Ian Mitchinson

Ian Mitchinson, Adventure Photographer

South African Ian Mitchinson is a water and surf photographer, filmmaker and editor who lives in Bundoran, Co Donegal, right on the doorstep of some of Ireland’s best surf spots 

He has been a professional photographer since 2005, and before that worked as a photographer’s assistant for a number of years. Ian also produces films and video projects.

See Ian Mitchinson speak in our LookWest.ie Marquee at SeaFest on Saturday, 01 July at 5pm Read more

Fins Fit Foods

Creative Entrepreneur: Finn Ní Fhaoláin

Finn Ní Fhaoláin is a cook, blogger and creative entrepreneur living in Bundoran, Co Donegal.

Most of us start our day with coffee and a commute; Finn starts hers with surfing. With her twin passions of food and the sea, Finn’s philosophy is that as long as she is never far from either, it’s been a good day at the office!

When she was 19, after a period of debilitating illness, she was diagnosed with coeliac disease, and a radical overhaul of her vegetarian diet was required. As she started to experiment with food, her interest in food and in cooking grew, and she began cooking gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan food for events at her father’s business, Gyreum Ecolodge in Sligo.

She recently completed a culinary course, but her background is actually marine science. In university she completed a BSc in Earth and Ocean Science and an MSc in Marine Biology and worked for some time afterwards on scientific research ships.

In 2017 she released her cookery book Finn’s World: Do what you love. Love what you eat featuring gluten-free recipes.

We are delighted that Finn will be speak in the LookWest.ie Marquee at SeaFest at 4pm on Friday, 30 June.

Read more

Green Golf Travel

Patrick Keeney, Green Golf Travel in Donegal

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?

Self-Employed

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?

8 months

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?green golf travel

  • 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?

Rent

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!green golf travel

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.

For more information on Green Golf Travel visit greengolftravel.com and follow @greengolftravel

Wild Atlantic Way Adventures

Catherine Devlin – Wild Atlantic Way Adventures

Wild Atlantic Way Adventures is a family-run business nestled in stunning Tullagh Bay, Co Donegal.

We spoke with owner Catherine Devlin about the benefits and challenges of running a family business in the North West of Ireland.

Be prepared to be motivated and inspired by this family’s can-do attitude.

 

Tell Us About Your BusinessWild Atlantic Way Adventures

Wild Atlantic Way Adventures is nestled in Europe’s finest coastal landscapes, known as The Wild Atlantic Way.

We offer Adventure, Heritage, Language and Activity packages combined with on-site group accommodation.

We are a family-run business offering safe and fun adventures in a sustainable manner in a pristine natural environment.

We work in partnership with Ireland’s most experienced English language teachers and qualified adventure sports providers to provide a vast range of activities.

All of our activities are based in the Inishowen Peninsula the adventure sports capital of Ireland. This is where Malin Head is located the most northerly point of Ireland also the starting point of the Wild Atlantic Way.

It’s rugged and liberating, allow yourself to be drawn by the constant rhythm of the ocean’s roar and the consistent warmth of the people. Here you will find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.

Why are you located in Donegal?Wild Atlantic Way Adventures

This is where both myself and my husband have grown up. We have lived here all of our lives.

We love living on the Inishowen Peninsula.

Our family and friends are here. This is such a warm, friendly and safe environment to bring up a family.

We both worked in Fruit of The Loom and after this we took over my husband’s family farm.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

We started our original business Tullagh Bay Equestrian Centre in 2012 because as a farming family we were struggling in this hard economic climate.

We were looking to build a future for our family and also create a business that would enhance the tourism facilities available in the local area.

We love living here in Tullagh Bay Clonmany. Inishowen is truly one of Ireland’s most beautiful and unique hidden gems, it has so much to offer from a tourism perspective. From its stunning and beautiful beaches to rolling hills directly beyond.

Wild Atlantic Way Adventures

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

The start-ups cost were derived from a combination of our own savings and funding we obtained under the Rural Development Programme (LEADER) 2007 – 2013.

With this money we developed the Indoor Equestrian Centre, developed our website, purchased signage and marketing material to support the business.

