend IT and communications service provider, has announced that it has designed and implemented a full IT network and system upgrade for process engineering firm Flow Technology. In a deal valued at €150,000, Paradyn’s solution provides highspeed broadband, increased reliability and security. It also enables flexible mobile working for Flow Technology’s employees. Cillian McCarthy, CEO, Paradyn said: “The value of this integrated solution for Flow Technology is that our engineers can see all elements of Flow Technology’s IT, security, communications and network infrastructure. This means fast resolution times – 90% of faults get fixed during the first-call, significantly less time spent managing IT and a higher return on Flow Technology’s investment on IT and communications systems.

Pictured announcing the €150,000 deal are Kevin Whooley, Managing Director, Flow Technology and Cillian McCarthy, CEO, Paradyn

John Sheehan Photography

Paradyn announce €150,000 deal with Flow Technology


HAT-TRICK FOR HERO RECRUITMENT Galway’s HERO Recruitment won the highly competitive accolade ‘Best in Engineering, Science and Pharma’ for the third year in a row at the National Recruitment Federation Awards 2018. Director Roisin McNamara commented: “It’s all down to people and we’re lucky enough to work with the very best of them. Our team, our clients and our candidates: these are our heroes, the people who give us the edge.” The National Recruitment Federation pioneers new academic legislature designed to professionalise and qualify the expertise that is the recruitment specialist.

The Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation has launched a Currency Risk Management booklet for small Irish firms. The guidance seeks to answer many of the questions that small firms may have when assessing and managing their exposure to foreign currency risk, set out in sections dealing with: the importance of currency risk management; how to assess currency exposure and develop a currency management strategy; practical guidance for companies that have not previously engaged in currency management; and a directory of support services and providers that are available in the market. Whilst the focus of this guidance will primarily be with respect to sterling-related currency risk, the principles can equally be applied to Irish small firms importing goods from or exporting goods to any non-euro country or market. Booklets available at


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per mth. 8 0 2 From â‚Ź * it No depos


Volkswagen Leasing. What it removes sets your business free. No large advance payment*. No-hassle Fleet Management. No road tax & CVRT costs. No maintainance costs. No resale worries. For full details, call into your local Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Dealer or visit and we’ll come to you. *As little as one advance monthly rental required. For further information and full terms and conditions please speak to your local Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Retailer. Price quoted based on Caddy 2.0 TDI PV 75hp M5F driving 8,000Kms per year over a 54 month term. Details apply to N1 vehicles only.

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Updates  News


February 2018 with the aim of bringing together businesses big and small to highlight the opportunities gained from working together. n The 14th Annual SFA National Small Business Awards Gala took

place in the RDS, bringing together the best small businesses in Ireland, where our overall winner, Briody Bedding, was announced. n The SFA Annual Conference in UCD was a huge success. Last year

we had three sessions, from Ireland’s competitive challenges, digital transformation for small business and our favourite topic from 2018, GDPR: the pitfalls and possibilities. n In September, we launched the 15th Annual SFA National Small

Business Awards with the help of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings. We are delighted to have our finalists confirmed; you can find a full list of them on page 50. n We ended a brilliant and informative year with our Annual Lunch,

which took place in the Round Room of the Mansion House on the 16 November. We had the wonderfully entertaining David McWilliams as the keynote speaker bringing economic insights to an enraptured audience. Make sure you look at the dates we already have in the diary for 2019 and keep an eye on the full schedule of SFA events at

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY 2019 n 7 February – Business Connect, Aviva Stadium n 2 May – Grow, Scale, Succeed Conference, Aviva Stadium n 2 September – SFA National Small Business Awards launch n 15 November – SFA Annual Lunch, Round Room,

Mansion House

n 12 December – SFA Christmas members evening, SFA offices n 2nd Wednesday of every month – Business Bytes


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News  Updates


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1800 940 980 /VMBusinessIreland /VMBusinessIE /company/virgin-media-business-ireland

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Drumanilra Organic Farm  Small Business Profile

Matthew Gammon Yew Tree Studios





et on a 300-acre farm on the shores of Lough Key, Drumanilra Farm produces Dexter beef, slow-grown lamb and outdoor-reared pork on the rolling fields of County Roscommon. The farm also serves its own farmed meats, salads, vegetables and eggs, together with freshly baked breads and cakes in the Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Burger Bar, Café and Farm Shop in the nearby town of Boyle. Organic farming enthusiast Justina Gavin explains the food philosophy at the heart of the success of the business. “We know our food: where it comes from and what’s in it, but also what kind of environmental, social and economic impact it is having,” she says. “We work on the premise that food produced on a small scale, locally in its place of consumption, is likely to be healthier, tastier and better for the environment and the community.” The food entrepreneur believes Drumanilra Organic Farm’s produce should be accessible to everyone, and the company aims to make a contribution to local economic regeneration. “While the care with which we select the ingredients that go into our food is


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Small Business Profile  Drumanilra Organic Farm

quite niche, the menu we have created in our café using ingredients from the farm has, we hope, something for everyone,” explains Gavin. “Rural towns like Boyle have struggled in recent years. By creating a successful food business here serving a local population with a focus on supporting small producers, as well as encouraging tourists to stop by, we hope to highlight the huge positives that come with living, working and starting a business in a rural area like ours.” With the increasing interest in the provenance of food, demand for organic produce in Ireland is growing significantly year-on-year. Animal welfare in food production has become a growing concern for consumers and the farm’s Organic Trust-certified status is an assurance that animals at the farm have been treated well and raised on feed grown free of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and GM ingredients. The fact that Justina and the team at Drumanilra Organic Farm know exactly where every single ingredient used in the café comes from has created a market appeal. “Every Dexter beef burger we serve can be traced back to an animal that we, ourselves, have raised on the farm, just 10 minutes away from the café,” says Gavin.

She continues: “Talk to as many potential customers as possible about what their experiences, needs and requirements might be, and get feedback from them. Our farm shop is tiny at the moment, but our product list is evolving all the time in response to requests and feedback from our customers. Join interest groups on social media and tune into the chat around your potential product. It’s important to speak with people one-to-one as much as possible too.” Gavin has used a variety of techniques and media to keep the company ahead of the curve in terms of market research. “Boyle is somewhat off-the-beaten-track, and encouraging new customers to stop off for a visit is a challenge,” she says. “Word of mouth, amplified across social media, has been the single-most important factor in our growth so far. We are listed as the number one place to eat in County Roscommon on TripAdvisor and we received certificates of excellence for both

Join the conversation Many would-be-entrepreneurs struggle to decide on a particular niche for their business. Gavin suggests some approaches that she has found helpful along her path to success. “Firstly, I think, keep it personal,” she advises. “Find something that you, yourself, have experienced a difficulty in sourcing. Our interest in organic food and food provenance began when we were starting our own family and making choices about the kind of food we wanted to feed our kids. The whole Drumanilra project really centred for us around two things: a sense of connection to the farm itself, and a desire to produce the kind of food we wanted to eat ourselves. The difficulty we found in sourcing that kind of food suggested to us that there must be other people out there looking for the same things.”



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Drumanilra Organic Farm  Small Business Profile

Matthew Gammon/Yew Tree Studios

2017 and 2018. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all given us a platform to reach our local and tourist customer bases, as well enabling happy customers to spread the word for us.” The work of Justina and husband and cofounder Liam has not gone unnoticed by the industry, with the company picking up several awards over the last couple of years, such as the

Irish Restaurant Association’s Local Food Hero Award for the Connacht region 2018, and most recently, Georgina Campbell’s Natural Food Award for Ireland 2019. These notable industry endorsements have acted as a launch pad for future growth and Gavin has several pots on the stove at the moment! “Our plan is to close the existing café towards the end of 2019. We will then spend a year building a larger capacity restaurant and farm shop here on the site. The building will use a modern, eco-efficient design and natural materials and will house a 60-seater restaurant with parking, outdoor seating and a children’s play area. It will also accommodate a large retail space with an onsite, organic butchery, organic bakery, deli and a nano-brewery. Out at the farm, we are already investing in infrastructure to accommodate farm visits and open days.” The Gavins are also hoping to submit a planning application for boutique lodgestyle accommodation on the farm. Adding an educational and food tourism element to the Drumanilra project could be the stroke of genius necessary to expand into another potentially lucrative market for the visionary husband and wife team.

SFA Fact

Did You Know? Dexter cattle are an endangered, native Irish cattle breed renowned for flavoursome and well-marbled beef. Matthew Gammon/Yew Tree Studios


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Sector Spotlight  Travel Industry

Agents Ag ents

Change Chan ge OF


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he Irish have long been known for our hunger to absorb all that we can in the world. Whether it’s a European city break, an adventure holiday, or a trip to a destination further afield, Irish travel agents have been providing holidays abroad to the masses for decades. Closer to home, with everything from cruises and memorable family holidays to city breaks and hillwalking, there are so many choices on offer for those looking to holiday on the island of Ireland too. Like many businesses, travel agents have had to adjust to the consumer trends emerging from the advances of modern technology. With a wealth of experience in the travel industry Killiney Travel’s Richard Cullen has seen consumer demands change significantly over the years. “It is nearly unrecognisable from what it was 25 years ago,” says the company founder. “As a tool for efficiency and accuracy, as well as providing a wider scope and choice to offer clients, the internet has been the main driving force of change.” Platinum Travel’s Paula Cross has garnered enormous experience in the travel industry through her work with various companies in Dublin. She is adamant in her belief that the internet has made it easier for travel agents to ensure that clients are getting the best possible experience. “The emergence of new technologies, such as smartphones and apps, allows travellers to access destination route maps at the touch of a button. Modern conveniences, such as online check-in and mobile phone boarding passes, all enhance the service for customers and help in making the booking

Travel Industry  Sector Spotlight

process and travel in general a much more enjoyable experience.” James McManus, Managing Director of Earth’s Edge – Ireland’s first fully licensed adventure travel company – weighs in on the argument. “Many in the travel industry see the advent of the internet, which gives Irish consumers access to travel products from other jurisdictions, as a negative, but I feel competition is a good thing and

James McManus, Managing Director, Earth’s Edge


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Sector Spotlight  Travel Industry

Paul Hackett, Chief Executive, Click & Go


drives Irish companies to be the best in the industry,” he says. One of the leading opportunities emerging from modern technology is the rise in online-only businesses. McManus sees this as a cost-effective and smart way to do business. By operating as an onlineonly one-stop-shop website for adrenaline junkies, Earth’s Edge has reduced costs significantly while “handling the same number of clients with a smaller team”.

Wanderlust A common concern amongst travel agents about the internet is the rise of do-ityourself (DIY) travellers, those who do the research and book independently. While this may have had a negative effect on travel agents in the past, the industry is beginning to see an increase in people returning to the personal touch of a travel agent when organising their dream holiday. Click & Go is one travel agent certainly embracing the DIY customer. With their unique €1 deposit policy, customers can book all the elements of their ideal city getaway or luxurious cruise for less than the price of a cup of coffee. “Our service allows the consumer to maintain the same level of control as if they were ‘DIY-ing’,

we just make it quicker, easier and more convenient,” says Chief Executive Paul Hackett. “Provided we offer great value holidays, make it simple and convenient to book via all channels and offer the customer holidays appropriate to what they want, then digitisation helps, particularly with personalisation.” Platinum Travel offers customers a 24/7 emergency assistance should a client require help whilst travelling, and its customer service even goes beyond business hours with agents often meeting clients at a time convenient to them. “The internet can also be extremely daunting and at times there is almost too much information, but travel agents are trained to look after clients for the entire process,” says Paula Cross. “Booking with a travel agent gives you consumer protection. We invest a lot of time into training and gaining product knowledge. In addition to this we travel extensively worldwide to attend conferences and meet with our tourism partners.” Regarding the challenge to entice DIY internet users, Richard Cullen believes that travel agents need to be aware of the pitfalls that the public fall into and sees the first-hand experience offered by travel agents as a valuable safety net for travellers. “What happens if a flight is delayed and you miss your onward connection?” asks Cullen. “By booking through an agency, customers are only a phone call away from the agent to sort it out. At Killiney Travel, we pride ourselves on our personal touch. Experience, empathy and recommendations are the core values of the independent travel agent.” Earth’s Edge’s James McManus knows that there is a huge amount of planning and preparation required that a ‘DIYer’ might not wish to manage when it comes to organising something as detailed and unusual as an expedition holiday. “We guarantee customers a professionally run expedition with great staff, equipment, accommodation and food,” he says. “We guide customers through an essential ‘120-point checklist’ that covers everything from flights and


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Travel Industry  Sector Spotlight

accommodation to visas and safe drinking water. As an extra assurance, we are also one of the few adventure travel companies in the world that send an expedition leader and doctor on all expeditions.” Social media is another factor that has revolutionised the travel industry. The increased emphasis on social media marketing undoubtedly plays a key role in inspiring customers to engage online. From picture-perfect Instagram photos to Facebook advertisements prompting your next weekend away, travel agents see social media as an essential part of their contemporary marketing strategy. Platinum Travel has reaped rewards after heavily investing in a digital advertising strategy and, similarly, Click & Go use their social media presence to “speak to a larger and younger audience”,

Paula Cross, Platinum Travel

“THE INTERNET CAN ALSO BE EXTREMELY DAUNTING AND AT TIMES THERE IS ALMOST TOO MUCH INFORMATION, BUT TRAVEL AGENTS ARE TRAINED TO LOOK AFTER CLIENTS FOR THE ENTIRE PROCESS.” seeing it as an opportunity to help consumers personalise their holidays in a simple and convenient way. “Social media advertising offers a much greater return than traditional marketing,” adds Earth’s Edge’s James McManus. “Digitalisation allows us to communicate with all stakeholders digitally, significantly reducing costs and our carbon footprint.”

Plucky underdogs Richard Cullen, Killiney Travel


he says. “Experience, empathy and recommendations are the core values of the independent travel agent who can quickly identify a client’s needs and come up with a solution within their budget.” As a small independent travel agency, Platinum Travel is not specifically affiliated to any operator or supplier and its clients can avail of unbiased travel advice. Paula Cross highlights what sets it apart. “We pride ourselves on our friendly service and attention to detail and ensure that each client receives excellent customer service throughout the organisation of their travel arrangements.”

But, just how are small Irish firms competing with the major travel companies based both here and online? “Small firms compete by having a service differentiator,” explains James McManus. “Earth’s Edge provides free training weekends two months before travel, which results in our clients being more prepared for their expedition. We regularly provide our trekkers with the information they need to prepare properly.” Richard Cullen also points to the importance of the personal touch. “The online experience is a black and white one, with no room for the human element,”

“It’s so important to really understand your customer and the market,” adds Paul Hackett. “We have focused on getting the product right and we have grown from zero to selling over 60,000 holidays in Ireland in just eight years.”

Tomorrow’s world Despite considerable challenges, the future looks bright for the travel industry in Ireland. Irish agencies are continuing to evolve, adding new destinations and unique packages to their catalogue all the time as they adjust with market demand. Earth’s Edge is now running a new expedition to K2 Base Camp in Pakistan; Platinum Travel has partnered with three more US states for their stand at the upcoming Holiday World Dublin show in the RDS; Killiney Travel are seeing weekend getaway trends returning as “strongly as it was in ‘Tiger’ days”; and Click & Go has expanded exponentially, with predictions of 20% further growth during 2019. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 21

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16/01/2019 15:43

Small Business Profile  Wicklow Wolf



reland’s craft beer revolution has transformed the way we consume our favourite libations, both in that most Irish of institutions, the pub, and in our purchasing habits across off-licence premises nationwide. Gone are the days when a paltry selection of taps adorned the Irish bar. Now, as well as the multinational brands, there is a wide selection of Irish and international craft beers to indulge in. This sea change in the way we purchase beer is a welcome one, with an estimated 125 microbreweries reported to now operate around the country. However, the independent sector faces an increasing level of competition from the industry’s big players and the threat of closure has become an increasing reality for brewers nationwide in recent times. Wicklow Wolf Brewing Company was established in late 2014 after the meeting of two like-minded friends with a common love of great-tasting beer. Co-owner Quincey Fennelly’s background in the drinks industry spans back to the early 1980s, with notable past employers including Ballygowan, United Beverages and C&C. It wasn’t until his move to the US in 2003 that Fennelly discovered the art of homebrewing. “The beer scene in San Francisco was already thriving and the choice of non-mainstream beers was staggering,” he says. “When I returned to Ireland in 2008, the scene here was still very much in its infancy. That’s when I decided to go professional and set up Wicklow Wolf in 2014 with my business partner Simon Lynch.” The company has gone from strength-to-strength since 2014: its draught beers are now poured daily in 200 pubs nationwide, and a wide range of beautifully branded bottles and cans are available in stores.

Leader OF THE



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Wicklow Wolf  Small Business Profile

Crafty crew

A sustainable future The company’s range of hand-crafted beer is grown from hops on a ten-acre farm in Roundwood in the county known as the Garden of Ireland, Wicklow. The importance of variety and seasonality is an important factor for Fennelly and the brewing company ensures that up to 10% of its limited and seasonal releases each year are considered social health options – either with lower alcohol or a glutenfree alternative. Fennelly describes one of his favourite seasonal brews from the brewing company’s extensive product list. “Harvested from hops in late September

SFA Fact Did You Know?

