We speak with Donegal-based Patrick Keeney who set-up golf travel company Green Golf Travel in 2016.
Tell Us About Green Golf Travel
A golf tour in the West of Ireland is still one of the best kept secrets in world golf. With courses such as Enniscrone, Carne, Narin & Portnoo and Rosses Point receiving increased recognition, this secret may not last for much longer.
Green Golf Travel is the first dedicated golf tour operator based in the business hub of Donegal, Letterkenny. Our wealth of experience visiting the worlds premium golf resorts has left us in no doubt that the West of Ireland has a golf offering to rival the best.
During a West of Ireland golf tour, you can expect to encounter elevated tee shots across blue flag beaches and greens that are manicured to the highest standards. The night activities on offer are world renowned and need no explanation here!
If you want to sample an unrivalled golfing experience Green Golf Travel will do the work while you take the credit.
Why are you located in the West of Ireland?
We have travelled the world playing golf but our passion is the west of Ireland where we come from. The Wild Atlantic Way from Donegal all the way to Kerry offers golf that is as unique as you will find. We want to increase exposure for the west coast to a global audience and bring golfers to this part of the world which we are so proud to call home.
Where did you previously live?
Before setting up Green Golf Travel, I spent many years in the UK selling golf holidays. While looking out of an office at the concrete jungle, I would speak to golfers from around the world and create the dream golf holiday for them. Our staff members have spent time living in Australia, Asia and the UK but the call to home has been too strong to resist.
What were your main reasons for moving to Donegal?
From our office in the North West of Ireland, we can look out the window at green fields, rugged landscape and in the afternoon, sneak off for a game of golf on a world class links course. To work with local people in bringing golfers to the region gives a huge amount of pride especially when we see the reaction of golfers visiting the west for the first time. Above all, home is where the heart is and with friends, family and colleagues all in the region, the trials of setting up a new business become much more manageable.
What is your employment status?
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
April 2016 – The inspiration for this business came from a clear trend of Irish golfers using UK operators to book golf holidays. As well as this, the West of Ireland is enjoying a tourism boom and there are major golf events planned for Ireland in the coming years. We hope to capitalise on these opportunities.
Video Caption: Ballyliffin Golf Club in Donegal as showcased by Green Golf Travel
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Start up costs of €20,000. We have so far invested €5,000 of personal savings. In late 2016 we earned a place on the New Frontiers Programme which included a Stipend of €15,000.
Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?
Domestic market for outbound golf holidays. International market for inbound golf holidays – Thus far we have invested in paid digital marketing (Facebook and Google AdWords). In February 2017 we will attend a golf trade show in Muncih in order to drive business to the West of Ireland.
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
How do you recruit and retain a talented team?
We have a team of advisers from friends, family and those that may invest in the business at a later date.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?
10 years working in the industry. Support from Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers which includes mentoring and business workshops for start up businesses.
How do you promote your business?
- Online – Social media and via our new website greengolftravel.com
- Traditional – At present we are trying to get some interest in the business from local media.
- Networking – Varied networking groups and events
- Trade Shows – We have attended 1 trade show thus far and will visit Germany next month for our second trade show.
How do you continue to grow and learn?
Lots of reading, keeping a close eye on competitors, listening to advisers, seeking out mentorship and being open minded!
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Very little. We all make mistakes but these are vital and allow us to learn and become stronger.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
The feeling when you finish a 13 hour day and have enjoyed every minute of it. Drawback is never switching off and having the business on your mind 24/7!
What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?
Work with the Diaspora to relay how much support is on offer for new business projects.
Do you rent or own your home?
How does the price / rent of your current home compare with where you previously lived?
No comparison, I currently have business premises free of charge. The rent for my house is a quarter of what I would pay in London.
Do you notice any differences in costs / bills since relocating?
The cost of living in Donegal is so much lower. I would not have been able to set up a business in the UK with the costs involved. Also the cost of getting to work is a fraction of what you would pay in London.
What are the main advantages and disadvantages of relocating / living in Donegal in terms of working and living?
In Donegal the transport links are not great and distance from the South East and South West of Ireland is a definite drawback.
How do you find accessibility to where you live and access to public transport / road networks / airports?
Donegal is very isolated. Improving the infrastructure and accessibility would mean a huge improvement for the local economy.
Why do you love Donegal?
Donegal has the best of wild weather, beautiful scenery, relaxed people, friends and family around, great golf, low costs, feeling of community, support for new business and watching GAA are all things I love about where I live!
What advice would you give to anybody thinking about living in Donegal?
If you value your quality of life and need a change of pace, Donegal is the place to live.