Louise Kilbane is Managing Director of Lollipop Lane Creche Montessori and After-School, a state of the art purpose built centre, which caters for over 90 children on a weekly basis. The after-school offers many different services within the setting and is strongly influenced by Montessori and the Great Outdoors. It has recently been awarded the Smart Start Healthy Ireland Award. Kilbane is also the President of Tubbercurry Chamber of Commerce in South Sligo. The town has been undergoing a major regeneration with a new enterprise centre and REDZ programme, of which Louise is chair of.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
I started Lollipop Lane Creche Montessori and After-School in 2006, ten years ago now. I was inspired as I had worked in various Early Years Centres and felt I could offer a quality service which would have a positive impact on the lives of young children.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
The funding for the business came from Business Loans, with this we were able to purchase the premises and equipment required to set up Lollipop Lane. However over the years we have received small capital grants from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?
My market is the local community of Tubbercurry and the surrounding hinterland, we would have a catchment area of 30kms of families which use our service.
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
It took me approximately a year to get the business off the ground, following on from the business setting up it took up two years to establish ourselves in the community.
How do you recruit and retain a talented team?
I am very lucky with my staff team, we employ 12 staff in total here in the centre and many of the staff are living local. The Team have trained with MSLETB and IT Sligo, St. Nicholas Montessori Ireland and the Open College of Ireland.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?
I come from a self-employed family and spent many years watching as my parents ran an oil company in Kildare; I really believe this gave me the many skills I needed to become self-employed and also taught me to take calculated risks, this also taught me the concept of working till you achieve and “hard-work”. I trained originally as a Special Education Teacher and Montessori Teacher, however since then I went back to college and recently received a Ba (Hons) in Early Childhood Care and Educations from IT Sligo.
How do you continue to grow and learn?
I ensure I continue to keep myself up to date in the latest in the Early Years by completing regular Continuing Professional Development; I am returning to college this September to complete a Masters in Early Childhood in NUIG. However I am also involved in Volunteer Organisations in Tubbercurry, which includes the Tubbercurry Chamber of Commerce and Tubbercurry REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zone) Project, my involvement in these projects has taught me so much and I continue to learn new skills with the groups, plus I really do enjoy the involvement in the local community.
How do you promote your business?
In my business, word of mouth is key; if a parent can give my service a good report that is the best advertisement I can ever get. I do advertise in local papers and on the national website for early years.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
To be honest, not a whole lot as I have loved the journey I have been on with the business and each hurdle we have had to cross has given me a great learning experience.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I genuinely love going to work everyday, no two days are the same; I work with a great bunch of people who really are the driving force of the business, and without them it would not be the success it is today. I really enjoy planning for the future of the business and because I get to work with young children seeing them grow up is a great honour. The hours are long that is probably the only great drawback.
What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?
- More investment to encourage people to set up businesses.
- Businesses in the North-West and West should be allowed a tax credit, to encourage them to move to the West, but not only investment in Businesses we need.
- Investment in infrastructure, especially here in Sligo and the North-West.
- Greater us of the regional Airports to encourage international businesses into the area.
What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West?
Having moved to the West 14 years ago, I would never move back East. I don’t have traffic problems, and I really feel part of a great community. I am lucky as my children are growing up in this community and have a great sense of belonging. For anybody moving to the West the best advise I can give: Is move West, we really do have it all here, from beaches, theatres, music, sport, business and community which for me is one of the most important, we might not have the best weather but we certainly have the best communities so buy your rain gear on your move down, I don’t think you’ll regret it!