One in five microbreweries in Ireland has an annual turnover in excess of €1m.

Quincey Fennelly, co-owner, Wicklow Wolf

Hungry like the wolf Wicklow Wolf has embarked on some collaborative adventures with both national and international breweries in recent times. This is a trend that looks like it will continue into the future. “Collaborations are both fun to do and they also expose Wicklow Wolf in other countries through the joint branding,” describes Fennelly. “Recently, we did an Irish coffee porter with Fierce Beer in Aberdeen, Scotland. We’ve also collaborated with Kissmeyer Beer and Brewing in Denmark and, closer to home, with YellowBelly Beer in Wexford.” Currently based in Bray, the company has recently been granted planning permission to construct a new purpose-built brewery in Newtownmountkennedy. Fennelly believes the move will give the company the necessary capacity to upscale and increase sales, while fostering better relationships with suppliers and its consumers. “We’re continually looking to explore new markets and, for me, personally, I would love to see our creations available in all the best craft beer outlets across Europe and beyond. That would be very satisfying. We currently export to Italy, Denmark and France and we will drastically increase our exporting when we move into our new brewery next year,” Fennelly concludes. Alan Rowlette

Irish craft beer consumption has increased in recent times, despite a decline in overall beer consumption. Irish craft beer now accounts for 2.8% of the market, up from 2.5% from the previous year, and the production of craft beer increased by 10.7% during the same period. However, the larger macro breweries have fought back hard with craftstyle offerings and exclusive pouring arrangements, making it increasingly difficult for smaller brewers to compete. Fennelly believes most publicans will continue to offer a range of choice for thirsty punters. “Quality and character will always rise to the top,” he enthuses. “We intend to continue brewing the very best beer that we can and let the quality command the price it deserves.” He continues by offering some words of wisdom to any prospective start-up brewers. “My advice to anybody thinking of starting a craft brewery today would be to think it through carefully,” he states. “It is a very crowded market right now, with lots of very good beer available. There is a lot of pressure on price at present, as some breweries are prepared to sell at unsustainably low price points. Figure out your route to market; if you haven’t that nailed down, don’t do it.”

and early October every year comes a beer called Locavore. This year we brewed two varieties: one with English hop varieties and one with American hop varieties. They are simply called The Top Field and The Bottom Field.” Sustainability is also front and centre to the ethos of a company that has made a commitment to source 80% of its direct raw materials from suppliers with recognised sustainability certifications by 2021. Fennelly explains: “This commitment to sustainability makes us sit up and be responsible for what waste we are producing and the environmental impacts it can have. We recycle everything we possibly can, from the spent malt and hops through to all the packaging.” He continues: “In 2017, we began to monitor our electricity usage at peak times. So we can begin to understand how, where and when we use most of our energy. We are also installing timers to ensure we only use energy when it’s needed.”


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Business  Cover Story

Masters Nutrition OF



eading the charge in making healthy eating accessible and affordable, Sligo-based food company Good4U has been distributing its nutritious sprouts, seeds and pulse-based products to the masses since 2004, and now distributes to nine international markets. The Good4U story began with the seeds of a great idea carefully nurtured by the members of the Butler family to become the success story it is today. All of its products are made with ethically sourced and natural ingredients with nutritional benefits – all put together in the lush surrounds of county Sligo along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. The company is a verified Origin Green member, an acknowledgement of the company’s commitment to achieving sustainability goals in the areas of raw material sourcing, resource management and environmental issues. The company has a rigorous screening policy to ensure all its raw materials are sourced from sustainable sources and that all suppliers adhere to its strict standards. From its very inception, Good4U was inspired by nature and led by science. The vision was always to conquer global markets with products that met consumer need and



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Martina Regan

Cover Story  Business

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Bernie Butler, Managing Director, Good4U


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Business  Cover Story

desire. Today, the company’s products span multiple categories, from snacks such as protein balls and seed and fruit products to salad and breakfast toppers like sprouted, milled and roasted seeds, as well as fruits and pulses. Managing Director Bernie Butler’s first foray into the food business was during the 1980s when she set up her first business making deli products. Since then, she has gone on to front up a market leader in living foods and a major contender in the healthy snack category both in the UK and Ireland. “We want to empower people of all ages to live a healthier life, and to this end we are taking small steps every day to achieve that goal,” says Butler. “We put the consumer at the heart of everything we do by providing innovative functional foods

and Michelle provide invaluable insights vital in the push to drive innovation – Bernie’s youngest daughter Emma has escaped the company’s clutches, for now! Good4U currently employs 48 staff and Butler is grateful for the support she receives from her talented team on a daily basis. “We couldn’t do what we do without the great team we’ve built around us,” she says. “We’re constantly growing the business, and that is testament to everybody’s contribution. And we’ll continue to invest in our people and endeavour to attract even more worldclass professionals to Good4U.” When asked about the challenges of running a family business, Butler is aware of the importance of separating family and business life. “Our mantra is ‘FHT’: family hold tight,” she informs. “Like any

SFA Fact

Did You Know?

84% The UK accounts for

of Good4U’s sales.

“REGARDLESS OF HOW HEALTHY AND FUNCTIONAL A SNACK IS, IF IT DOESN’T PASS OUR TASTE TEST, THEN IT’S BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD.” that are truly healthy, tasty and affordable.” She continues: “Our core strength lies in our innate ability to innovate across all disciplines in the business, from product creation and brand development to achieving accreditation for the highest quality standards. But, regardless of how healthy and functional a snack is, if it doesn’t pass our taste test, then it’s back to the drawing board.”

Family fortunes Like all successful organisations, the strength of Good4U comes from the sum of its parts; all members of the Butler family have their part to play in the company’s accomplishments. Bernie, the matriarch, is supported by her husband Paul, while son Karol and daughters Laura 26 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Cover Story  Business

job, there will be days that are not perfect. However, when we close the door behind us at the end of the day, we go right back into family mode. Having my dearest working with me in the business is what I am most proud of and I feel privileged to work alongside them. Rearing a family that are happy and prepared to work together is an achievement in itself.” The Butler family has been astute in combining its individual skills and education to collectively produce a strategic development plan. “Every member of our family brings a different expertise to the table,” agrees Butler. “Karol is an accountant, while Laura heads up sales and marketing. And Michelle’s background as a dietician and nutritionist means she is the ideal candidate to look after new product developments.”

Laura O’Sullivan, Sales and Marketing Director, Bernie Butler, Managing Director and Karol Butler, Financial Director, Good4U

Competitive market Butler believes you need to be at the top of your game every day to succeed in the fast-moving and competitive food industry. In the domestic market, as well as stocking Google and many other corporate firms and food service outlets, Good4U also supplies Tesco, Dunnes Stores and Supervalu, and is committed to doubling its Irish business this year. She advises any new firms to “do the research before setting up, while also getting the best advice you can from organisations such as Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and your Local Authority”. She adds: “The industry is exciting, but it shows no mercy. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself and trust your instinct.” 2018 saw Good4U pick up two notable

Unchartered territory Even with the potential threats looming large for Irish firms due to Brexit, Butler is bullish about the future. Her immediate focus is to maintain and further develop Good4U’s UK market share. Indeed, the company has already secured three major

“WE’RE CONSTANTLY GROWING THE BUSINESS, AND THAT IS TESTAMENT TO EVERYBODY’S CONTRIBUTION. AND WE’LL CONTINUE TO INVEST IN OUR PEOPLE AND ENDEAVOUR TO ATTRACT EVEN MORE WORLDCLASS PROFESSIONALS TO GOOD4U.” gongs: ‘Exporter of the Year’ at the SFA Awards; and the AIM Awards’ ‘Small Business Marketing’ accolade. “Winning these awards meant so much to everyone involved with the company,” says Butler. “It’s a seal of approval and acknowledgement of a job well done. It’s the ultimate pat on the back and it motivates everyone to keep going.”

Community focus

Martina Regan

Butler. “We believe we do much more to empower people to live healthier lives and, therefore, be happier. We take a holistic approach in developing the four key areas of wellness: nutrition, hydration, movement and mindfulness. We are constantly growing our in-house expertise to support our initiatives with a talented team of nutritionists. In February, our nutritionists begin visiting schools across the country to promote the benefits of healthy eating.”

Through its work within the community, Good4U has embedded itself into the very fabric of the local area, as well as further afield. Whether it’s supporting local or national clubs, sports teams, schools, charities or individuals through Good4U’s healthy snacks or nutritional knowledge, community outreach is what drives the business. “We’re not just a food company that simply produces functional foods,” explains

contracts for 2019 with existing major retailers in the UK. Good4U is also investing in cuttingedge technologies that will improve competitiveness, while the company is already in advanced discussions with a major strategic partner in the UAE. “We know that Brexit presents major challenges to Ireland as a whole, but most especially to the predominantly rural-based food and drink sector,” comments Butler. “It will be challenging for sure. But where there is challenge, there is also opportunity, and in the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’” She concludes: “Since the Brexit vote, our UK sales are up 28%. We’ve secured new business with Asda, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, which will enable us to achieve our 2019 target of increasing our business by 38%.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 27

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Feature  Mentoring

Mentor Method THE



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eing a small business owner brings its own unique set of challenges. The path to success is a long one for small firms and the opportunity to benefit from the insights of an experienced business mentor has become an increasingly attractive one for entrepreneurs today. As a business advisor, trainer and mentor, Dr Ken Germaine has been providing support to businesses for the last 20 years. He knows that the right candidate should possess a mix of both technical and soft skills. “Having the technical skills necessary to assess the business model and look at what the main issues are is obviously essential,” he says. “However, this alone is not enough. Being able to empathise is important and an experience of being self-employed will provide a greater understanding of the mentee’s business.” Through tailored mentorship, Germaine provides his expertise and a fresh point of view to help companies excel. He believes the relationship must be based on trust and respect. “Listening skills are essential and being able to ask the right questions is key,” he states. “But honesty is really important too. Being able to tell the mentee the truth and prevent them from making mistakes, while presenting them with all the options, provides mentees with the breadth of knowledge and understanding that they probably sought out a mentor for in the first place.”

Mentoring  Feature

skills or business growth. It may also be that, as your business develops, the mentor you need and the skills that they possess will change.” At what stage along your career path you are is also a key factor in deciding whether to seek out a mentor to collaborate with. If you are not ready to accept a different opinion, then perhaps you are not ready for a mentor. “Mentors are of most value in addressing specific challenges or blockages in your business model, plan or growth,” declares Germaine. “Having a core mentor who knows you and your business and can help as a trusted advisor is important. However, outside of this, mentors can be of most value in looking at specific issues and helping you work out your own solutions.”


Weighing your options Germaine advises small business owners to firstly seek out all available existing mentor services before looking elsewhere. “Each Local Enterprise Office (LEO) provides either free or heavily subsidised mentor panels,” he says. “Each mentor has been screened by the LEO and there are individuals available with a range of skills across multiple sectors.” He adds: “If your company is engaged in any university incubator programmes, there is usually mentoring provided as part of the programme. You should really start with these sources first.” Looking for mentors beyond these existing services in the private sector should be carried out with careful consideration. “Your mentor should have experience in areas where you have weaknesses, and, thus, the mentee will receive full value from any engagement. Remember that the point of the mentor is to strengthen the mentee’s business model, business

Support systems The rise of coaching and mentoring is a departure from the business world’s traditional style of top-down management. Utilising the services of a suitable mentor can assist you in setting well-defined cultures and goals to optimise company performance. “Business owners and managers come to the table with certain strengths, but also with areas of weakness and will always need support in their entrepreneurial journey,” Germaine informs. “They’ll always need someone to use as a sounding board to help them clarify their mind and work through various challenges. Unlike consultants, mentors provide these necessary solutions to fix problems and help the owners or managers to work through the issues themselves.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 29

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Feature  Female Entrepreneurs




he challenges facing any emerging start-up business can be tough to overcome, but these challenges are magnified in rural areas where access to broadband, a smaller customer base and an ever-shrinking talent pool can make it difficult to get up and running. The disparity between facilities in urban and rural areas has widened in recent decades. Many of rural Ireland’s brightest and best migrate to urban cities or emigrate overseas, resulting in a shortage of potential entrepreneurs in rural communities. Ireland’s growing urban-rural divide has also created difficulties in terms of the demand for local services, while a lack of investment in road, rail and other infrastructure has hindered the capacity to compete for industrial investment. ACORNS, which

stands for accelerating the creation of rural nascent start-ups, is an initiative focusing on early stage female entrepreneurs based in rural Ireland. Based on a belief that entrepreneurs learn best from each other, the programme is centred around interactive round-table sessions that are facilitated by female mentors, known as Lead Entrepreneurs, who have successfully grown businesses in rural Ireland. Never has the need to invest in the future of rural Ireland been more pressing and the initiative has gone from strength-to-strength since the pilot was started with less than 50 participants in 2015. Almost 160 early stage entrepreneurs in rural Ireland are now actively being supported by the programme. This number will be added to each year as a new intake of early stage entrepreneurs are selected and a further development phase is offered to those who have completed their initial cycle.


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Female Entrepreneurs  Feature

Dr Anne Cusack, Managing Director, Critical Healthcare



A previous SFA Innovation Award winner, Critical Healthcare Managing Director Dr Anne Cusack not only continues to drive growth in her own business, but now also finds time to support early stage entrepreneurs on a completely voluntary basis. As co-founder of Critical Healthcare, Cusack is a vital component in the delivery of a comprehensive range of emergency medical products and SaaS to ambulance service providers across Ireland, the UK and Europe. The business is growing by over 20% annually and Cusack’s commitment to driving innovation makes her the perfect candidate to motivate early stage female entrepreneurs located in rural Ireland. Cusack is passionate about the delivery of a support network to establish good foundations for new femaleled ventures, equipping them with the necessary entrepreneurship skills to develop sustainable businesses. “Besides the normal challenges that all entrepreneurs face,” she says, “those located in rural areas also have to contend with issues associated with broadband availability, isolation, a lower adjacent customer base, restricted access to a suitable labour pool, additional transport and logistic costs, as well as the limited availability of childcare. However, Lead Entrepreneurs like myself demonstrate through our actions that a business located in rural Ireland can be successful.” The culture underpinning the ACORNS initiative is backed by a spirit of confidentiality, collaboration, peer support and monthly reporting towards the achievement of self-declared

goals and milestones. Cusack and the other Lead Entrepreneurs are central to the selection of successful candidates. “There are usually many more applicants looking to participate on a cycle of ACORNS than there are places available. Accordingly, the selection process is competitive,” Cusack explains. “Lead Entrepreneurs seek those who are prepared to fully engage with the programme, demonstrate a determination to advance their fledging businesses, and are prepared to work hard in pursuit of their entrepreneurial goals. Favourable consideration is given to those who expect to grow their business and to employ others over the following three years.” Cusack points to a culture of dialogue and teamwork in place at ACORNS. “Three cycles have been completed and a fourth is currently underway. Each of these cycles start and end with a residential developmental forum,” she explains. “Besides the opportunity to explore common themes in-depth, this gives the opportunity for everyone to network and get to know each other on a personal basis. This reduces psychological isolation, applies good peer pressure and keeps participants focused on the achievement of goals.” Cusack clearly revels in her role within an organisation with an ethos of collaboration at its core. She says: “To see the participants grow in confidence and, as a result, become successful in business is incredible. There have been journeys that have resulted in kitchen table experiments progressing to fully functional shops, ideas transforming into online businesses and market stall traders establishing food production units with wholesale customers and retailers. Knowing that I might have played a tiny role in helping to make that happen is hugely satisfying and rewarding.” Unsurprisingly, the passionate healthcare entrepreneur wholeheartedly endorses the programme as a helping hand in the competitive world of business. “Having that peer mentoring and accountability is so important and I’d encourage anyone who does qualify to partake in ACORNS to apply. Then, looking forward, believe in what you are doing, stay with it and think big. If you can verbalise your goals, you can achieve them,” she concludes.


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Feature  Female Entrepreneurs

ARANTXA LOPEZ Hailing from Northern Spain, Arantxa Lopez’s affinity with Burdoran and its people has blossomed since she first visited the seaside town at the age of 15 to learn English. How apt that today, along with her brother Mikel, the Spanish entrepreneur runs two language-based companies from headquarters in the northwest of Ireland. Her first venture, ID Languages, provides a more efficient and enjoyable way to learn a new language by teaching through drama and dance. The company began trading in 2014 and now offers a wide range of Bundoran-based, as well as online, language programmes. In 2016, the Lopez siblings set up ID Translation, which has a database of over 260 freelance translators and interpreters providing high-quality translation services to customers worldwide. Initially, most customers came to the company from overseas, but it started acquiring Irish customers this year through the networking opportunities offered by ACORNS. Lopez believes the programme gives participants an understanding of the essential structures needed for doing business. “When we set up our businesses, we did so because Mikel and I were experts in our field, but neither of us had a strong business background,” she says. “I completed my first phase of the ACORNS programme in April 2018 and have already committed to the next phase as I’ve found it to be great for networking, and in providing me with continued business training.” A sense of camaraderie is evident amongst the budding businesswomen who

Arantxa López, Director, ID Languages

“WE LIFT EACH OTHER WHEN WE ARE IN DIFFICULTY, AS WELL AS WHEN WE SUCCEED.” undertake the programme. “We lift each other when we are in difficulty, as well as when we succeed,” admits Lopez. “So much of our business this year has come from other ACORNS participants referring customers to us, and we have returned the favour by recommending their businesses to potential customers.”