With the success of this business we took the decision and expanded the operation and became a full Adventure Centre. We have invested further this year from our own savings to add group accommodation units at the centre, a new website for Wild Atlantic Way Adventures and marketing video.

Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?tullagh-beach-website2

Our market is both national and international.  We have a number of different market segments that we are targeting.

With the introduction of the Wild Atlantic Way we have experienced an increase in our customers coming directly from tourism.

We are promoting ourselves within Failte Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way by attending trade fairs supported by Failte Ireland.

We also focus on the Youth Market and Education Sectors both nationally and internationally.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

Our business has been open since July 2012. The equestrian side of the business has been successfully growing year by year over this period of time.

The introduction of the on-site accommodation and the additional adventure activities during 2015 we believe has left us in a good position for a very successful 2016 and future years to come.

How do you continue to grow and learn?

Our Local Enterprise Office and Failte Ireland have run a number of very beneficial business and marketing courses that we have attended.

We have upskilled on social media and all the benefits that it can bring to your business. The power of social media can never be underestimated.

We live by the philosophy that every day is a learning day and welcome the knowledge that can be obtained by keeping abreast with technology, business and marketing.

How do you promote your business?

We promote our business on a number of different platforms. We have a very strong website and marketing video.

We not only promote our business we also promote the natural beauty, culture and heritage of this pristine natural environment we are blessed to be part of.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

We would not change a thing if we had to do it all over again. We never look back. Every single experience both good and bad are moulding us into the people that we are now.

Our kids are learning and developing every day being part of this growing business. They are actively planning what they are going to do in the business.

For us this is very rewarding to have them by our side. We are encouraging them to travel and broaden their experiences but believe that they will return at some stage to their home in Tullagh.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

We love the fact that we are doing something we enjoy with the knowledge that we are building a future for our family. We love the freedom that comes from running your own business, it allows us to be creative in our strategy for the future. We love the challenges of making things work and we obtain a great sense of satisfaction when we are all working together as a family within the business.

We are the ones that are in control of our business growth. We strongly believe that if we work hard at what we do, we will achieve all of our goals.

The drawback of course are that there is no such thing as nine to five or a forty hour week. If there is work to be done then it has to be done.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the North West?

The North West is a tranquil place to live. The lifestyle is good, the pace of life is good. This is a healthy and safe environment to raise a family.

A beach and some pretty inspiring countryside, with many unique and stand-out historical and geographical features are never more than ten minutes away.

Touring along the Wild Atlantic Way will reveal some of Ireland’s finest scenery with some new discovery every few miles.

Check out what Wild Atlantic Way Adventures has to offer in this stunning video showcasing the best Inishowen has to offer.

Find our more about Wild Atlantic Way Adventures here

 

 

 

Richie Fitzgerald

Richie Fitzgerald – Surfworld

Richie Fitzgerald was born and raised in Bundoran, County Donegal, which has become known as a world-class surfing destination largely due to Richie’s exploits as the undisputed face of Irish surfing.

Richie represented Ireland at both World and European Championships but now concentrates on big wave surfing and owning and managing Ireland’s leading surf shop and surf school. Outside of surfing Richie is a family man, a huge football fan, enjoys SUP, spear fishing and is reputed to own one of Ireland’s finest Star Wars memorabilia.

upstart-richiefitzgerald-09Tell us about your business

Our business ‘SurfWorld’ is one of Ireland’s original surf shops. We opened in 1990 as a small family run surf shop, we have developed the business into Ireland’s leading surf retailer. with expanding the shop size and stock and also our online business over the years. In addition to that we offer the whole range of surf services like a year round surf school catering to all levels from complete beginners to expert, surf rental, boards and wetsuit repair and all local daily surf reports and info available in store, online or on our social media.

What were you doing when you decided to create your own business?

Surfing is in my blood and our family have a great surfing heritage here. When we opened Surfworld back in 1990 I was only 16 and worked in summer time in the shop, by 2000 I was involved full time in the business. I spent the 90’s finishing school and college, traveling and competing all over the globe at World and European level for Ireland as well as building a career as a professional big wave surfer so taking over the family business was a natural progression from me on a personal, career and business level.