During 2018 Lopez attended a trade mission to Philadelphia with the Donegal Local Enterprise Office and the company has tripled its sales in the last year on the back of entering US and Irish markets. Lopez is optimistic about the company’s prospects. “Our intention is to develop a structure that can reproduce itself when

needed for big tenders and private contracts. We already collaborate with six full-time contractors and we have plans to employ one full-time manager too. We hope to double this number by the end of 2019.” Lopez concludes by offering a nugget of advice to aspiring early stage businesses. “Avail of the help that exists and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. To start is the most important thing. It doesn’t have to be a huge operation at the beginning, but you can’t grow without setting up.”


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Female Entrepreneurs  Feature

KAREN KEANE Bean and Goose co-founder Karen Keane is no stranger to the lure of chocolate, having held an affinity with the decadent indulgence since she was a child. But upon returning home to Wexford from London after working in the IT sector, the unlikely move into the sweet treat sector began to become less unlikely when she, along with her sister Natalie, took steps to learn how to temper chocolate. And, today, Bean and Goose’s speciality craft chocolate bars and truffles using single origin chocolate, herbs and spices to create unique flavours are stocked in more than 70 stores across Ireland. Keane explains how her love of chocolate deepened upon her return to Ireland. “Natalie and I were both at a point in our lives where we were ready to take on a new challenge,” she says. “Natalie had become interested in premium chocolate and enrolled both of us

Karen Keane, co-founder, Bean and Goose Chocolate

“RUNNING A RURAL BUSINESS CAN BE ISOLATING, SO HAVING A NETWORK OF WOMEN THAT UNDERSTAND THIS AND SHARE THE SAME EXPERIENCES AS YOU MAKES YOU FEEL THAT YOU ARE PART OF A COMMUNITY OF LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE.” on a course with Benoit Lorge in Kerry where we learnt the art of hand tempering chocolate on marble slabs. We loved this process and began exploring the possibility of working together in this area.” Beyond that, the driven entrepreneurial sisters wanted to create a relevant and beautiful chocolate brand that connected with today’s consumers, both in flavour profile and branding. In 2016, after two years of preparation, they realised that there was a place in the market for their product. Keane describes how ACORNS assisted the company during its early stages. “ACORNS is a fantastic programme providing mentorship and support for female business owners based in rural locations,” declares Keane. “During the programme you meet up as an entire group at the beginning and end of the year for a twoday workshop. My Lead Entrepreneur was Mary B. Walsh, owner of Ire Wel Pallets, the leading timber-packaging supplier in Ireland.

It is a forum to set goals and discuss all aspects of your business in a supportive environment.” She continues: “Running a rural business can be isolating, so having a network of women that understand this and share the same experiences as you makes you feel that you are part of a community of like-minded people. It can be difficult to get out and meet people, as you spend so much time working in your business. Within our round-table groups we use WhatsApp to keep in touch and update each other on what’s going on. We also have a Facebook community for all ACORNS members to use. Outside of that we all follow each other’s businesses on social media and connect and support each other that way.” At present, Bean and Goose is a leading luxury chocolate gifting brand that blends the best of Irish ingredients with the world’s finest single origin chocolate. Keane is intent on delivering a joyous experience for the modern customer. “We deliver this through putting beautiful, well-balanced and carefully made chocolate gift products into the world,” she enthuses. “Working with Irish designers and by taking inspiration from our Irish surroundings we create a range of gifts that will always be innovative, full of storytelling and designed for all the senses.” Keane has no background in business, or with the food industry. “I’m not sure that this has been a hindrance,” she says. “I feel it may actually allow us to create a food brand that isn’t constrained by preconceived notions of the right or the wrong way to grow a food company.” She believes the best advice for any aspiring female entrepreneur is to grab opportunities when they arise. “Contact your Local Enterprise Office and find out all the supports that are available to you,” says Keane. “Connect with other businesses in your area and network with them and do not be afraid to ask for advice. You would be surprised how many people out there are in the same position as you and sometimes just sharing your experience is all you need to push through the hard times.”


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Feature  Female Entrepreneurs

LISA LARKIN As a mother of four young children, Lisa Larkin was always on the lookout for healthy and nutritious food. The discovery of sprouted grains, which are more easily digested and provide added health benefits compared to whole grains, was a revelation for Larkin and in March 2016 the aspiring entrepreneur became the first person in Ireland to produce sprouted flour with the formation of Durrow Mills. “Durrow Mills was set up as a gap was identified in the market for sprouted flour,” explains Larkin. “The company specialises in the production of organic sprouted flours and is primarily an ingredients company to supply the baking industry. There is also a range of branded retail products that are sold direct to the consumer through retailers and we are currently stocked in over 70 stores nationwide.”

Lisa Larkin, co-founder, Durrow Mills


Getting a new business off the ground has its challenges and Larkin credits ACORNS for helping her drive the business forward. “I have no background in business, but thankfully I was accepted and attended the full programme before going on to complete further followon cycles. You are divided up into groups of eight or less and assigned a Lead Entrepreneur. You then meet up every four to six weeks to set goals and discuss the various challenges you are experiencing. It is an amazing structure and was really beneficial in assisting me with the business, particularly as I was working alone in an early stage venture.” By engaging with other women in business, she was able to bounce ideas and problems and create milestones for the company. “Having a peer-based support network removes the isolation and allows strong bonds to be formed among the group,” she declares. “I credit ACORNS for getting me through the day-to-day rollercoaster of setting up a business. We are now the only company in Ireland and the UK producing sprouted flours, which I am very proud of. ACORNS was a major element in achieving this goal.” Larkin is keenly aware of the difficulties of setting up and running a business, particularly within a rural area, and is well-positioned to offer advice to similar early stage start-ups. She explains: “My one piece of advice if starting a business is that if you are passionate about something, even if you have no background in the area, just go for it. It is a complete rollercoaster and one of the most difficult things to do, so grab all the supports possible like ACORNS to help you along the journey.” Looking to the future, Durrow Mills is looking to expand its range of products and begin exporting into Europe. “Expansion is something we are actively working on at the moment. It is very exciting and something that could not have been achieved without the help and support of my ACORNS group, my Lead Entrepreneurs and programme Director Paula Fitzsimons.”


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16/01/2019 11:24

State Pensions  Feature

Rainy day



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Feature  State Pensions


he Irish pensions system is changing. Today, there are over four people working for every pensioner in the country. By the year 2055, it’s estimated that there will be only two and a half people working for every pensioner. At the same time, only one-third of all private sector workers in Ireland have a pension of any kind. After retirement, the cost of supporting these people will likely fall entirely on the State. The State pension is not funded by past contributions made by today’s pensioners, but is instead funded by the taxes and social insurance contributions of today’s workers. Thanks to those changing demographics, this will not be sustainable in the long term. Under the current projections, the Government estimates that the Social Insurance Fund could accumulate a deficit of up to €400bn over the next 50 years. To tackle these serious financial challenges, the Government has proposed a set of pension reforms, due to kick in from 2022.

you would generally choose from a multitude of private pension options, either through your bank or another financial advisor. The variety of available options, and the complexity in terms of contribution requirements, tax relief and drawdown scheduling contribute to the fact that only a minority of private sector workers ever set up their own pension.

Balancing act By auto-enrolling workers, the government hopes to streamline the process of saving for retirement – making it easier and more accessible, particularly for workers on lower wages and in less secure work, who are least likely to have a pension of their own. Workers would have the freedom to opt out of the scheme, but only for a short window in the first year. “Employees outside the age-limits and earnings minimum can opt in if they wish, as can self-employed individuals,” says Kenny. “The proposal recommends that members would have to start with a 1% of earnings contribution [in 2022], and that increases by 1% per

“THE AUTO-ENROLMENT FACILITY THAT IS BEING PROPOSED WOULD MEAN THAT ALL EMPLOYEES AGED BETWEEN 23 AND 60 EARNING OVER €20,000 WOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED INTO A PENSION SCHEME FROM THE DAY THAT THEY START SERVICE.” Consultations between the Government and business representatives are still ongoing, but these proposals include an overhaul in how contributions towards the State pension are calculated, and also an auto-enrolment scheme that will fundamentally change the pension landscape in this country. “The auto-enrolment facility that is being proposed would mean that all employees aged between 23 and 60 earning over €20,000 would be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme, from the day that they start service,” says Helen Kenny, Director of O’Leary Life. “They must contribute to this pension scheme, the employer must contribute, and the State will contribute. The contributions would be deducted at source through payroll. There is an earnings limit of €75,000 and anyone who falls within the above criteria who doesn’t have any existing pension arrangement would automatically be enrolled. There would be potentially 410,000 workers that would qualify. In countries like the UK, New Zealand and Australia, auto-enrolment has already been introduced and there’s been a huge take-up.” Right now, if you want to save for your retirement and you don’t have an occupational pension already,

annum to a maximum of 6% [in 2027]. Employer contributions would have to match that up to an earnings limit of €75,000. Employer contributions are deductible for corporation tax purposes.” She continues: “Under the proposal, the State would contribute €1 for every €3 contributed by an employee, again to a maximum of €75,000. It’s a defined contribution model, so everyone has his or her own personal fund, or pension fund account. It is designed that it would move with them if they changed employer.” According to Kenny, most occupational pension schemes, where employee contributions are matched by employer contributions, currently operate as ‘three and three’ – 3% from the employer, 3% from the employee. The rates differ, but between 3% and 5% would be the norm, with increased levels for senior management and other executive positions. One of Kenny’s concerns is that the contribution rate of 6% might be too high for some people, particularly those at the lower end of the salary scale and new entrants to the workforce. “It’s a difficult one to balance,” says Kenny. “Autoenrolment aims for the least amount of opt-out as possible,


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State Pensions  Feature


Helen Kenny, Director, O’Leary Life

so is that 6% personal contribution just that little bit too high? It is quite a chunky amount out of their pay, so that is one concern. The second thing is, the suggestion that if you’re a new employee in 2022, you start at 1%. But if you join service in 2024, you go straight in at 3%. If you join in 2027, you go straight in at 6%, so again, is it a high figure to be talking to new entrants about immediately upon joining? And is it going to be worked in by employers as a cost or as part of their salary package?”

Costs and concerns The reforms will also have a huge impact on employers, who will be tasked with implementing the changes to their payments systems, and will likely see the cost of labour increase to boot. “The Government’s intention is not to put up the cost for businesses, rather to make auto-enrolment as easy as possible for employers to manage, but that is going to be challenging,” states Kenny. “For smaller

businesses and one-person companies, it is going to be a package that they’re going to have to build into their payroll. Employer contributions will have to match the member contribution to 6% of earnings. This will naturally drive up labour costs. Could it affect the economy at large? Will employers not give salary increases to allow for the pension contribution instead?” Kenny goes on to list a number of other concerns. “If an employee opts out of the scheme, will the employer’s contributions be refunded? If the economy goes through a difficult patch, will there be a facility for pausing or reducing contributions? How will the changes affect those just outside the income requirements? How can benefits be drawn down at retirement? Will yet another pension structure further complicate the pension landscape?”

A broken model

participation from all parties and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, a series of questions on the operational and design features of automatic enrolment were debated. There are still many questions that will have to be answered before the plan is finalised. With the changes due to kick in from 2022, there’s just three years to bring everybody on board. For such sweeping changes, it’s not a lot of time. There is, however, a sense that what we have now is not working, and change is necessary. “There’s definitely a consensus that auto-enrolment, in some form, is required because there is a large cohort of workers who just don’t have any cover,” believes Kenny. “There’s two-thirds who haven’t engaged to date, so it’s a broken model from that point of view.”

5 Top Pension Tips • Join your workplace pension, especially if your employer contributes • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from friends and co-workers • Set up a monthly payment, and steadily increase it as your wages go up • Use the expertise of an independent financial advisor • Plan for the reality of inflation

Following a series of regional consultation seminars around the country with active SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 37

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16/01/2019 11:25

Interview  Sonia Deasy

Sonia Deasy, co-founder, Pestle & Mortar

Under THE



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n increase in disposable income levels and consumer confidence has led to beauty and personal care retail firms posting healthy sales figures during 2018. The eternal crusade for youthful skin shows no sign of a drop-off and a new cohort of Irish firms have emerged on the scene in recent times. Based in Kildare, one such example is Pestle & Mortar: a family-made and run business based on the provision of hydrated and healthy looking skin. A varied background in business has been beneficial to co-founder and recent recipient of the Image Businesswoman of the Year award Sonia Deasy along her

16/01/2019 11:25

Sonia Deasy  Interview

entrepreneurial journey. “I come from a self-employed family and I’ve always been involved in business,” she says. “I’ve never known anything else really – it’s a way of life for me. After completing my degree, I worked as a buyer for a fashion wholesale business. After I married, I ran my husband’s portrait photography business with him, organising professional workshops around the world.” It was during Deasy’s time working in the portrait photography business that she discovered a gap in the skincare market for what has become Pestle & Mortar’s range of anti-ageing products. “I noticed how dry and dull a lot of the subjects’ skin looked close up,” explains Deasy. “I was also travelling a lot at the time, and I was frustrated that there didn’t seem to be a simple and effective skincare range on the market.” She continues: “Coming from six generations of Indian herbalists, the obvious solution for me was to research

Sonia Deasy was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the Image Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2018

and develop my own brand of skincare. I wanted to combine nature and science to create no-fuss skincare solutions that would suit all skin types and provide antiageing benefits. Hence, Pestle & Mortar!”

Screen time Natural healing principles were instilled in Deasy from a young age and every ingredient matters for the mother of six. Each of Pestle & Mortar’s products have passed the famously strict European skincare standards and the firm has adopted an intelligent method where all its products are formulated as stand-alone products free of harsh chemicals. Deasy’s ambitions to grow Pestle & Mortar into worldwide markets culminated in an appearance on the US flagship shopping channel, QVC. Deasy describes how the appearance came about. “My first appearance came about largely through hard work to be honest. You need a certain

“BEAUTY AND SKINCARE ARE NOW CONSIDERED PART OF OVERALL WELLNESS AND HEALTH – THAT IS THE ONE MAJOR AND CONTINUOUS EVOLUTION THAT I HAVE WITNESSED.” level of set-up in place in order to meet the show’s demands and the first time around I was really nervous. It was live US television and you literally have seven or eight minutes to sell your product. Luckily, we sold out and I’ve been asked back lots of times. It gets easier each time, but the live part still freaks me out!”

New markets Innovative brands like Pestle & Mortar have played a significant role in the upsurge in Ireland’s beauty industry, and antiaging products are predicted to see good retail value growth over the foreseeable future. Deasy discusses how the skincare industry has evolved since the company was set up in 2014. “Beauty and skincare are now considered part of overall wellness and health – that is the one major and continuous evolution that I have witnessed,” she informs. “People are definitely more educated with regard to skincare, and social responsibility has become an increasingly important factor for customers who demand cruelty-free brands and recyclable packaging.” Looking to the future, Pestle & Mortar will continue to add to its range of products. The company recently launched in Denmark with distributor Vntycase, and Deasy is planning further international expansion during 2019. “We have new distributors lined up across the globe and we plan to consistently grow and deliberately improve,” she explains. “For me, on a personal level, I’m quite content at the moment. I’m healthy, busy and I love my work. My children are happy and I have a rich family life. I plan to concentrate on appreciating all of that and see where it takes me – 2019 is going to busy!” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 39

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16/01/2019 15:48

Advice  Wise Guys




EDUCATION Sonya MurphyLyons

Director, Mezzo Music Academy Running a successful music academy involves daily interaction with students, teachers and parents. It is vital for us to understand the importance of creating a warm and nurturing environment to enhance their musical journey. In order to achieve this, you must surround yourself with a great team. I work very closely with my team of teachers, encouraging them to share teaching experiences together. Being perceptive and matching students with the most suitable teacher depending on their personalities and goals is also pivotal, because the rapport between teacher and student is crucial to the musical development of our students.


ACCOUNTING Caitriona Allis

Head, ACCA Ireland My advice is to surround yourself with people who support your ambitions – both at work and at home. I am a true believer in the value of developing a trusted community of people that you can turn to for advice, guidance and inspiration. When I’m faced with a difficult problem or want feedback on an idea, I go to my network and ask someone. Furthermore, I believe the secret to lifelong success is lifelong learning. There is often a temptation to maintain the status quo, but I believe a commitment to growth, learning and evolving always pays off.


BEAUTY Joanne Browne Founder, Jo Browne

We all need people to motivate us to keep going when the inevitable challenges arise. I draw on inspiration from Richard Branson to give me the necessary determination and courage. If someone offers you an amazing opportunity, and you’re not sure you can do it, say ‘yes’, and learn how to do it later. This will take you out of your comfort zone and will be critical in building your business. I move out of my comfort zone on a daily basis and it works for me!