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When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

What inspired us to set up the business was necessity, I come from a family of surfers and although people have been surfing in Bundoran since the early 1960’s there was no surf shop until we opened in summer 1990. It was mostly so my family and friends had a place to buy the essentials like wax, boards and wetsuits, I don’t think back then that we thought it would grow into the business we have now.

upstart-richiefitzgerald-05What were your start-up costs?

My sister Annamarie and I borrowed 500 punts (back then that was a lot of money) from my Mum and we contacted a UK surf distributer and ordered wax, leashes, booties, a few boards and 6 wetsuits. This was before the internet or email so it was all over the phone and bit of a shot in the dark, we really weren’t sure what to order, what it would look like? and would any of it would sell?, We set up a small corner in our Mum’s shop and thankfully the stuff sold and we are still here today.

What was the biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle at the beginning was getting stock, educating customers on the product and of course finance as the surfing industry back then was very small nationwide and almost existent outside surfing hotspots like Bundoran, Strandhill, Rossnowlagh, Portrush and Lahinch.

Who supported you?

My Mum was huge support to us and all our family chipped in, I can’t answer this question without thanking the local Bundoran surfing population and indeed the wider area of north Sligo too as they supported us right from the start and kept the wheels turning in that first 10 years especially.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

I reckon it really took 5 years, the first boom year we had was our 5th year 1995, it was helped by a hot summer with good waves but I feel it was one of the first years that surfing and its accessibility spread outside of the hotspots and we started getting customers from all over Ireland especially the Dublin and the east coast.

upstart-richiefitzgerald-03

How do you promote your business?

We are very active on social media and online as it is an ever changing market now, on an almost weekly basis if not daily basis. You have to keep you finger on the pulse and be pro-active not re-active with everything to do with your business from social media to changing stock. We have built our business on customer service and we try to put our customers first at all times. We have a huge amount of goodwill and word of mouth built around the business and that is something you can’t buy but also something you can’t be arrogant about as we all know you are only as good as your last sale.

What do you love most about being your own boss?

I love being my own boss as I am in control of every aspect of the business and its future depends on my decisions, which of course brings its own stress and pressure. The biggest drawback is that we are open 7 days a week year round and only close Christmas Day and Boxing Day so it is relentless and sometimes I dream of working for some company where you get weekends and evenings off, I find Friday evenings and early Sunday mornings particularly hard.

upstart-richiefitzgerald-02

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

We have 2 surf shops in Bundoran, one in Strandhill Co.Sligo and we also have a surf school in Brittas Bay Co. Wicklow, I am based in Bundoran and off season we have 5-6 staff between all our businesses in summer season that goes up to 16 staff.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

Not really but I do admire Micheal O’Leary from Ryanair in Irish business context, he doesn’t suffer fools, sticks to his guns and bucks the trends so love him or hate him he is a great business man. I read a book years ago called ‘Accidental Billionaires’ which was turned into the ‘Social Network movie’ about the creation of ‘Facebook’ I find those kind of rags to riches stories fascinating. Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg who risked it all in pursuit of their goal, thats very, very brave in my mind.

upstart-richiefitzgerald-06

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?

I learned a lot about business from family and traveling as I feel it opens your mind to how things are done overseas. I stay well read. Listening to your customers and facing up to challenges: like the demise of high street in favour of online, that could have sank our business but we fought back with better offers and deals and in store services. We have a competitive online store which is growing week on week. We still do the vast majority of business in store and you have to make yourself a destination store to attract people from all over. We succeed in this by specialising in our products and services and making our business a ‘must-see’ in the area.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Hindsight is great and there are several small things I’d go back and do differently, not really with the store business as it’s grown steadily year-on-year since the beginning. I do feel in the early days I let a few good opportunities, relationships with people and business connections with folks slip by, so I would like to go back and have a few of those opportunities over again, but you live and learn and I have never met a perfect business person and everybody has a few small regrets.

upstart-richiefitzgerald-07

Why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

North West born and bred. Born in Sligo and I grew up in Bundoran so that’s about as local as it gets.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

I think the west of Ireland is the real Ireland we have a fabulous outdoors environment with stunning coastline, beaches, surf, mountains, lakes and rivers its a outdoor adventure playground paradise.