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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16/01/2019 11:25

Wise Guys  Advice

“Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, have confidence in your abilities and don’t let the bastards get you down.”


Bedding David Briody Director, Briody Bedding

Try to control as many aspects of your business as possible. If you can do this, you will help ensure your business offers quality products at quality price points. We made a decision sometime ago that we wanted to control as much of the manufacturing process as possible in-house. We invested heavily in technology, which allowed us to manufacture the core product that goes into all our mattresses. Today, we control all aspects of the manufacturing process, from raw material right up to the final delivery of the finished product into the retailers warehouse.

If you are a business leader


RETAIL Joe Sweeney

Owner, Newscentre, Donaghmede Shopping Centre Retailing is a constantly changing business and competition is fierce. Customer loyalty is achieved by having welltrained and informed staff that treat every customer as king and with respect at all times. Make sure your staff are always informed and updated on all services, products and offers so that they effectively deal with all queries. This gives customers the confidence to trust your staff and service, and, in turn, earns their loyalty.

Michael Bloomberg

(February 14 1942-present) American businessman, politician and author



CEO, OSSM Cloud Staying up-to-date with innovations has guided me well in business. For me, it’s about identifying trends and then looking at the application to Irish businesses. However, with cutting-edge technology, I have learned the importance of timing. Introducing the right thing at just the right time is crucial, introducing it at the wrong time can be disastrous. These learnings tie into the OSSM Cloud mantra of ‘right first time’.

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


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16/01/2019 11:26

Tips  Retaining Staff

Brian F. Smyth, Managing Director, Maybe International

e l p o e P e er th





While people are individuals, they will perform better when they feel part of something greater: a team that depends on them and in which they depend on. Create and build teams that will inspire and encourage others to achieve great things.



It can be tempting to control, play it safe and avoid taking risks. But, risk and reward ride side-by-side. Avoid one, and the other passes you by. There are few better gifts you can give your staff than to trust them and give them the freedom to think, act and manage for themselves.

Paint a Picture



Human beings welcome challenge. It is what helps us grow and it brings out the best in us. Avoid the danger of over-managing, over planning and taking the challenge out of work, thereby robbing people of what they crave and love. Constantly expose people to new challenges.



People want to feel they are important across every aspect of life. It is easy to forget this and inadvertently cause people to feel undervalued. Giving real attention to people does require constant effort and some skill, but it will give your employees a real sense of importance that they may not find elsewhere in their lives.

Make sure your key people see that there is a meaningful future for them as individuals in the organisation. Be realistic and honest about this and your people will truly believe it.



Including and involving people in any enterprise not only makes them feel good about themselves, it makes staff feel more involved. People are reluctant to leave what they have helped to build, what is, in fact, theirs.



Individuals can slip into false opinions of themselves and stop believing in their real potential. Expect more from your staff than they do of themselves and help them to reach new levels of achievement and fulfilment as professionals and people.

Be Appreciative Pay and rewards are important, of course, but nothing will replace the need to have our good work recognised for what it is.


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16/01/2019 11:28

Trading Places  Interview


green shoots hope T Martin O’Brien at Foxbury Farms


he recent legalisation of recreational cannabis in California has unleashed a wave of new opportunities for those within the industry. Things have progressed exponentially since 1996, when medical marijuana was legalised through a collective model whereby patients pooled resources to cultivate and distribute cannabis for medical SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 43

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16/01/2019 11:30

Interview  Trading Places

use amongst themselves. This collective model paved the way for those looking to open dispensaries. Today, adults aged over 21 can possess a limited amount of the medicine and can grow up to six marijuana plants at home. The mass production of cannabis is fast-becoming an industry worth billions of dollars. Martin O’Brien has been a central figure and political activist in the crusade for legalisation. His career in business has been an interesting one. Upon arriving to the US in 1990 as a bricklayer, O’Brien soon established himself as a leading promoter and event manager in the underground rave scene exploding throughout California through a club night called The Gathering. His close social circle included some influential business people and with the support of allies such as Denis Peron, Debbie Goldsbury and Don Duncan, O’Brien set about opening what has become the world’s longest-running medical cannabis dispensary in 2001. The early years were fraught with difficulty for Patients Care Collective (PCC). “All our operations were federally illegal before the new legislation was passed in January 2018,” says O’Brien. “I’d get up at 6am every day during the early years and hope we hadn’t been raided by the DEA. For a few years we did many protests at the Federal Building in Oakland, as people were raided regularly. We formed the organisation, Americans For Safe Access, out of Berkeley, which led all these protests to protect patients’ rights for safe access to medicine. We were very much patient-focused during stage one of the business and a lot of our patients initially were AIDS, HIV and cancer patients.” O’Brien became empowered from seeing first-hand the benefits cannabis could provide to patients time and time again. “People need access to clean medicine. That’s what PCC, Foxworthy Farms and our new California Cannabis Distribution Company (CCDC) is focused on. Whether it’s selling to adults for recreational or medical use, we’re all about patient-focused medicine. That’s what I see for the future.”

New legislation Although O’Brien has welcomed the rollout of the new legislation, he believes the plethora of stumbling blocks awaiting prospective players looking to succeed in the

Martin O’Brien at Foxbury Farms

cannabis industry is particularly daunting. The tax regime, combined with complex rules and regulations about growing, distributing and selling cannabis in the state can be a minefield, while attorneys’ fees, security upgrades and increasing operating costs are proving challenging for many. Only companies that can manage the necessary infrastructure and compliance investment will be able to pounce on the potential lucrative rewards. O’Brien’s business partner and fellow Irishman David Bowers is the Compliance Officer

and “the master of keeping us legit and ahead of the game” says the entrepreneurial businessman.

A family affair Although there has been growing acceptance that cannabis can be beneficial in alleviating chronic pain, O’Brien has experienced considerable push-back from certain quarters. “The new law has definitely changed the scope of things. And many farms in the state are still operating illegally. There were


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Trading Places  Interview


“As cannabis farming is still federally illegal, I definitely feel discriminated against. Everyone here thinks you’re loaded if you grow weed, but that’s not the case. I’m the lowest-paid CEO within the Californian cannabis industry, hands-down. Everything we earn goes back into the company to make us more successful. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m an emigrant, but I see our team as a family. There are 60 of us now between the two dispensaries, the farm, and CCDC. We operate a shared economy, and our employees are constantly moving up the chain. We see ourselves as a company of the future: patient-focused, with shared ownership and healthcare being made available.

An Irish problem

OG Kush

UK Cheese Foxworthy Farm Cannabis range

689 – mainly outdoor – cultivation farms complained upon in Sonoma County during 2018. Only 24 of these are legal operations. Unfortunately, a lot of family farms and genetic strains have struggled to adapt to the new legislation and have gone by the

wayside. I still regularly see helicopters over the hills from us drop down on other cannabis farms to chop everything down.” He adds: “Politically, California is half red and half blue: you’re never far away from a hippy or a redneck!” O’Brien jokes.

O’Brien is adamant there is only one factor that will lead to the nationwide legality of cannabis in the US. “Money is the major influence,” he states. “US corporations have been waiting to get in on this action for years. Interestingly, a law was shoehorned in recently banning Canadians from investing in the cannabis industry.” Does he feel legalising the drug as a medicine would be of any worth in an Irish context? “People in Ireland should be able to legally access cannabis,” declares O’Brien. “It needs to be clean and tested cannabis, free from pesticides. My goal is to help bring cannabis to Ireland as quickly as I can in whatever way possible. If, through our resources, we can help those people already doing great work in legalising cannabis, that’s where I want to be.” He adds: “Everyone in Ireland should be able to avail of it. Who knows what will happen? All I know is that I will be putting every effort and energy into the process.” For now, the entrepreneur feels at home in California. Regarded as a haven for liberal thought and action, his home city of Berkeley is a good fit for the outspoken Irishman. O’Brien is appreciative of the opportunities he has been provided with and is “primed and ready” for whatever changes come down the line. “Berkeley has always been welcoming and we’ve just taken over a new facility here for CCDC. We already have the manufacturing licence and in four to six months we should be up and running in the same facility. This means we are a vertically integrated ‘seed to sale’ company,” he concludes. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 45

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16/01/2019 11:30

SFA Policy  Insurance

Legislative Leadership



n August, the Government published the Personal Injuries Board (PIAB) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2018. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the existing legislation to strengthen PIAB in terms of operational issues to ensure greater compliance with the PIAB process and encourage more claims to be settled through the PIAB model. This Bill is part of ongoing work in the area of insurance reform currently being undertaken by Government through the Cost of Insurance Working Group and the Personal Injuries Commission. During the second stage reading of the Bill, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said: “I am very aware of the serious impact on businesses of high insurance costs and other costs of doing business. Encouraging more claimants to finalise their cases through the PIAB model, rather than by resorting to litigation, should lead to cost savings in the claims environment. This would be good for businesses, consumers and society as a whole by delivering compensation more quickly with lower costs and predictable outcomes.”

INSURANCE AWARDS The PIAB facilitate a fair and transparent personal injuries assessment process in which claims are resolved at a low delivery cost and in a timely and non-adversarial manner. According to PIAB data, 33,114 new personal injury claims were submitted to PIAB in 2017. The average time to assess a personal injury claim was 7.3 months, compared to several years if litigation is involved. PIAB makes awards in approximately 12,000 cases annually, with around 60% of claimants accepting them. Award acceptance is not compulsory as making it so would impinge on the constitutional right of access to justice delivered by the courts. In making its awards, PIAB uses the book of quantum so that awards reflect what is likely to be achieved through litigation but at a much lower cost of delivery. The average PIAB award in 2017 was €24,879. Award values vary depending on the nature and severity of cases received. The SFA acknowledges that the PIAB model continues to deliver major benefits, by providing a low-cost, quick and fair option in injury compensation and supports reform to strengthen this model.


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16/01/2019 11:30

Insurance  SFA Policy


The main provisions of the Bill include: ■ clarifying the documents required from a claimant before a

formal notice seeking consent to an assessment will be issued to a respondent; ■ ensuring early notification of incomplete claims to respondents; ■ providing the Board with discretion not to make an assessment in certain situations where the resolution of the claim is being delayed while with the Board’s process; ■ ensuring consistency in the application of limitation periods within the process; ■ addressing issues relating to non-cooperation, such as nonattendance at medicals and failure to provide details of special damages or loss of earnings; ■ providing that the Book of Quantum will be published every three years and providing PIAB with the power to obtain information from any person or body to fulfil its functions; ■ changes to the composition of the Board membership and tenure of members in line with Government policy that more Board positions are filled through and the Public Appointments Service process; ■ providing for different levels of fees to be levied by PIAB on claimants and respondents for the submission of electronic and paper formats of documents; and ■ enabling PIAB to serve documents electronically or through a document exchange mail service, thus modernising and expediting the administrative process.

The SFA welcomes this practical and important legislation and is encouraged to see that noncompliance with the PIAB process is being recognised and addressed within this Bill. The Bill proposes introducing a deterrent in any subsequent legal proceedings in terms of legal costs whereby the court may, in its discretion, considering any failure to comply, make an order on what costs, if any, it will allow the claimant. The court can also order the claimant to pay all or a portion of the costs of the respondent. The Bill also provides a deterrent regarding legal costs for non-compliance by a respondent to a request by an assessor for information or documents or to assist or cooperate with retained experts. The court may, in its discretion, consider any failure to comply, make an order on what costs, if any, it will allow a respondent. The SFA believes this proposal would maximise the use of the PIAB model, encourage higher levels of consent to assess claims and increase acceptance rates of awards. Overall, we welcome the recommendations made in this Bill, however, the SFA is disappointed that under the proposed change to the composition of the Board, Irish business will no longer have a nominated representative on the Board. As it currently stands, Ibec nominates one person to the Board, but the proposed change would see appointments made following a Public Appointments Service process. PIAB does not investigate fraudulent or exaggerated claims. Therefore, this issue, which is of great concern to small business owners, must be tackled through additional legislation or reform. The Cost of Insurance Working Group supported by the Personal Injuries Commission have called for the establishment of an Irish Garda Fraud Investigation Bureau. The SFA understands that discussions on the creation of such a Bureau are ongoing between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Garda Commissioner. The SFA welcomes this recommendation, as it will discourage and prevent exaggerated or fraudulent claims from being pursued and settled. The SFA has lobbied for reform in the Irish insurance market and associated personal injury claims regime for decades. We welcome the most recent CSO figures for October 2018, which indicate that private motor insurance premia have decreased by 22.9% since peaking in July 2016, but we would like to see the PIAB Bill enacted quickly, and the recommendations made in the reports by the Personal Injuries Commission and the Cost of Insurance Working Group on the cost of Motor Insurance and Public and Employer Liability implemented without further delay. The SFA will continue to work on behalf of members to secure these much-needed reforms. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 47

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16/01/2019 11:30

HR  Annual Leave

DAYS OF OUR LIVES GET UP TO SPEED ON THE COMMON AND NOT SO COMMON ANNUAL LEAVE AND PUBLIC HOLIDAY ENTITLEMENTS ACROSS ALL EMPLOYMENT SCENARIOS. It can prove tricky to navigate annual leave and public holiday entitlements for the variety of employment scenarios that arise from managing full-time, part-time and variable work patterns, through to juggling multiple types of family and other types of leave. This is extra-challenging for small businesses that do not have a dedicated HR person to manage this area.

Whilst the employer determines when the employee can take their annual leave, it is important to note that the employer has a legal obligation to ensure their employees take their statutory annual leave within the leave year. If that is not possible, they must take their annual leave within six months of the following leave year. Other pointers that businesses should be aware of in relation to annual leave include:

Annual leave entitlements

• If they want employees to use their annual leave for a specific time in the year, for example a company shutdown, they must give employees at least one month’s written notice, but ideally the notice period should be longer.

The Organisation of Working Time Act provides holiday and public holiday entitlements to all employees, whether they are full-time, part-time, temporary, casual, or a temporary agency worker. There is no qualifying period for annual leave and it is calculated based upon the number of hours worked. The annual leave entitlement, based on the statutory 20 days, can be calculated using one of the following methods: 1 If an employee works 1,365 hours

or more in the leave year, they are entitled to four working weeks annual leave. 2 If an employee works less than 1,365 hours in the leave year, there are two ways to calculate their annual leave entitlement: a. If they work 117 hours or more in the calendar month, they are entitled to one-third of a working week for that month. This can work well for full-time employees who joined mid-year or part-time employees who work 27 hours or more a week. b. Calculate 8% of the hours they have worked in the leave year. This method is best for part-time employees who work less than 27 hours per week, or casual employees on variable hours.

• If an employee has worked continuously for eight months without taking any annual leave, they are entitled to take two weeks of unbroken annual leave together. • Employers cannot pay an employee in lieu of annual leave unless either party terminates the employment relationship. • Employees do not accrue annual leave entitlements if they are on strike, lay off, unpaid leave or uncertified sick leave.

CERTIFIED SICK LEAVE The Act allows an employee to accrue annual leave whilst on certified sick leave. This came into force from 1 August 2015 and is subject to a maximum carryover period of 15 months for employees who are on long-term sick leave. The statutory leave year runs from April to March and this may differ from the leave year that your business operates within. If you are working out the carryover period for a longterm absence, ensure you work from the statutory leave year. What this means in practice is that if an employee is absent on certified sick leave for two weeks, for example, they still continue to accrue annual leave, however, if the employee is out sick for 18 months, they would lose a portion of that accrued annual leave when they return back to work.

• Employees on the following types of leave continue to accrue annual leave for: - Maternity and additional maternity leave - Adoptive and additional adoptive leave - The first 13 weeks of carer’s leave - Certified sick leave up to a carryover period of 15 months - Paternity leave - Parental leave - Force majeure - Annual leave


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Annual Leave  HR

PAYMENT FOR PUBLIC HOLIDAYS Employees who work or who are rostered to work on a public holiday are entitled to an additional day’s pay for the public holiday. This includes part-time and casual employees. For those employees who are not rostered to work on the public holiday receive one-fifth of the normal weekly rate of pay for the public holiday. This can prove tricky to calculate for part-time or casual employees who work variable hours each week. In order to work out their normal weekly rate of pay, employers would need to calculate this using a reference period of 13 weeks ending on the day before the public holiday. Other pointers that businesses should be aware of in relation to public holidays include: ■ If an employee is out for more than 26 weeks on long-term

illness or injury, or more than 52 weeks due to a work-related injury, they no longer qualify for public holiday entitlements. ■ Like annual leave, employees on protected leave, such as maternity leave and so forth, continue to accrue their public holiday entitlements. ■ Employees on carer’s leave or company-authorised unpaid leave receive public holiday entitlements for the first 13 weeks of that leave. Finally, businesses are legally required to keep annual leave and public holiday records for three years, but it is useful to keep them for a longer period of time in case there is a legal dispute.

PUBLIC HOLIDAY ENTITLEMENTS Employees are entitled to nine public holidays a year, which are as follows: 1 1 January 2 St Patrick’s Day 3 Easter Monday 4 First Monday in May 5 First Monday in June 6 First Monday in August 7 Last Monday in October 8 Christmas Day 9 St Stephen’s Day Whilst most of the public holidays fall on a Monday, more commonly known as a bank holiday, not every public holiday falls on or automatically moves to a Monday. For example, in 2018, St Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday. For businesses that operate a six or seven-day week this caused some confusion in determining what day it fell on. In actuality, it fell on the Saturday. Many businesses chose to close on the Monday to ensure their staff received their public holiday entitlement ,but what about those businesses who remained open on both days and had staff working on both days? In that scenario, businesses can decide to give their employees one of the following: ■ A paid day off within the month ■ An extra day’s annual leave ■ An extra day’s pay Full-time employees are automatically entitled to public holiday benefits, but what about part-time and casual employees? Part-time and casual employees qualify for public holiday entitlement if they have worked 40 hours or more in the previous five weeks ending on the day before the public holiday takes place.


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Congratulations to all finalists. We would like to congratulate all of the following companies who have succeeded as finalists in the SFA National Small Business Awards 2019. All category winners and the overall winner will be presented with their awards at the SFA Awards Gala Ceremony on March 7th 2019.

MANUFACTURING • Big Red Barn • Blueacre Technology • Mahon Windows

FOOD AND DRINK • Connexicon Medical • OVVO • Blanco Niňo

SERVICES • Company Bureau Formations • Contracting PLUS • Enviroguide Consulting

• Airport View Hotel and Secret Spa • Arctic Stone Ice Cream • Blanco Niňo

• Fenit Fruit & Veg • Revive Active • The Foods of Athenry

OUTSTANDING SMALL BUSINESS • FRS Training • ICON Accounting • Ryan’s Pharmacy

• GB Innovation • Pop Up Races • Horan Automation and • SME Sales Consulting • Trefoil Controls • NP Liquid Glass Systems



• CalQRisk • NVP Energy • Oriel Marine Extracts

• Blanco Niňo • Blueacre Technology • Connexicon Medical

• OVVO • SalesOptiimize • WeBringg

• Good4U • Prodigy Learning • WeBringg



• KORE Insulation • M & C Hybrid Energy • M50 Concession

• Zarrdia • PeachyLean • Get the Shifts


• Monasterboice Inn • NVP Energy • Sirus – The Well

• • The UX Studio


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Electric Driving  Interview




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here are roughly 8,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads. At just 1.5% of all vehicles, it might not sound like a lot, but the numbers are growing quickly – doubling yearon-year. The Irish Government hopes to continue this growth, with a stated aim of reaching half a million electric vehicles, or 30% of all vehicles, by 2030. Just a few years ago, this might have seemed quite ambitious, but rapid developments in battery technology and charging infrastructure, increased public awareness of electric vehicles, and widespread concern around climate change have combined to make the rise of battery-powered driving much more likely. “I think we’re starting to hit a tipping point and we see bigger numbers coming down the track,” says Declan Meally, Head of Emerging Sectors at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). He continues: “There’s a couple of reasons why. One is that the vehicle choices are increasing and the battery ranges are getting a lot better. The Nissan Leaf would be an example of that. The first Nissan Leaf that came out had a range of about 100km. The new Leaf, at the moment, has up to 260km real driving range. There’s 300 to 500km ranges available with one charge and those longer range vehicles are becoming more affordable. That is significant from an Irish point of view because that will get you most places without having to charge or plug-in.” For many years, electric vehicles have been hindered by concerns about their ability to drive longer distances, and the lack of charging infrastructure, particularly in more remote areas. At the same time, Ireland is a small, increasingly urban country, and Meally says that there’s a growing number of people for whom electric driving is a viable, or even preferable, option. “Eighty percent of the people in Ireland drive less than 40 to 50km each day,” he states. “But in trying to decide about a new car, particularly with an electric vehicle, people think about the longest drive they do in a year, which might be going on holidays someplace. But do they need an electric car for all of that? Particularly anyone commuting in and out within a 50 to 60km radius of a city centre, those ranges are here now and there’s an awful lot of people for which electric cars would suit their lifestyle and driving habits.”

Declan Meally, Head of Emerging Sectors, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

So why are people switching? “The big issue is cost,” declares Meally. “It saves people an awful lot of money in terms of fuel bills, maintenance costs, and the ‘whole-life’ cost of electric vehicles. When commuters do their sums, they see that actually it’s a big opportunity and a no-brainer. Down the line, there’s the climate benefits, but the number one reason that we’re seeing people changing over is cost benefit.” And the savings can be significant. Along with the savings on fuel, there are a number of other benefits and incentives which make electric vehicles more attractive. Firstly, there’s no oil, no fan belt, no gearbox – there’s simply fewer moving parts needing to be serviced or replaced, meaning maintenance costs will be down in the long run. Tax on low-emission vehicles is lower, coming in at just €120 a year for battery-powered cars, while electric vehicle drivers can also avail of discounted rates of up to 50% across a number of toll roads. Some of the biggest savings are available through the SEAI’s own grants, which allow drivers to save up to €5,000 on the price of a new electric vehicle, and up to €5,000 on the vehicle registration tax. “There’s a lady who drives from Wexford to Dublin every week, a nurse,” says Meally. “Her fuel bill was over €60 a week, now it’s down at less than €12 when she factors in what she’s paying at home for the electricity and the charging. In terms of that weekly bill,


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there’s a 60 to 70% saving, at least, on your fuel bills, depending on the driving – if you’re doing more driving, you’re obviously saving even more. When you take in the amount of money that you spend on your fuel, and work out the cost of paying back the car, generally people will see that they could make the repayments out of the fuel savings alone.”

Making the switch While these incentives were introduced for individual drivers, companies can also make significant savings by switching to electric vehicles, and the newer technologies might also change how they go about their business in the first place. “Courier companies, looking at last-mile delivery particularly in the city centre, if they switch to electric, they can do it quietly

“WHEN COMMUTERS DO THEIR SUMS, THEY SEE THAT ACTUALLY IT’S A BIG OPPORTUNITY AND A NO-BRAINER. DOWN THE LINE, THERE’S THE CLIMATE BENEFITS, BUT THE NUMBER ONE REASON THAT WE’RE SEEING PEOPLE CHANGING OVER IS COST BENEFIT.” at night or do it with low impact on the climate during the day,” says Meally. “And we have a number of case studies on our website of taxi drivers who have, over the last couple of years, switched to electric and seen a major benefit in doing that. One has 80,000km on the clock and reckons he’s saved himself several thousand on fuel.” Meally notes too that there are significant opportunities for Irish companies

building businesses around the developing infrastructure of electric driving. He cites the success of GoCar, the pay-as-you-go car service, which has introduced a number of electric cars to its fleet, as well as Dublin City Council’s efforts to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles and supporting start-ups working in the area. “We’re also seeing some companies in Ireland that are keen to get into the charging infrastructure,” says Meally. “Some very good companies such as Carra and Smartcharge are seeing the benefits of being the early-stage adopters. They are getting into charging and the vehicle charging infrastructure and obtaining business abroad because of it.” Indeed, many businesses, like food retailers and hotels, are installing their own charging facilities in response to customer demand. It’s becoming clear that electric vehicles are no longer just an idea for the future, but a practical solution for today. Countries across the world have introduced a broad range of incentives to encourage electric driving, often with rapid take-up. Several nations have already committed to having only zero-emission vehicles on sale in their countries within the next ten to 15 years, while Madrid recently became the first major European capital to ban highemission vehicles from its city centre roads. Meally says you can expect to see more of this in the years ahead, with a combination of advancing technologies, government incentives, and increasing penalties driving the change. “We really are hitting a tipping point,” he says. “It’s going to happen sooner rather than later, and a lot faster than people realise.” To find out more on electric cars, including SEAI grants for vehicles and charge points, visit SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 53

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Partner Profile  DLR

DRIVING INNOVATION MARCELLA MURPHY EXPLAINS HOW DÚN LAOGHAIRE-RATHDOWN COUNTY COUNCIL HAS POSITIONED ITSELF AS A FORERUNNER IN THE PURSUIT TO REDUCE EMISSIONS. Interesting things are happening at Dublin's Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (DLR) County Council. As part of the Council’s commitment to sustainable transportation solutions in line with national targets, Marcella Murphy was tasked with coordinating a review of DLR's fleet of vehicles. “Everything we do has to link in with the strategic priorities of the Council,” says the Senior Engineer. “40% of our fleet was over ten years old and hadn’t had a capital injection for quite a while.” In February 2018 the Council took delivery of six electric powered Citroen Berlingo Vans for its fleet operations, replacing the previous diesel-powered vehicles to reduce the impact on local air quality. This been further added to since then, with Nissan vehicles also now part of the fleet. “As we had to reduce emissions and energy levels, the decision was a no-brainer,” explains Murphy. “Diesel vehicles are notorious for polluting the atmosphere, so we started looking at electric vehicles. I came in with no preconceived notions, but quickly realised the smaller electric vehicles such as vans and cars offered the reliability we required. I brought in a policy whereby if we were stepping down a car or van, we’d replace with an electric vehicle.” Murphy also points to the cost-effectiveness of running electric vehicles. “Fuel costs for these vehicles is much lower, with savings of 90% anticipated, and maintenance costs for these vehicles is also considerably lower.” Charging infrastructure has been installed in a number of council locations. Leading the way in dual usage municipal infrastructure, DLR has also recently installed one of the

first public lighting poles which can be used for charging EVs. “We’re stepping up to the plate,” Murphy enthuses. “It’s so much cheaper to run and more and more charging stations are appearing with better visibility.” She continues: “Through charging points you can record usage and this additional data is a great resource, and something I never had before. This type of data is invaluable if you are trying to reduce energy emissions.” DLR plans to have as many vehicles as possible switched over in the coming years. Murphy believes the the support of Government is required to push things forward. “I hope the Government doesn’t make any changes to fees and tax. I think it’s too early for

this, as it’s taken a long time to get to this stage. The future for county councils is to have the large vehicles, such as gritters, changing over to electric.” She adds: “It is really rapidly changing technology. The whole green energy, not just electric vehicles, is really taking off. Previously, these vehicles were seen as a little bit quirky, but all that is changing. We can't keep relying on fossil fuels, that’s just the way it is. We have to look at a different way for transport. Murphy concludes: “Some people said it was a risk to roll out electric vehicles to the fleet, but I don’t see it this way. If we never do anything differently, that’s a much bigger risk.”

Pictured at the EV charging point installed at Crofton Road (l-r): Cllr Ossian Smyth, Philomena Poole, Martine Allidine, Marcella Murphy and Joe McCarthy


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Enhancing quality of life for all

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, County Hall, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin T: 01 2054700 E: W: @dlrcc DunLaoghaireRathdownCountyCouncil

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Partner Profile  Volvo Cars

THE ROAD AHEAD PREMIUM CAR MANUFACTURER VOLVO AIMS FOR FULLY ELECTRIC CARS TO MAKE UP 50% OF ITS SALES BY 2025. In operation since 1927, Volvo Cars is one of the most well-known and respected car brands in the world with well over 500,000 sales of its cars in 2018 across about 100 countries. The company has been working with electric propulsion since the 1970s and the company has learned a lot along the way, from deploying a test fleet of C30 battery electric vehicles in 2010, to the launch one of the world’s first plug-in hybrid diesel cars in 2012. Its dedication to electrification has been long-standing. Today, you can buy plug-in hybrid Volvo cars that offer the choice to run on petrol or battery electric power. In the future, the company will add even more powertrain options, including mild hybrids and battery electric vehicles. Battery technology is advancing rapidly. It means that plug-in hybrids are now a viable and smart alternative to the internal combustion engine. In essence, the latest battery and propulsion technology across its range makes the switch to plug-in hybrids easier and more enjoyable. Volvo also prides itself on designing cars that make life easier and more enjoyable. A key to this is understanding how to make technology work for the driver. It is the basic principle the company applies to everything it does.

Volvo will soon be offering a range of electrified cars that include mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. These vehicles will require less maintenance and have lower fuel consumption, and the cost of batteries is now reaching a point where it makes more sense to choose an electrified car. Volvo Cars use Lithium-ion battery packs in its Twin Engine cars. Twin Engine vehicles are remarkably quieter than a car powered by a combustion engine. You’ll also notice increased take-off performance thanks to the instantaneous delivery of pure power to the wheels. The main benefit of a plug-in hybrid is that you always have the petrol engine as back-up between charges, so range is never an issue. Most people charge their cars at home overnight,with a charging wall box in their carport or garage. Others have the possibility to charge their car at work or at public charging stations, which

are becoming increasingly easy to find – charging times depend greatly upon the source of power and the amperage it delivers. Volvo’s 90 and 60-Series cars are available with Twin Engine technology. These cars will be joined by the XC40 in the very near future. Volvo currently has its top of the range T8 (407 HP) petrol plug in hybrid engine available on its 90 series (XC90, S90 and V90) offering an incredibly refined and comfortable driving experience, with the potential of decent economy, and also excellent performance. Last year the company’s XC40 won the prestigious European Car of the Year and Irish Car of the Year awards and 2019 promises to be yet another exciting one for the leading Swedish manufacturer. For further information please visit

Driving innovation

Volvo is aiming for fully electric cars to make up 50% of its sales by 2025. The move towards electric is a clear statement of Volvo’s commitment towards sustainable mobility and the reduction of emissions. Electrified cars offer a range of benefits – from reducing emissions and fuel costs to delivering a more responsive acceleration feel on take-off.

Volvo Cars T8 Twin Engine Range


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XC40 Petrol T3 Engines from €36,850*

2 0 18


*Terms and conditions apply. Excludes delivery and related charges. Model is shown for illustrative purposes only. Fuel consumption for the Volvo Range in l/100km (mpg): Urban 4.0 (70.6) – 9.4 (30.1), Extra Urban 3.3 (85.6) – 7.1 (39.8), Combined 3.6 (78.4) –7.9 (35.8) CO 2 Emissions 94 – 189g/km. All new Volvo cars come with a 3 year warranty and 3 years’ roadside assistance.

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16/01/2019 12/12/2018 09:22 14:50 11/12/2018 16:25

Interview  Artificial Intelligence


brave new



he term artificial intelligence (AI) has been part of the wider consciousness in modern culture for some time now, but it’s much more than an intriguing plotline for Hollywood directors. AI is basically any intelligence demonstrated by a machine that leads it to an optimal or suboptimal solution when given a problem – and it’s coming to a business near you. Ireland is home to a vibrant AI ecosystem built on community and collaboration. The roll call of names is an impressive one: Nuritas, IBM, Movidius, Accenture, HubSpot, Salesforce, Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia Bell Labs, Huawei and Soapbox Labs, amongst others, all have operations based here. One of Ireland’s leading figures in supporting industrial growth and the creation of jobs is previous Chief Technologist with IDA Ireland Ken Finnegan. The Meath native specialises in partnering with businesses to create great innovations. Finnegan agrees that Ireland’s AI scene is thriving at present. “Ireland is in a really good position right now,” he

says. “We’re tenth in the world for innovation in terms of league tables according to the Global Innovation Index. There is a huge appetite out there, not just for AI, but for digital transformation as a whole.” Ireland has some clear advantages over its European counterparts when it comes to attracting FDI. We are the only English speaking country in the eurozone and our combination of infrastructure, a competitive tax rate and a skilled talent pool makes Ireland an ideal hub for organisations seeking a European base. Finnegan believes there is not only an opportunity to create jobs through inward investment in AI, but also the potential for domestic companies to boost their own capabilities with this cutting-edge technology. So how has Ireland become an AI island? “The story of AI in Ireland is a really impressive one, and that’s just from an FDI perspective,” notes Finnegan. “We’re in a really enviable position from a technological perspective. As well as having all the global players here, the ecosystem in Ireland is amazing. When you mix this with the academic capability of the island’s small businesses, this underpins the reason we’re tenth in world for innovation. We see the


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Artificial Intelligence  Interview

Real world solutions Finnegan’s global experience in the development of highvalue technology initiatives has created tangible value for his clients. He believes his main responsibility is to offer guidance by working closely with senior executives on their strategic technological issues and advise on emerging technologies. By defining the business and technology strategic agenda, he can assist in providing State aid to support industrial growth and jobs. How does Finnegan feel businesses can utilise emerging digital technologies to solve practical problems? “When it comes to digital transformation, I think it’s a similar journey for a lot of companies,” he explains. “Ireland is a small enough country and you’re only a phone call away from beginning the conversation. You should look at implementing technology to grow your business and create better efficiencies. But the biggest challenge a company has is understanding how to start that journey.” He continues: “There is a wealth of opportunity for companies, but, more than anything else, I’d advise business owners to know what issue they want to solve before you embark on digital transformation. It could be communication networks, processing speeds or a desire to leverage data. Without a plan of action, you’re just throwing good money away.”