Active Irish Honey

Move over New Zealand Manuka honey. A group of Donegal based businessmen and professional bee-keepers recently launched an Irish alternative under the Active Irish Honey brand.

upstart-honey-01

The Life Science Department at IT Sligo are providing the science behind the business and their research findings have confirmed that Irish honey has the same activity results as world famous Manuka Honey.

In August 2013 Active Irish Honey won the “Best Product Award” at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival and the new product is being stocked in pharmacies.

We spoke with Active Irish Honey CEO Conor Daly about the new venture.

What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?

I am CEO and co-founder of Travellogic, a Sales & Digital Marketing company that was established in 2004. About two years ago I started bee keeping as a hobby and together with Carl Diver and Austin Duignan we launched Active Irish Honey in August 2013.

upstart-honey-02When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

In Ireland, most of the honey we consume is imported. Bee-keeping is one of the oldest traditions in Ireland but the market is being flooded with cheap imports.  The survival of the sector is under threat and the idea behind Active Irish Honey is about the revival of our bee-keeping tradition.  In 2013 we started market research to find out if Irish consumers of honey would choose a certified 100% Pure Irish Honey product over non-EU imported honey imports from Asia & South America) and does a market opportunity exist for an “Active” Irish Honey. The answer to both questions is YES.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

Together with my colleagues in Active Irish Honey, Carl Diver, CEO of CDAMC and Austin Duignan, CEO of Donegal Rapeseed Oil, we invested our own financial resources into the project to get it up and running. The funding was used for scientific research, product development, market research.

What was the biggest obstacle?

There are always obstacles in any business especially during recessionary periods. At Active Irish Honey we work really well together as a team and when we face challenges we’re fortunate to be able to draw on the professional expertise and advice of our wider business network and personal contacts.

Who supported you?

It feels like everyone we meet is supporting Active Irish Honey; from our growing following of loyal customers to the bee-keepers who provide us with their 100% pure Irish honey. The Irish celebrity chef’s who are promoting the flavour and local providence, and the great people at IT Sligo led by Dr. James Brennan and his research scientists.  We’ve also received funding and development support from Donegal County Enterprise Board and Enterprise Ireland.

How long did it take you to get your business off the ground?

Just over four months from initial business idea/concept to having our first product available for sale. We conducted market research during the summer of 2013. We’ve been overwhelmed by the enormous positive response ever since. Active Irish Honey simply sells itself.  Thank you to all our customers.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

YES, there are many but Marc Benioff who founded cloud computing company salesforce.com in San Francisco in 1999. He is credited with turning software on its head with his software-as-a-service business model. Sir Tim Smit who is famous for his “social entrepreneurial work on the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project in Cornwall.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

Continual learning – you have to invest the time and surround yourself with great people who enable you to grow. I’m a big fan of local business network groups (Chamber of Commerce / SMACHT) and the management development courses delivered by www.coursera.org or www.udacity.com

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

Probably lots, but mistakes are part of life and learning – you have to have “SMACHT” and keep looking forward.

What is your best selling item/service?

100% Pure Irish Honey – Active Irish Honey

Are you a LookWester (previously living outside the Western Region) and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

I’m from Sligo and went to the University of Limerick. After graduating, my career took me to Sweden, Denmark and Holland before returning to Dublin. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to moving back to the Northwest over 15 years ago and so enjoy living here in the region.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

Make it Happen.

Image Credit Above: Active Irish Honey team picture @ IT Sligo Research Labs. Image courtesy of IT Sligo.

More at http://activeirishhoney.com/

Lone Star State

upstart-lonestarstate-01This year’s winner of the Donegal Enterprise Awards Best Emerging Business, Peter Campbell of Lone Star State Ltd is a dynamo of the creative industries in the North West.