Artificial intelligence expert Ken Finnegan

evolution of companies across sectors; what once were low skilled organisations have become sophisticated enterprises delivering global solutions underpinned by technology developed in Ireland.” The Irish education system has also played a pivotal role in developing Ireland as an AI island. Finnegan highlights the sterling work of Gerry Doyle and his team at Skillnet Ireland as a prime example of what can be achieved. “When I was in IDA Ireland working alongside Skillnet Ireland, we launched what we believe to be the first 100% industry-driven nationwide postgraduate qualification with a number of educational institutions,” he enthuses. “These leadingedge modules cover AI tools and technologies, machine learning algorithms and data mining, through to deep learning and machine vision. The courses also look at ethics and privacy issues within AI, as well as research methods and theoretical foundations.” Finnegan adds: “Additionally, research centres like Adapt, Insight, Lero and Ceadar are national academic treasures in helping companies on their digital transformation and AI journeys.”

SFA Fact

Did You Know? Ireland is the first country in the world to develop an industry driven nationwide Postgraduate MSc in Artificial Intelligence.

Nationwide services The AI landscape in Ireland is not unique to Dublin. “Look at what’s happening at what I call the ‘Wild Atlantic AI’ in the west of the country,” Finnegan says. “High-tech jobs have recently been announced at Soti and Genesys in Galway, LiveTiles in Sligo, and in ParrotScribe and Advanced Metadata in Cork. CorkBIC are also running a fantastic AI cybersecurity accelerator and has done an amazing job in laying out the landscape for AI, as well as other areas.” There are nationwide facilities available for companies to begin the engagement process, whether it’s one of the many research and technology centres, or the raft of outstanding co-working spaces, such as Portershed in Galway and Dogpatch Labs in Dublin. And the DCU Alpha Innovation Campus, spearheaded by Ronan Furlong, has fostered truly exceptional companies dedicated to inspiring the development of future technologies. Looking to the future, Finnegan sees implemented AI solutions as the backbone in the sector’s growth. He comments: “We’re going to see the hype around AI being replaced by innovative solutions. The AI Ireland Awards was a superb setting to showcase how real world solutions have been implemented by companies though the use of AI. The time for promises has passed – this is the age of genuine AI solutions.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 59

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Partner Profile  Altada

THE TECHNOLOGY ROADMAP SOFTWARE ENGINEERING AND DATA SCIENCE COMPANY ALTADA IS PROVIDING CLIENTS WITH A COMPLETE VIEW OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT THROUGH THE USE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Leveraging 20 years of experience using artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to solve data governance, cyber security and regulatory issues, Altada partners with best-in-class technology companies, academic and research institutions, content subject matter experts and professional consulting organisations to ensure that it provides its customers with effective solutions. The company works to transform data-rich clients into data-driven companies using an AI platform to cleanse and organise data environments. Its platforms provide clients with a complete view of their environment. This is a critical area for clients to manage the impact of GDPR and cyber security breaches. CEO and co-founder Allan F. Beechinor explains Altada’s unique AI platform. “Altada’s privacy by design platform uses AI, machine learning and natural language processing to solve data governance, cyber security and regulatory issues, such as GDPR, KYC, Solvency II and BCBS 239,” he says. “We enable our clients to respond to the demanding compliance requests, including a subject access request.” He continues: “Our validation-based solution helps companies understand what data they have and how it flows through the organisation. By applying indexing, lineage and traceability, we deliver validation reports, risk heat maps and remediation recommendations that accelerate the GDPR compliance journey.”

Innovation hub

Beechinor was a key contributor to the ‘AI Island’ initiative and continues to work closely with IDA Ireland,

Allan F. Beechinor, CEO and co-founder, Altada Enterprise Ireland and ICT Skillnet in this field. “We’ve experienced first-hand the global support Ireland has from multinational companies to build our innovation hubs,” says Beechinor. “This, coupled with our strong academic ecosystem, makes for a thriving AI scene.” According to Beechinor, Cork will become an innovation hub over the next two years, in particular from an AI perspective. Ireland’s first international security accelerator recently took place in Cork, welcoming major investors and seasoned entrepreneurs. The initiative featured four teams who had just completed CorkBIC’s 13-week programme and Altada picked up the ‘Most Investable Company’ accolade. “The accelerator was the turning point for us,” believes Beechinor. “We knew we had something but the accelerator helped us focus our product offering, refine our investor

proposition and ultimately transform the business in 13 weeks.” The company was also awarded the ‘Tech Start-Up of the Year’ award at the 2018 IT@Cork Awards. Beechinor adds: “We are extremely proud of this achievement and were delighted to receive this prestigious award. For us this was the highlight of 2018. Our team have worked so hard to get us to where we are today and this is validation that we are heading in the right direction.” Altada is planning to increase its footprint in central EU and the US by working closely with its strategic business partners throughout 2019. “Our technology roadmap is focused upon addressing the needs of our clients and we will continue to work closely with a number of Irish institutes assisting with artificial intelligence MSc and MSc for blockchain,” concludes Beechinor.


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 Partner Profile

ENERGY AND INVESTMENT BELL LABS’ MISSION TO DEFINE THE FUTURE OF COMMUNICATION AND DELIVER DISRUPTIVE INNOVATIONS THAT REDEFINE HUMAN EXISTENCE AND BUSINESS REALITIES IS IMPACTING ALL SYSTEMS, INFRASTRUCTURE AND PROCESSES. Bell Labs, a worldwide research and development community that focuses on long-term research, is internationally renowned as the birthplace of modern information theory, the transistor, the laser, the UNIX operating system, C and C++. Bell Labs Ireland was founded in late 2004 and has steadily grown to a team of roughly 50 staff with three main competencies: wireless technologies, thermal management and efficient energy transfer, and AI and cognitive cloud computing. The team diversity in gender, culture and backgrounds makes this group of world-class talent a unique mix of creativity with enriching perspectives that facilitate disruptive thinking. Bell Labs Ireland shares, along with the rest of Bell Labs, the following mission statement: ‘To solve the great challenges for the future of information and communications networks, by ‘10x’ game-changing insights and innovations.’ As Bell Labs continues to make game-changing contributions to Nokia’s commercial portfolio and, by extension, change the nature of the communications industry globally, the organisation is also taking a step forward and evaluating the impact of new AI-based technologies on humanity. Today’s impact on Bell Labs’ research assets is focused on leveraging its advanced AI models to innovate in areas beyond Nokia’s massive multiple-input multipleoutput (MIMO) systems and customer care platforms by testing AI solutions in markets like industrial automation, logistics, IoT and enterprise systems.

Head of Analytics Research Alessandra Sala

However, Bell Labs’ upcoming disruptions are even more exciting, keeping the team of researchers laser-focused on their work. The talented team at Bell Labs thinks of AI as the technology that will expand human limits, solve human needs and advance the species in unprecedented ways. “AI has the potential to influence our decisions in profound ways and we owe humanity the thoughtful engineering of AI systems that inspire deep thinking, diversity of perspectives, empathic mental alignment and convergence of mutual understanding as much as our, in person, communications,” says Head of Analytics Research Alessandra Sala. “Today, standard AI models focus on associating

predefined meanings to data, but they are still far from human cognitive ability. At Bell Labs Ireland I’m leading a team that is studying the limits of human cognition to define a new paradigm of human-AI cognitive symbiosis, which would amplify human intelligence at biological and cognitive levels. Sala concludes: “As we are working on braking the limits to bring humanity to its super-evolutionary cognitive step, we also apply our most advanced AI solutions to new generation devices, which allow us to interact and connect with the world and the digital fabric in unprecedented ways. For more information, visit


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Partner Profile  ICT Skillnet

FILLING THE AI SKILLS GAP TECHNOLOGY IRELAND DIRECTOR UNA FITZPATRICK DISCUSSES. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already at the heart of many transformational business and technical applications, typically employing a combination of data analytics and machine learning. AI applications using massive datasets, powerful computing architectures and advanced learning algorithms are contributing to business growth and societal benefit in fields such as health, education, finance, telecommunications, leisure and the automotive industry, while new AIenhanced services for communication, information, entertainment and social convenience are fundamentally altering the way in which society functions. This trend is set to continue and accelerate. At the same time design and development activity for AI systems is growing exponentially, constrained only by a skills demand. To meet this skills challenge, Technology Ireland has

Una Fitzpatrick, Director, Technology Ireland

developed an AI Skills Pathway which we started implementing in 2018. The flagship of the skills pathway is a national MSc in Artificial Intelligence being delivered by the University of Limerick (UL) with participation from the Irish Centre for High End Computing (ICHEC). This two-year part-time course is delivered primarily online and over 90 employees of Irish and Irish-based companies starting the first course on 19th January 2019.

The entire initiative has emerged from needs expressed by member companies of Technology Ireland augmented by research and data from IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and others. The programme is industry-led and demand-driven and is being developed with the support of a range of companies working in this field in Ireland. Skillnet Ireland is funding most of the development costs

The programme is managed by the Technology Ireland ICT Skillnet which has also delivered a series of workshops in 2018 for C-Level executives and owners and managers of small firms in how to implement AI initiatives. The Skillnet has also produced an intensive 12-week online course: ‘Introduction to AI’ delivered by UL and ICHEC which finished its first run in December 2018 with 104 participants.

and the delivery costs will be partfunded both by Skillnet and the participating companies. The content is wide ranging and designed to equip participants with a knowledge-base and an advanced skillset to enable them to become highly capable in this field. It includes areas such as: machine learning algorithms and applications, data mining, ethics, governance and privacy issues, deep learning, machine vision and pattern recognition, problem specification and analysis. Towards the end of the programme participants will engage in a major research development project which will focus on specific application in their own company. AI provides apparently endless potential, and companies are seeing the potential it offers. Although the skills gap is likely to remain into the future, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity for countries like Ireland. By enthusiastically supporting this initiative, employers are placing Ireland at the forefront of the AI revolution. We have no doubt that investing in AI skills will produce a pipeline of highly capable experts for this strategically important sector and will have a positive impact on the Irish economy. For further information, email:


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16/01/2019 10:30

The largest and most influential business organisation representing Ireland's tech sector. Training and Development programmes for technology enterprises funded by Skillnet Ireland.

- Cybersecurity - Artificial Intelligence - Cloud Computing - Innovation & Leadership - Global Business Services

- Software Development - UI/UX - Product Development - Women ReBoot - Kickstart

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16/01/2019 21/12/2018 09:25 09:54

Partner Profile  Nuritas

A PLATFORM FOR SUCCESS SCIENTIFIC OFFICER AT NURITAS AUDREY WALL DISCUSSES HOW ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS NOT ONLY INFLUENCING THE FOOD BUSINESS, BUT THE WIDER HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY. The AI scene in Ireland is thriving right now and Nuritas is harnessing the power of AI in a new and dynamic way in which we can prove ourselves a global leader. At Nuritas, we target a particular area of health and use AI to predict peptides with a specific bioactivity with the assitance of our AI platform to search for these predicted peptides within natural sources. Our in-silico predictions are then scientifically validated by our in-house laboratory and multidisciplinary team of scientists. This data in turn feeds back into our AI platform, which constantly improves the accuracy of our predictions. Our methods are faster, more accurate, and less expensive than traditional discovery across the healthcare industry. Nuritas is the first company in the world to accelerate the discovery of

a healthcare product from concept to market. PeptAIde is a bioactive ingredient discovered and delivered through AI. Research demonstrates that the consumption of PeptAIde leads to anti-inflammatory response by modulating cytokine responses and immune activity. PeptAIde, as a sports nutrition ingredient, was brought to market in November 2018 through our partner, BASF. This ‘world first’ demonstrates AI’s true potential to improve health. The launch of PeptAIde was just the beginning, we can and are turning our platform to many different areas of huge global impact. The capabilities of our AI technology to empower the human discovery of natural molecules to improve the health of billions of people holds limitless potential.

Emerging technologies

There are two major challenges being faced by today’s society, which we believe our proprietary technology will be able to address. How do we support a rapidly growing population, and how do we address chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes? Our approach not only promises to benefit the health of billions of people through food, but also addresses sustainability requirements, as we can discover these life-changing ingredients from within food by-products and even food-waste. Our approach to discovery means we can find preventative treatments for the consumer healthcare space and therapeutics for the pharmaceutical space. This is extremely exciting for us and the healthcare industry at large.

The year ahead Audrey Wall, Scientific Officer, Nuritas

Winning the ‘Best Use of AI in Sector’ at the recent AI Awards was a great boost

“NURITAS IS THE FIRST COMPANY IN THE WORLD TO ACCELERATE THE DISCOVERY OF A HEALTHCARE PRODUCT FROM CONCEPT TO MARKET.” for the team at Nuritas. Given the calibre of finalists, it was an honour to be included in the short list. It was a credit to the organisers and to the AI community in Ireland that these awards were hotly contested, and we look forward to seeing this event continue to grow. AI has enabled us to do what would be previously considered impossible, propelling us from first partnership contract to commercial launch of a healthcare product in under two years. We hope to continue to make AI meaningful and impactful by positively influencing lives and in 2019 we will continue our groundbreaking work with our partners. There will be new strategic collaborations, both commercial and R&D. Furthermore, we will continue to hire great people and build on our new headquarters in Dublin city centre. It is an exciting time for Nuritas and our team is looking forward to working with great partners and developing new methods of fighting diseases in the future.


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16/01/2019 10:31

Life-changing discoveries for a better world

At Nuritas, we’re improving lives on a global scale through the predicted discovery of Bioactive Peptides – naturally occurring molecules with extraordinary health benefits.

We uniquely combine artificial intelligence with bioinformatics to provide our partners with powerful, innovative solutions in the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare industries

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16/01/2019 11/01/2019 09:27 12:58

Partner Profile  Microsoft

COLLABORATION AND PROGRESS KIERAN MCCORRY, NATIONAL TECHNOLOGY OFFICER AT MICROSOFT IRELAND, BELIEVES THAT IRELAND NEEDS TO FUND ITS AMBITION IF IT IS BE A LEADER IN AI. In Ireland, we have a long history of innovation, development, and leadership in technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) is just the latest in a long line of technologies that we are embracing. We have seen it over the years with foreign direct investment (FDI) from multinational corporations – Microsoft has been in Ireland since 1985, for example – and we have a knowledgeable and skilled workforce. We also have an education sector that is very technologically focused and particularly so when it comes to leveraging the capabilities of big data, analytics, and now AI through research and application. We’re fortunate to have Professor Barry O’Sullivan from UCC representing Ireland on the European Commission High-Level Expert Group on artificial intelligence and chairing its Investment and Policy Working Group. All in all, Ireland finds itself as a great environment for companies to latch on to the momentum that AI brings and to be successful in developing new products, capabilities, and offerings. However, we need to do more. I’d like to see a more joined-up approach between industry, academia, government, and civil society coming together to create an open, collaborative environment for progress in AI within Ireland. There’s some excellent work underway here already: Ken Finnegan has been driving the AI Island collaboration in this direction and we’re starting to see progress. But we need to match this with state-backed investment. In October of 2018, Microsoft in conjunction with EY published the results of a study, Artificial Intelligence in Europe, on the uptake of AI across businesses in Europe and specifically within Ireland. The study showed that almost two-thirds (65%) of European organisations expect AI to have a high impact on their core business, but when we look at specifically at Ireland,

this figure drops down to well under half (40%). The most concerning factor overall was that only a very small percentage of European companies (4%) considered themselves to be ‘advanced’ in their use or implementation of AI technology within their business. So, Ireland is trailing its European counterparts in adoption of AI. Personally, I see this a great opportunity for Irish businesses to step up and take a leadership position in the adoption

year, for example, we called for better government regulation on the use of facial recognition technology and I think you’ll see us continue on this path of improving and augmenting our technological offerings. Microsoft’s commitment in Ireland is strong and continues to be. We have over 2,000 people working in our new Leopardstown campus, One Microsoft Place, including a large engineering function focused on big data and AI. In September of 2018, we announced 200 new jobs, many of which are focused on new emerging technologies such as AI. There’s no shortage of development opportunities in the AI space. One other thing that we are particularly proud of here in Ireland is our commitment to developing skills in STEM and indeed in AI through our DreamSpace facility. We opened this in February 2018 and we’re aiming to host over 100,000 school children at primary and post-primary level on the island of Ireland through the DreamSpace by 2021, introducing them to technology, programming, and creativity. They will be the AI programmers of the future.

of AI across industry. We have the tools and talents on our doorstep and we now need to embrace all that AI can offer for Irish businesses. AI is of central importance for us at Microsoft. We see it as a hugely important technology to transform business: empowering employees, engaging customers, transforming products, and optimising operations. That’s why we’ve built out and continue to develop our cloud-based Azure AI platform. We endeavour to make AI technology available to businesses of all sizes and technological maturity, whether they are simply using easy-to-implement, pre-built solutions or developing their own custom AI applications. It’s part of the Microsoft mission to ‘democratise AI’. One thing that we are exceptionally passionate about is the responsible use of AI. This is going to become increasingly important in 2019 as more and more uptake of AI comes about. We’ve set out a framework for the ethical use of AI based on six principles: fairness, accountability, transparency, inclusivity, Kieran McCorry, privacy and security, and National Technology Officer, Microsoft Ireland reliability and safety. Last


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16/01/2019 10:34

DeCare Dental

 Partner Profile

BRUSHING UP ON THE BENEFITS DECARE DENTAL’S DAVID CASEY EXPLAINS HOW DENTAL INSURANCE CAN HAVE A BENEFICIAL IMPACT ON AN EMPLOYEE’S OVERALL HEALTH. Oral diseases are among the most common diseases in the world. The Global Burden of Disease Study, 2016 estimated that oral diseases affected half of the world’s population (3.58 billion people). It also states that, ‘there is a direct correlation between dental health and overall health’. The mouth is regarded as the gateway to the body. By addressing the oral health and wellbeing of employees, an organisation can demonstrate its commitment to a healthy working environment and in-turn make a worthwhile and lasting contribution to society. An ageing population is one of the success stories of modern society. Medical advances, improved diet and living conditions and better healthcare have resulted in the rapid growth of older people. People are entering the so called ‘silver circle’ at 55 and keeping and retaining their teeth for

longer. As a result, teeth require more maintenance. Aging adults tend to require increasingly complex dental treatments and are often more prone to contracting certain diseases and sometimes find it challenging to keep up with daily oral health practices. When problems occur in the mouth, they can cause difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking and smiling. These are basic functions which can affect both physical and social wellbeing. Medications prescribed for other diseases can adversely affect a person's oral health and a decline in oral health can worsen existing conditions (such as diabetes), or even cause systemic inflammation. Dental insurance benefits and employee wellness are very much linked. Most dental cover promotes preventive care and good oral health habits, which improve an employee's overall health. By investing in employee health through offering dental coverage, a company can improve employee productivity and reduce costs associated with dental or health care over a life course. Regular preventive dental exams, provided through dental insurance, can reduce lost working hours by identifying and treating problems earlier, while visits to David Casey, the dentist can help Wellness & Health Promotion prevent, detect and Manager, DeCare Dental manage disease.