Lone Star State Ltd is a digital content creation company based in Donegal that publishes multi-platform graphic novels across digital media space.

Telling stories is at the core of Lone Star State’s business; so we asked Peter to tell us his story.

What were you doing (career wise) when you decided to create your own business?

I’d been in a start-up scenario before Lone Star State. In-between that and what I currently do, I had actually left the creative industries completely, due to a combination of factors and reasons. One of them being that it just didn’t appear to be the right time for what I was proposing to do.

The other two factors which seemed to be playing against me (at that time) was that the Creative, Digital, Media Industries in the North West of Ireland were in quite a fledgling state with very, very few opportunities, and supports. It was quite under the radar, both culturally and economically speaking, not really recognised as the employment creator and economic driver that it is viewed as now, and there were few opportunities.

A bit of disillusionment set in and I was beginning to feel like a dog chasing its own tail in a cul-de-sac! I ended up working in door-to door sales, selling utilities. This took me all around the country, but it also did something else, which I didn’t realise until it was behind me – that the experience of stepping away from Digital Media/Creative Industries had accidentally given me the distance I needed to regroup my thoughts. There was something in the back of my head telling that my departure from the Creative Industries wasn’t once and for all, because I had a lot of unfinished and unfulfilled challenges and projects that I just couldn’t set down for good, so I took my refreshed motivations, dusted off my plans and came back to it filled with a new vigour.

upstart-lonestarstate-02When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

I stumbled upon an ad for the New Frontiers Programme around March ’12. I applied and got onto Phase 1, consisting of an 8 week course. I then pitched for a place onto Phase 2 and got it. This was the catalyst that sent the wheels in motion. The timing was right, and my appetite for this challenge was there and I now had been granted a great opportunity to make a decent run at it. So, with New Frontiers starting in Sept last year, I set up the business and led me to the point where I am now.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

I got assistance and support through the New Frontiers Programme, and this was a great enabler, as I met most of, if not all of my milestones that I’d set out for myself during that. In addition to this – and combined with it – I received help and supports from the Donegal Enterprise Board.

What was the biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle thus far has been sourcing and finding the right people to fulfil very particular roles and skills that the business we are in calls for. I think because there wasn’t as many opportunities in the Creative Industries before as there are now, there was a bit of an exodus, either offshore or to Dublin. But, the good news is, that the word about the West is out, and the skills are trickling back.

Who supported you?

Since moving West I have been privy to so much hands-on help, positive encouragement and support from so many individuals based here, and to them all I am very grateful.

I have been the recipient of assistance from Programs such as the Creative Edge Programme the Northern Periphery Programme, Knowledge Cities and MEDIA-TIC, and from bodies and agencies such as LYIT, Ernact, the Western Development Commission, and the Donegal County Council Film Office.

Not only did I receive help Enterprise Ireland through the New Frontiers Programme, but I received an amazing amount of help from the Donegal Enterprise Board, who then acknowledged us with the great honour of being given the Award for Best Emerging Business this year.

upstart-lonestarstate-03How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

I would say, from first incorporating as a Limited Company right through to launching our first phase of products, was 5/6months all told.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

I have to say I do love being my own boss. And I have no difficulty adding to that by stating that starting, having and owning your business is, for me, one of the most gratifying and liberating things you can do. For me, having the freedom to determine the Creative Direction and Strategy of a project – and a business – is very satisfying, and I suppose it also lends itself very, very well to my make-up – free-thinking  and independently minded.

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

I – and my business – Lone Star State Ltd are based in the Co-Lab facility in the grounds of LYIT in Letterkenny. We are currently made up of a team of two, with Catherine Browne looking after all Marketing, Sales and Social Media related activities.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

Since moving here, I have of become acquainted with many local and regional independent business people and entrepreneurs who I have the highest respect for, because of what they have achieved. On an international stage, it would have to be George Lucas. He was single minded and unwavering in his vision. And his vision for Star Wars was to for it to be a modern mythological fairy tale that would resonate with contemporary audience. He achieved that, in spades. Even after Star Wars was successful, the Hollywood Studio System established still turned their back on him; they even gave him a hefty fine for not putting the credits at the start of the Star Wars films. But all this is was what made him stronger, because he was forced to establish his own independent company (LucasFilm) and his own Special Effects house (I.L.M). By doing this away from L.A, up in San Francisco, he was able to remain in full control of the Star Wars Franchise. But, the mammoth undertaking of attempting to get a film like Star Wars made in 1975, and trying to sell the idea to the studios of the time that had absolutely no frame of reference for this kind of movie, is the lesson here, and is something which entrepreneurs experience every day in the challenges of trying to get across their own vision.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

I would always try and keep topped-up by either attending night-classes or by going to interesting talks and seminars. You can’t beat a well delivered, well-crafted presentation from a well-respected industry leader on an exciting , new area to get your inspiration flared. I would say that I am about 90% self-taught, with 100% of that 90% coming directly from rolling up your sleeves, accepting and embracing all the challenges that being an independent start-up throws at you. The other remaining 10% may just be sheer stubbornness!

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I would have done it sooner, and the things I have achieved in the last year I would like to have seen materialise about three years ago. But, hey, they’re here now, so can’t complain!

What is your best selling item/service?

At first, it was the Digital Edition of our first publication; This was an App version which was compatible in NOOK Format (Nook Being the Digital Tablet released by Barnes & Noble to rival and compete against Amazon’s Kindle), but soon after the sales of our nice glossy Printed Edition superseded this.

Are you a Look Wester? Why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

I had always wanted to, and had always intended to move back. It just took a little bit longer than I had either wanted or had anticipated.  I went the long way round to get to the West, via many various places – but I got here eventually!

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

The lifestyle is good, the pace of life is good, it’s a healthy environment and it’s very peaceful. A beach and some pretty inspiring countryside, with many unique and stand-out geographical features are never more than ten minutes away – with even more amazing sights within reach in about twenty! To quote the most over-quoted song lyric : “The West is The Best!”

More Info:

Lone Star State Ltd’s Flagship Product and Brand “LONE STAR SOUL” best described as a “Multi-Platform Graphic Novel Experience using Transmedia Storytelling” is available as a Digital Edition on Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Apple iBookstore, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Graphicly. It is available and compatible with all the latest Devices and Tablets, including Kindle, iPad, Nook, Kobo, and all Android Devices. LONE STAR SOUL BOOK ONE: SOLE INVITATION is also available as an exclusive Branded App on Google Apps and Google Play.

You can also buy the exclusive Printed Edition of “LONE STAR SOUL BOOK ONE: SOLE INVITATION” directly from the website www.thelonestarsoul.com

W: www.thelonestarsoul.com
FB: www.facebook.com/lonestarstateltd
TW: www.twitter/lonestarsoul

 

The Maths Tutor

The next in our series of Upstarts case studies is Eamonn Toland founder of Themathstutor.ie, Ireland’s leading online support system for Project Maths students.

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Eamonn Toland of themathstutor.ie

Originally from Carndonagh, Co Donegal, Eamonn studied Physics, Maths and Computers with stints working as a data analyst in the market research industry, before moving into software development in Belgium and the UK before returning to Ireland in 2007 with his wife and 3 young children and settling in Co Mayo.

What is themathstutor.ie?

TheMathstutor.ie is a new website which specialises in Project Maths support, tailor-made for secondary school students in Ireland. TheMathstutor.ie provides Video Lessons, Interactive Exercises, and Online Support. So it’s like having your own private
tutor, 24/7, without the pressure to understand everything first time.

What were you doing when you decided to set-up themathstutor.ie?