By offering dental insurance, a company is more likely to have healthier employees who are in a stronger position to make a significant contribution while they’re at work. It ensures that your employees remain healthy and provide your company with the best they have to offer. Regular oral health exams can help detect dental or medical conditions before they become serious and more time consuming to treat. Studies show that people with dental insurance are more inclined to visit the dentist regularly than those without cover. Providing dental insurance isn’t just an incentive run by an organisation to appear more attractive to employees. It can actually have a beneficial and long standing impact on an employee’s overall health and quality of living over a lifetime. By offering dental benefits a company is proving its commitment to the health of its employees. It is also investing in them as the future of the business. By creating this culture an organisation can enhance its capabilities in recruiting and retaining the best talent. Making oral health and wellbeing an important part of your company’s working environment can make employees feel valued and satisfied. They play an instrumental role in keeping the workplace culture alive and thriving through regular interactions with co-workers and management. DeCare Dental is proud and committed to playing a critical role in this development as the only dedicated dental and wellness specialist provider in Ireland. For further information visit


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16/01/2019 10:36

Partner Profile  Microfinance Ireland

EXPAND AND SUCCEED DEMAND FOR FINANCE AMONGST MICRO-ENTERPRISES REMAINS HIGH, EVEN IN UNCERTAIN ECONOMIC TIMES. Microfinance Ireland (MFI), the not-forprofit lender, was established by the Government in 2012 to provide loan finance to small businesses at a time when they were finding it very difficult to get much-needed financial support from traditional lending providers. Even when the economy is strong, MFI to offer an alternative source of funding to those businesses that do not meet the standard lending criteria provided by banks and other commercial providers. MFI continues to see a growing demand for loans year-on-year from small businesses that want to set up or grow their business irrespective of what stage the economy is at.

MFI addresses a market gap through all stages of the economic cycle from boom to bust and in particular, through periods of great uncertainty in the market. MFI provide business loans from €2,000 to €25,000 to start-ups and exxisting businesses for set up costs, working capital or business expansion, with terms of between three and five years, with the aim of supporting the creation and retention of jobs. As part of its loan packages, MFI also offers expert one-to-one mentoring to approved loan applicants through Local Enterprise Offices, increasing the chances of small businesses achieving commercial success, and helping to sustain jobs in the longer term.

Pictured (l to r) at the InBusiness Recognition Awards 2018 are Brendan Whelan, Deirdre Parkinson, Garrett Stokes and Cyril Forbes from Microfinance Ireland

As a not-for profit and government funded lending organisation, MFI is unique in the small businesses market in offering unsecured loan finance at affordable pricing to those who may be having difficulty in securing finance for their business. The microenterprise sector, in particular startups, are a difficult sector for banks to lend to due to lack of experience, insufficient or no collateral and often coupled with legacy debt issues. Last year saw application volumes rise by about 10 % across all sectors even at a time of full employment, there are still many people who not only have a strong entrepreneurial desire but actively make the choice to get into business for themselves. In December 2018, MFI was very proud to receive a Chambers Ireland InBusiness Recognition Award as ‘Best Finance Provider to MicroBusinesses and Start-Ups’. As a small not-for-profit lending organisation, it was wonderful to get such a strong acknowledgement of the work that is done across every town and county in Ireland, supporting businesses and creating jobs. The businesses that MFI support can be very small businesses (with between one and three employees), which are often the lifeblood of their communities, providing products, services and employment to their areas – without them many local communities would fail. MFI acts as a catalyst for “changing lives” by supporting small businesses to start and succeed, enabling jobs to be created and helping people fulfil their business dreams. Visit for more information.


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16/01/2019 10:37


 Partner Profile

FUNDING FOR GROWTH IN 2018 THE STRATEGIC BANKING CORPORATION OF IRELAND (SBCI) LAUNCHED ITS LATEST RISK-SHARING PRODUCT: A €300M GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE TO SUPPORT BREXIT-IMPACTED SMALL IRISH FIRMS. The Brexit Loan Scheme covers loans ranging from €25,000 to €1.5m, with loans of up to €500,000 being unsecured, and has a maximum rate of 4%. To date nearly 300 businesses have been deemed eligible for the scheme with 58 having availed of facilities totalling €13.4m. This has added to the SBCI’s continued support of lower-cost lending for small and medium-sized Irish firms, through its non-bank on-lender partners in 2018, ensuring the benefits of the SBCI’s access to low-cost funding are passed on to the end-user. With the uncertainty of Brexit continuing to weigh on investment decisions, the introduction of the Future Growth Loan Scheme in 2019 will go some way towards improving small enterprises’ access to finance as they prepare to make the necessary investments for doing business postBrexit. This Scheme will make up to €300m of loans available, with a term of eight to ten years, to eligible Irish businesses, including primary agriculture, to support strategic long-term investment in a postBrexit environment. Research by the European Investment Bank suggests an unwelcome pattern of Irish businesses under-investing compared to their peers in other EU countries (21% of Irish firms versus an EU average of 16%, according to the latest EIBIS 2018 Ireland survey) and the SBCI is keen to help address this. The SBCI has been very successful in ensuring that the benefits of its financing supports have been well spread throughout Ireland, with 86% of loans going outside Dublin and with a generally broad spread throughout all

Dr Vincent Power speaks at an SBCI Brexit event at Ballymascanlon House Hotel

regions of the State. However the SBCI is always keen to continue engagement with more Irish businesses to ensure they are informed about the various types of finance available to them. In addition, it is worth noting that the Irish small and medium firm finance market continues to diversify, with leasing overtaking bank loans in popularity and now accounting for the highest share of external financing (40%). The SBCI’s policy has been to drive competition in this finance market by supporting a combination of existing players and new market entrants, broadening both the choice of lenders and the choice of finance products that are available. Greater diversity in the finance market is good

for competition and good for small Irish businesses. Since it opened for business in 2014, the SBCI has supported more than 23,000 Irish firms that have borrowed a total of €920m using SBCI finance. Its average loan size is €41,000 and the Irish businesses supported employ more than 119,000 people. The SBCI is committed to strengthening access to finance and unlocking long-term investment by Irish companies so they can continue to grow and scale-up their businesses in 2019 and beyond. Irish firms and business advisers interested in finding out more about the SBCI can visit


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Health  Ergonomics

Ergonomically Speaking


The human body is designed to be active. We are not designed for sedentary work, but technological advances have resulted in us all spending more time using a laptop or PC and, in many instances, not moving at all once we engage with our computer equipment. Inactivity, or incorrect use of our musculoskeletal systems, increases the risk of harm – and, the longer the duration, the greater the risk. Movement is good, and therefore, incorporating regular breaks into our computer-based work is essential to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal ill health.

> Make a stand

There are mixed reviews about sit-stand workstations. There is no doubt that they can be beneficial in enabling office workers to change their posture regularly. However, beware: static standing for extended periods of time can be as harmful as static sitting for extended periods of time. In my experience, many of those who have been provided with sit-stand desks do not use them, but those who get into the habit of using the sit-stand desk regularly can definitely benefit from them.

> Prevention is key

My top tip is to take regular breaks. This could involve carrying out alternative work that requires a change of posture and gives the eyes a break from constantly focusing on a screen. It’s also important to ensure your computer monitor is the correct distance away, as most people place the monitor too far away, and consequently, they unconsciously lean forward or extend their head to be able to read the screen. To avoid future eye problems, always ensure your monitor is positioned so that there is no glare, and if the screen is extremely bright relative to the surrounding light, increase the light levels in the area where you are reading the monitor. As a general guideline, the monitor should be located between the tips of the finger and the wrist of an extended arm. At this distance, the computer user should be able to focus on the screen and adapt a neutral posture. Take the time to find out how the lumbar support is adjusted on your chair and alter the height to suit you. Don’t automatically adjust your chair to have your feet flat on the ground – adjust the chair height so that your elbows are level with or slightly above the desk surface, as this will enable a relaxed posture to be adopted. Then, if your feet don’t reach the ground comfortably, get a footrest.


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16/01/2019 11:43

Motoring  Lifestyle



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Lifestyle  Motoring


he world is awash with SUVs of every brand, shape, size and colour – last year in the region of 28 million SUVs rolled out of forecourts across the world. The only problem is trying to whittle down the choices, from Toyota’s C-HR to the Ford Kuga – even Alfa Romeo is muscling in on the action with the new Stelvio. The Karoq is Skoda’s second crack at this lucrative market, following in the footsteps of the Kodiaq which launched last year and set the bar for affordable SUVs – quality, comfort, style and space beginning at less than €30,000. Although it’s not in the same competitive bracket, the Karoq, which is related to the Seat Alteca and Volkswagen’s Tiguan, has a lot to live up to. And, for the most part, it does. Its looks aren’t revolutionary (essentially a smaller Kodiaq with a few tweaks) but suit the car perfectly, from the muscular stance and flowing, dynamic lines to the strong Skoda prow that really makes it stand out from its competitors. It’s not hard to agree with the German readers of auto motor und sport who voted the Karoq as the best-looking compact SUV ahead of the Mazda CX-5 and the Mercedes GLA. It certainly beats the Nissan Juke hands down. Things are much the same inside the cabin, focusing on simplicity, comfort and practicality and doing these three things very well. There’s plenty of head and leg room front and back, supportive seats that do wonders for those of us with dodgy backs, and a best-in-class boot at 521L. A touch more insulation would be welcome, but for the most part it’s a refined experience.

Skoda Karoq 1.6 TDi manual BHP: 115 Fuel efficiency: 5.6L/100km (50mpg) Annual tax: €200 Price: €31,700 (minus options)

The driving position is fantastic too, with a surprisingly commanding view of your surroundings. And, like all Skodas, there are quite a few clever little features to make life easier, including rear seats that tilt forward and can be removed entirely and two tablet holders which slot into the back of the front seats, should you require a little help from Peppa Pig to enjoy a quiet trip. It’s very much a car for families on the go. On the road, the Karoq is assured if not overly dynamic. Its shorter wheelbase combined with 18-inch wheels means there’s quite a bit of feedback on rougher roads – opt for 17inch instead. On the other hand, the steering is fantastic and you can turn it on a penny. Performance from the 115hp 1.6L TDi in my model isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s surprisingly quiet and perfect for motorway cruises, averaging 5.6L/100km or 50mpg across a week’s worth of motoring. It’s not exactly lacking in power, but I often found myself dropping a gear or two to really get going. Two petrol versions are available if you tend to take shorter trips – 1.0L (115bhp) and 1.5L (150bhp), alongside a 2.0L TDi (150bhp) with the option of four-wheel drive. The only concern might be your options at this price point. The Karoq starts off at a fairly reasonable €27,900 for the 1.0L petrol in Ambition spec (there’s no base model), offering plenty of bang for your buck with 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch colour touchscreen media centre, cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous braking and more as standard. On the other hand, the larger Kodiaq isn’t that much more at €31,200 for the most spartan 1.5L petrol model and an extra €1,000 if you want seven seats instead of five. If you’re keeping your options open, the Peugeot 3008 is likely the Karoq’s closest rival in terms of quality and similar standards, beginning at €26,695 with an entry spec version that compares favourably. On the whole, the Karoq is a family-friendly SUV with a nice, compact footprint, easily manoeuvrable, well-built and competitively priced. Give it a spin, you won’t be disappointed.


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17/01/2019 13:07

Connecting Ireland’s unique ecosystem of large and small businesses

7 February 2019 | 8am-2pm | Aviva Stadium, Dublin


Now in its second year, Business Connect is an exciting marketplace event designed to give delegates a window into the decision making and purchasing processes of Ireland’s leading companies. At the showcase, delegates will hear from experts including Danny McCoy on navigating Brexit, Kingsley Aitkens on how to unlock that deal with large organisations and case studies on small firms that have successfully secured major customers and clients. Meet the 40 SFA Small Business Awards finalists at the showcase.

MC Richard Curran

Register now @SFA_Irl


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16/01/2019 09:29

Arts  RuthAnne





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RuthAnne  Arts

ou might not recognise the name Ruth-Anne Cunningham, but the talented Dubliner holds considerable sway within the music industry. That’s because her body of work reads like a list of contemporary chart music’s most-valuable players: Britney Spears, One Direction, JoJo, Third Story, Avicii – the list keeps on going. When I speak with Cunningham on the phone, she’s in New York, looking forward to catching John Legend sing ‘No Place Like Home’, a Christmas tune she co-wrote, at Madison Square Garden’s intimate Hulu Theater. The song is yet another ripple in her admirable portfolio. Cunningham has occasionally jumped in front of the mic and provided vocals on songs, but her role has mostly been as a woman behind the music. Now though, under the moniker RuthAnne, the 30-year-old is plotting to fully launch her own solo career. Leaning towards an evocative writing style and minimalist instrumentation – just sparse guitar lines or piano keys often leading the arrangements – Cunningham has recently released four singles and will put out her debut album next year. “It’s probably the perfect timing though because I think when I was younger I wasn’t as developed a lyricist to do the album that I wanted to do,” she tells me. “It takes a certain lyrical perspective and so once I found this the album just started coming out exactly how I’d wanted it to sound since I was younger.”

Encouraged Straight out of Dublin suburb Donaghmede, Cunningham comes from a musical family and was encouraged by her parents to investigate her talent from an early age. When she was around age seven, young Ruth-Anne’s dad gave her a two-track tape recorder with a microphone, which she used to tape her own songs. By age ten she had started overdubbing her voice onto tapes, learning how to harmonise. A couple of years later, she enrolled in the Billy Barry Stage School and started to teach herself piano. “I think from seven I always felt it was my career, even though I wasn’t being paid for it,” Cunningham says. “I’d written about 300 songs before I was 16, so it felt like it already was what I do.” A professional break came when, at age 16, Cunningham started the girl group Dolce Vita. The collective essentially functioned as an outlet for her songwriting and they would record demos after school in a studio on Pim Street, Dublin. As luck would have it, Cunningham’s dad entered one of the tracks, ‘Battleground’, into the 2004 RTÉ/Jacob’s Song Contest. The song didn’t just win, it attracted the attention of The Script’s manager Eamonn Maguire, who wanted to help take Cunningham’s career to the next level by jetting her to Los Angeles.

Ruth-Anne Cunningham


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Arts  RuthAnne

There was one roadblock to California living, though: her Leaving Certificate. Mam and dad, of course, weren’t going to allow Cunningham to miss her exams. So it was literally the day after finishing her final paper when Cunningham headed for the US west coast and, on just her third day stateside, she co-wrote the JoJo song ‘Too Little Too Late’ with Billy Steinberg, whose credits include The Bangels’ ‘Eternal Flame’ and Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’. It was two years before the song was released, but when it did, it was a huge hit. ‘Too Little Too Late’ brought Cunningham into the proverbial big time. During those first few years, she travelled back and forth from LA, developing her craft.