I returned to Ireland with my wife after living in Belgium and London for 7 years.  Initially I worked from Mayo as an IT consultant for client in the UK and the US.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

When our 3 children began to arrive in quick succession, I knew I wanted to develop something that would fit around family life, and also something that would use my experience and skills to date.  I started providing a professional maths tuition service from my home in 2009, and very quickly I realized I couldn’t meet the demand for support using the traditional one-to-one approach.  So I gradually started incorporating elements of technology in order to help more students.  In June 2011 I set up The Maths Tutor Ltd, trading as themathstutor.ie, and started building our online system to provide affordable and effective maths support to students throughout the country.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

I funded the business using my own savings, to allow me the independence to make my own decisions.  This also meant that I had to be very careful in how I budgeted and spent money on themathstutor.ie, and so I had to carry out a lot of the work myself.  The main initial costs were specialist IT hosting and consultancy, legal and accountancy costs.  Later, I had to spend money on professional graphic design, marketing training and advice, marketing activities and materials, and more recently on staff costs.

What was the biggest obstacle?

The biggest challenges were two-fold: the sheer amount of time and effort to create high-quality learning resources for Irish maths students, and the challenge of getting our name and product to the students and parents, bearing in mind the number of competing products in this space.  Once we reach the students, it is relatively easy as they can see the value in what themathstutor.ie provides.

Eamonn Toland of themathstutor.ie with Minister Sean Sherlock at MathsFest

Eamonn Toland of themathstutor.ie with Minister Sean Sherlock at MathsFest

Who supported you?

Support has come formally from South West Mayo Development company, in the form of LEADER funding, which has been essential for our IT development, our branding and our marketing, as well as providing excellent advice and guidance.  We’ve also developed a great relationship with the IIBC in Castlebar, with Moy Valley Resources, and the County Enterprise Board, and their teams have been incredibly supportive of themathstutor.ie.

Informally, my number one supporter has been my wife, Kay Roche, who also runs a business from home, in the area of medical communications.  I’ve also been given incredible amounts of help from a huge network of family, friends and neighbours who are experts in many fields, and they have been very generous with their advice and time.  We’ve also had great support from the media, both locally and nationally.  I’m very grateful to all of these supporters.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

We had a soft launch of the business 8 months after registering the company, and a full launch 8 months after that.  We are still adding to themathstutor.ie every day, in terms of content and features, and we intend to continue to do so.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

I love the fact that I have complete responsibility for making this business succeed.  This means that I have to use every skill, experience and ability that I possess to create something new and to make themathstutor.ie a success.

It is extremely difficult to switch off from the job.  When you are believe in the value of what you do, and you are obsessed with making it happen, you can’t help working on it around the clock.  So it’s important to set aside time for family life as well (easier said than done!).

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

I work from home, and I have part-time consultants and collaborators who are an essential part of driving themathstutor.ie forward.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

No one person.  I’ve picked up lessons from my parents, parents-in-law, and other family members, as well as friends and past colleagues who have been very successful.  As a Donegal man, I found the example of Jim McGuinness and the Donegal team, and how they overcame the odds, very inspiring.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

Some of the skills came from formal education, but far more important has been hands-on experience.  I’ve worked in a few different fields at home and abroad, and in different capacities.  It’s great to apply some of those lessons to my own business.

Getting stuck in, trying new ideas, making plenty of mistakes and getting on with it! I also try to make time to read books on technology, business and psychology so as to get fresh ideas.

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Eamonn Toland with Camera Crew from EMC Ltd at the BT Young Scientist

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I’d probably invest more time implementing a simple and workable project management method for a small business, and then make sure to focus on the priorities, and try not to sweat the small stuff.  Hopefully that would lead to burning less midnight oil, while still making lots of progress and giving the customers the best support possible.

What is your best selling item/service?

The core product of themathstutor.ie is our online support system for Irish secondary level maths students, covering the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert courses.  We provide video lessons, interactive exercises and online support.  This allows students to get high quality maths help, 24/7, without needing to travel to expensive maths grinds.  We believe that every family should have access to support in this key subject, so this is our single focus.

Are you a LookWester (previously living outside the Western Region) and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

Yes, the last time I lived in the west was in 1991, and after that I lived in Belfast, Dublin, Brussels and London.  I moved with my wife to Mayo in 2007, just before our first child was born.  It was a very natural time for us to move back to be nearer to our families, and we have been made very welcome here.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

Spend as much time here as you can before you make the move and find out which part of this very diverse region will work best for you and your family.  And try not to get spoiled for choice!