Steer the ship You might have heard Cunningham’s voice on upbeat electronic tracks like KO:YU’s ‘15 Sleeps’ and the JRY number ‘Pray’, the latter of which appeared on the soundtrack for Hollywood movie 50 Shades Darker. But her forthcoming album will be a more pensive piece that matches her soulful, emotive vocal style. The control of working on music that is totally her own is an experience she has found to be freeing. “Sometimes when I’m writing for other people, it’s all different types of genres and all different types of music,” Cunningham explains. “So it’s been really nice to work on a body of work and see it all come together as an artist in my own way and get to steer the ship as well.” Cunningham’s recent single, ‘It Is What It Is’, distills her burgeoning artistry. It’s an extremely personal number, the track’s title coming directly from the mouth of an old beau. “We were in that grey era where we weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, we were just kind of seeing each other,” explains Cunningham. “It was starting to become a toxic situation. He would always say that phrase, ‘Oh, it is what it is’. The song is basically the story of me accepting what it was and moving on from it and saying that I wasn’t going to do it anymore. That’s why, in the song, there’s so many examples of things that are almost there but not quite fitting. Acceptance is such a key part of life

Art and passion

so the song really is an acceptance song and about having the strength to walk away. It’s admitting what’s really going on, instead of being in denial.” But is ‘It Is What It Is’ indicative of a more personal direction as Cunningham slides from being a working songwriter to solo artist? “I think that it’s a very relatable song but I think that a lot of the songs on my record are so personal to me. They have these stories that go along with them that I tell during live shows that it just makes it all very me. Definitely, when I write for other people, there are sprinkles of me in those stories as well. Sometimes they’re entire stories about my life also, because that’s what I write songs from. These songs just feel a bit different and more personal to me, so that’s why they’re on my album.”

Being in the very early stages of her solo career, if Cunningham hasn’t already set her musical goals in stone, then at the very least, her mind must have at some point pondered the possibility of putting herself front-and-centre. Does RuthAnne want to rock stadiums like Beyoncé? Or is just getting her music out there enough? “I definitely think for me, my art is more about my passion for it,” she says. “I really want to get out there as an Irish female representing our country more so than anything. Because sometimes I’m watching all these shows and they just don’t have Irish females as much out there. I could help make a new movement from Ireland. I really want to show the world we have that in our country because there’s so much talent in our country.” She continues: “It’s an album I just want to get out there,” she continues. “I’m not expecting to be Beyoncé over night. It takes many years to have that type of status. For me, it’s not really about fame or money or anything like that. It’s about the art and passion and connecting with people. My artist project is more about finding my audience and playing to them, whether that’s 50 people, 500, or 5,000. I just work hard and I stay inspired and try to create great music. Who knows where that music will go? That’s the exciting part of it.”


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16/01/2019 09:31

The Big Read  Accidental Rebel

Climbing towards new life A



t’s time for us to ease up, Pat,” my Polish friend said. “We’ve done enough; now we can step back and share our stories.” I’d originally gotten to know Maciej Berbeka in 1993 on my first Everest attempt. He was one of the greatest mountaineers in the world and a longtime friend and mentor. ‘“We’re getting older and can’t continue taking the same risks.” He had a history of first winter ascents and reached the summit of Broad Peak [in Pakistan] along with his team on 5 March 2013. The next day, he and his teammate Tomasz Kowalski went missing while descending the mountain in the Karakoram range in Baltistan. They were declared dead two days later. Maciej’s death was a huge shock to me, especially in light of our final conversation. Over 30 people I knew, including close friends and colleagues, had now lost their lives on expeditions around the world. I had been very lucky, but I was starting to feel more vulnerable and knew that if I didn’t listen to that inner voice – and to my body, which was getting creaky – my luck was going to run out. While I still had time, energy and my health, I needed to reassess my objectives and start making a new and viable plan for the future. I had put my neck on the line very often in the past, financially and otherwise, but this was no longer tenable. My fifties were slipping by almost unnoticed and


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Accidental Rebel

Pat Falvey on the Everest Summit

I had never given proper thought to how I was going to finance my life once I stopped big expeditions. The truth was, I didn’t know how. I knew how to get to the top of Everest, I knew how to get to the South Pole, but I didn’t know how I was going to finance the future that I wanted to have. I finally made a conscious decision to focus on it; I stepped back, had a look at my life and formulated a new plan to consolidate and expand my adventure and guiding business.

Taking stock One of the things I love most about travelling all over the world is hearing the stories of people from different cultures and traditions. I’ve learned that we are united by far more than that which divides us. I’ve seen that people everywhere – from the Sherpas on Everest to the Inuit living in the Arctic and the scientists working at the South Pole – want to live full, useful and joyful lives. We are all sources of inspiration for each other. It’s the unsung heroes that are closest to my heart, maybe because I feel these are

the people I am most like – men who had no claim to being special yet who achieved the extraordinary by tapping into their own spirit of adventure and their drive to succeed. The more I’ve shared the stories of my own adventures and of those I’ve met, the more people have come to me and said that they, too, want to push back the boundaries of their lives, to explore their limits and to have an adventure. There are many people who are frustrated and feel they will live their entire lives within the safety and complacency of their comfort zones because they are afraid to get beyond them. Lack of experience and a crashed economy pushed me out of my comfort zone and I was at a very low ebb when I climbed my first mountain. Getting to the summit of that mountain in Kerry was the start of a new life journey for me in which I set out to challenge the limits of what I could achieve and exceed the expectations that had been set down for me. I first became an explorer of the physical world and, later, of the inner world of the human mind and how it works. Now I work at helping people break out of old habits that limit who they can be. I guide them to explore their full potential and to become the hero in their own lives, just as my mentors guided me over the decades.

 The Big Read

Looking in the mirror I’d talked in the past about changing and I had definitely made more time for my family, but there was so much more I needed to do. They admired my work ethic, my self-belief and positivity, but they didn’t like my ruthlessness, my obsessive nature or my arrogance. I hadn’t taken into consideration the anguish they had gone through, caused by my absence and the danger I repeatedly put myself in. Even though I’d brought pain to them, they still wanted me to be part of their lives. None of them wanted me to stop being who I was; what they dearly wished was that I would see the value of having more balance in my life. All the time when I was on this non-stop roller coaster, I was letting so much slip through the net, but there was no escaping this wake-up call. Luck, yet again, was on my side because I still had the most valuable commodity of all – time – to make amends. I underwent a sea change in attitude and have never since lost focus on my number one priority: my family. This is an abridged extract taken from Accidental Rebel by Pat Falvey, first published in 2018 by Beyond Endurance Publishing and available from SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 79

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Travel  Hong Kong



Junkboat at Twilight


Upon arrival to a melting pot of commerce and culture, it’s impossible to resist the lure of this metropolis full of charisma and commotion. Featuring as the backdrop to a hefty number of big budget movie epics – think The Dark Knight, Contagion, Ghost in the Shell, Pacific Rim – it’s a landscape that is instantly recognisable. This familiarity is an important part of Hong Kong’s appeal and it’s unsurprising that up to 60 million visitors flock to this helter-skelter city from every corner of the globe every year. The city can be divided into four parts: Hong Kong Island, the New Territories, Kowloon Peninsula, and the outlying islands. On bustling Hong Kong Island, the city’s company men mix with tourists and ex-pats. Further north, the New Territories offer an array of traditional villages and lush country parks, while the outlying islands provide another glimpse into the character of the city away from the bustle. And a short ferry trip to Kowloon on the opposite side of Victoria Harbour will lead to a host of lively neighborhoods waiting to be explored. Hong Kong is bustling and chaotic, as you’d expect, but the city is also capable of throwing up a few welcome surprises for any intrepid visitor. For one, the city is surprisingly green, with lots of parks,

gardens and even hiking paths to delve into. And few travellers are aware that the territory is made up of 263 islands – if you’ve enough time, hop on one the city’s iconic junk boats and explore some of these fabulous islands.

Corporate enclave Part of what makes Hong Kong such an attractive location for business is its

Colourful neon signs of Kowloon


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Hong Kong  Travel

location at the heart of the Asia-Pacific region. Amidst the luxury hotels and expensive shopping boutiques tailored to the modern tourist lies Asia’s largest financial hub, and the city acts as a gateway connecting the lucrative Chinese market with international investors. Many Irish firms have performed especially well in Hong Kong and Enterprise Ireland and the Hong Kong government continue to foster

ties, particularly in the areas of fintech and aircraft leasing. The advantages of doing business here are manifold. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation consider Hong Kong to have the freest economy in the world, due in part to its free trade policy and a lack of trade barriers. English is also widely spoken and it’s relatively easy for foreign business owners to set up operations here. The city’s infrastructure is an added benefit, as air and sea transport systems allow easy shipping and logistics, while telecommunications in Hong Kong are second-to-none. You’ll also find an outstanding transportation network, as well as perhaps most notably for businesses, some of the lowest tax rates in the world.

One country, two systems?

Standing above the Hong Kong cityscape

Poultry shop, Temple Street night market in Kowloon

Hong Kong’s colonial past and the territory’s bickering with its mammoth neighbour are well documented. Since Hong Kong was handed back to China after decades of British control, the Chinese government has increasingly been accused of interfering with Hong Kong’s independence and the region appears to be gradually losing its grip on the high level of autonomy it once enjoyed. What is thought to be the last bookshop in Hong Kong selling titles banned by Communist China recently closed under pressure from the Chinese government, bringing an end to the city’s tradition of freethinking independent publishing. Clashes between police and demonstrators against China’s attempts to stop independence activism are common. These protests are mainly led by Hong Kong’s younger generation who seek an end to Beijing’s tightening Communist hold – see the excellent documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower for a fascinating insight into the city’s youth culture. Interestingly, I discover this opposition firsthand at a Hong Kong international football match when I witness the Chinese national anthem being loudly jeered by young Hongkongers passionate about promoting national pride. It feels like Hong Kong is on the cusp of change. Which way the pendulum will sway is yet to be decided, but it’s hard to be pessimistic about this forward-looking jurisdiction at the gateway to Asia.

g for Travellin Business


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FLIGHTS With a new year-round service run by Cathay Pacific now operating four times per week direct from Dublin Airport, a trip to this metropolis is easier than ever. HOTEL Keep your eyes peeled for a bargain deal at The Harbourview in the colourful district of Wan Chai. Just a few minutes away from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the MTR railway and Star Ferry Pier, the Harbourview is an ideal spot to unwind after an arduous day of networking.


TRANSPORT Taking less than 25 minutes, the Airport Express is the quickest and most comfortable way to reach Hong Kong Island upon arrival. Then get your hands on an Octopus card and traverse the city’s outstanding MTR network. This handy card can also be used for most other forms of public transport and even as your taxi fare, as well as for purchases in supermarkets and fast food shops.


MEALS Hong Kong is a foodie paradise. Dive into the city’s rich street food scene and sample delicacies such as Sichuan-style wontons, fish balls, rickshaw noodles and shrimp dumplings.


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Travel  Hong Kong




Rise early and avoid the crowds with a visit to the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Take the Peak Tram funicular to the summit and drink in the spectacular views of one of the world’s great megacities.

Wednesday night is synonymous with one thing in Hong Kong: horseracing. Join the 50,000 punters that are seduced by the lure of Happy Valley Racecourse each week. Jump on one the city’s trams affectionately known as ding-dings and soak up the atmosphere of this iconic Hong Kong attraction.


Hop on the number 6 bus and escape to the idyllic coastal oasis of Stanley, a bustling village home to a plethora of top-notch bars and restaurants. Sip on a coffee and partake in that age-old pastime of people watching. Don’t miss a trip to Stanley Market, where you can pick up such essentials as silk garments, Chinese jewellery and other cheesy souvenirs. 5PM | JAVA ROAD COOKED FOOD CENTRE

For a taste of the real Hong Kong – quite literally – pay a visit to Java Road Cooked Food Centre and dine with local workers as they unwind after a day’s toll over some beer in a bowl!

THE HARBOURVIEW Convenience and comfort amidst the hustle and bustle at this downtown hotel right in the thick of the action. Located beside some of Hong Kong’s most-famous shopping and sightseeing spots, it’s an ideal base for conducting business and exploring the city. W: T: +852 2911 1358 E:


Lan Kwai Fong, or LKF, is Hong Kong’s den of debauchery. Party the night away in one of the stylish wine bars, or just grab a beer and join ‘Club 7-Eleven’, a phrase to denote the on-street drinking fashionable – as well as legal – in this buzzing neon wilderness.

Travellers inside the Peak Tram

THE PENINSULA On the Kowloon Peninsula lies Hong Kong’s oldest and most luxurious hotel: The Peninsula. A building steeped in history and decadence – not to mention a Michelinstar restaurant – you’ll find a stunning view of the Hong Kong skyline from one of the hotel’s 300 opulent rooms. W: T: +852 2920 2888 E:

HOTEL ICON Stylish Hotel ICON caters to every whim of the international business traveller. Take a dip in the open-air heated pool overlooking Hong Kong’s iconic harbour before retiring to your spacious and superbly equipped sleeping quarters.

Lan Kwai Fong district in central Hong Kong

W: T: +852 3400 1000 E:


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Beer  Lifestyle






ounded by Faye Maria Healy and built by stainless steel manufacturer Spectac International, Irishowned Dundalk Bay Brewery specialises in the creation of sessionable beers to fit a demographic that enjoy unique, aromatic high-end lagers, red ales, stouts and IPAs. With a heritage dating back to the 1700s, the brewery has kept a traditional feel to all its beers, with carefully selected local natural ingredients to produce a clean, crisp and refreshing taste with no preservatives or chemicals. The ethos of Dundalk Bay Brewery is to make better decisions in both brewing and in business to help the environment and create a leaner and sustainable source for its beers. The brewery is completely automated and is the only of its kind in Ireland to have such high-tech recipedriven procedures. This process generates a better impact in the future of the business through the regenerating of throughput, which creates a knock-on effect to the customer who is making a difference every time one of its products is purchased.



Eight Degrees Brewing recently released two new products to its extensive range of craft brews. Trespass Dark Farmhouse Ale with Blackberries (7.5% ABV), a collaboration brew with Jamil Zainasheff of Heretic Brewing, is a Belgian farmhouse-style ale that has been barrel-aged and blackberried. This is the beer to accompany a traditional roast with all the trimmings, or a whole honey mustard roast ham. Or sip away on a Blowhard Imperial Stout aged in Jameson barrels (12% ABV) – the award-winning craft brewers have gone overboard with toasted dark malts and extra-roasted barley, all before committing the beer to a monthlong sentence in Jameson whiskey barrels, courtesy of their friends in Irish Distillers.


Faye Maria Healy

Independent Dublin craft brewery Rascals Brewing Co has released Grey Area, a new saison-style beer in collaboration with the artistic movement Subset. To mark the partnership, all profits from the sale of Grey Area cans at a special event in Rascals Dublin 8 HQ went to the Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) charity. People were also able to contribute to the ICHH by purchasing Subset prints, T-shirts and caps, as well as a Grey Area magazine. In addition, sales from Rascals Grey Area cans from O’Brien’s and Molloy’s off licences also contributed towards fundraising for the ICHH.

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Profile  A Day in the Life

HUSTON STATION DJ-TURNED-FASHION DESIGNER JENNY HUSTON SHARES A TYPICAL DAY AT THE HELM OF JEWELLERY BRAND EDGE ONLY AND AS CO-FOUNDER OF BLOSS, A POP-UP SHOP SHOWCASING UNIQUE IRISH DESIGNERS. 7.30AM I get up and scan my emails to see if there is anything urgent, followed by a healthy breakfast at home. The day often runs away from me, so I like to start it well! Most days I will get a social media post out of the way before I leave the house or while I’m on the Luas on the way to my office in the Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC) in Dublin 8. 9:30AM I start packaging the weekend’s ecommerce jewellery orders and get them ready for collection. 11AM Once my packages are at reception, I usually catch up with Bloss co-founder Emma Manley on any store-related business. We had 40 designers with us in our Dundrum Winter Capsule, so there were lots of emails, meet the designer events, stylist pulls, press requests and stock deliveries to manage. 12PM I review management reports and keep upto-date with the performance of Edge Only from day-to-day. It’s heartening to see each week beat the previous one, and to know there is a demand for quality Irish design. It puts some pep in my step and I find it motivating to get stuck into time-consuming tasks such as production. 12:30PM This is production time: ordering chains, boxes, display, bullion and findings for the goldsmiths. Earring posts, cufflink backs, jump rings – all these silver and gold pieces that are soldered to our jewellery have to go to the Assay Office in Dublin Castle along with our designs to be tested for hallmarking. It’s a quality stamp, but it is very labour intensive. 1:45PM Time for a quick bite from the GEC café downstairs, which is usually eaten at my desk. During busy periods it can be a panic to cast and hallmark enough jewellery so that, if needed, you can finish a piece at short notice. It’s a guessing game, because you never know how much to make – too little is a nightmare, and too much ties up your cash. It’s heartbreaking Jenny Huston, founder to have a safe full of products that are of Edge Only and not moving when you are out of stock co-founder of Bloss on another design. The customer is always right and it’s my challenge to figure out their wants and needs each year. 3PM Depending on the week’s rota and the time of year – Bloss operated from mid-October to early January – the afternoon is either spent out in Bloss in Dundrum, or otherwise I’ll continue with production and correspondence. A few afternoons each week are dedicated to Edge Only marketing too: newsletters, blogs and press. 6.30PM Some days can be long, but I try and pack it in at the office by 6:30pm when not out in Bloss. We alternate working a weekend day too, so I try to go for a sea row with East Wall Skiff Rowing if I’ve got time. And if I’m really lucky, blow away the cobwebs at a music gig to remind me of my past life as a DJ! WWW.EDGEONLY.COM


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