Patrick Quinn

Meet the Overstock team in Sligo: Patrick Quinn – Development Manager  

Patrick Quinn is enjoying a life he couldn’t envisage when he moved to Dublin in 2006 with a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Limerick. The Tourlestrane native moved back to Sligo in 2014 to take advantage of something he once thought would never be an option the opportunity for high tech work in the North West of Ireland. Now four years working with technology firm Overstock as Development Team Lead, Patrick takes great satisfaction from the fact that Overstock and other companies are enabling people from the region with technology qualifications to pursue their careers in the North West. With his wife also from south Sligo, a move back home was always on the wish list, but it remained an aspiration until the arrival of Overstock altered the employment landscape. Trading a two bedroom apartment with a balcony in Dublin for a four-bedroom house with an acre of garden close to family and friends made perfect sense ahead of their eldest child starting school.  The couple wanted to raise their children with the same quality of life and sense of community that they enjoyed when they were growing up.

Although Patrick enjoyed living in Dublin, where he worked for Deloitte, he now savours the opportunity to combine a rewarding and challenging career as part of Overstock’s leadership team while having time for family life, playing hurling for his local club and coaching youth teams. As a Development Manager

on the partner side of Overstock’s e-commerce operation, Patrick and his colleagues devise solutions that help Overstock’s thousands of partners to improve their products and target improved sales. He came to his current role with plenty of experience, but Patrick says he is always learning at Overstock where staff are free to explore use cases for different technologies in an environment where innovation is encouraged.

He acknowledges that being exposed to a huge diversity of the latest technology is unusual and a huge boon to the North West not least because graduates from the region can now choose to build a career without having to move to Dublin or even further afield.

Overstock is Recruiting in Sligo:

Check out the roles Overstock is currently recruiting in Sligo for in our Jobs Section.

lucia macari

Meet the Overstock Team in Sligo: Lucia Macari – Development Team Leader

As a member of the leadership team at Overstock, Lucia Macari shares a common goal with her senior colleagues as the company looks to quadruple in size to continue delivering high-quality software while maintaining a genuine work-life balance for all Overstock’s staff.

And Lucia knows a thing or two about the benefits of work-life balance and how difficult life can be without it. Originally from Dublin, Lucia’s career in software after gaining a degree in Computer Information Systems from Trinity College Dublin saw her crisscross the globe as she worked in such diverse locations as Sweden, Germany, Finland, Japan, and Canada before returning to Dublin, meeting her future husband and jetting off to work in New Zealand for 18 months. Working in the tech sector in Wellington, the pair embraced an active outdoor lifestyle that they simply could not replicate when they returned to Dublin and started a family. Although they had great jobs, the absence of a good quality of life amid the demands of living in Dublin meant something had to change, and they decided to return to New Zealand. However, while standing on Streedagh beach in her husband’s native Sligo, they realised that they could have what they wanted without traveling halfway around the world. So, they moved to Sligo in late 2005 determined to seek out a better life for their family and haven’t looked back since.

lucia macariInitially, Lucia worked three days a week in Dublin, but they still enjoyed a much better quality of life than when they lived there. And, only a few years after the move, the opportunity arose for Lucia to take up a high-tech role with Overstock when they opened their only office outside of the United States.

One of the original seven Overstock staff in Sligo, Lucia has seen that grow to more than 40 employees and further expansion is on the way. Lucia is involved in various initiatives as part of the leadership team responsible for growing the Irish office. As Development Team Leader, Lucia guides the team through successful project delivery using the agile framework Scrum. She is also in daily contact with product owners to ensure the team is developing the right product in the right way.

Overstock is Recruiting in Sligo:

Check out the roles Overstock is currently recruiting in Sligo for in our Jobs Section.

david kenny overstock

Meet The Overstock Team in Sligo: David Kenny, Director of Software Development and Site lead Ireland

David Kenny – Director of Software Development and Site lead Ireland

‘Career progression’ is important to David Kenny, Overstock’s Director of Software Development and Site lead Ireland. For him, that’s what a technologist gets when he or she joins Overstock a technology company brimming with opportunity. “We want to attract people who are looking for high-quality work and a high-quality lifestyle” says David.

If you can match that with a workplace that offers solid career progression which increasingly matters to people, we think that’s a pretty unique selling point for us here in Sligo.”

David is himself from Sligo, hailing from Ransboro under the shade of a stunning mountain and local landmark called Knocknarea. He went to university in Limerick and Galway. With international IT experience under his belt including stints at ING in the UK and Netherlands as well as working for global banking giant HSBC, he set up Overstock’s Ireland office in 2013.

“We started with a suitcase full of laptops, a company credit card and a bunch of great ideas. The growth has been very pleasing to a point where we are on track to have a staff of over 120.”

David says Overstock’s vision is to develop its Sligo base as a centre of excellence in software development by adding high-end, quality roles. The roles include backend, frontend, full stack, architecture across the Fintech, Supply Chain and E-Commerce domains. The company is hiring at various levels from junior to senior in areas such as software automation testing, machine learning, and data analytics. Overstock offers all of its employees’ career progression as well as opportunities for continuous learning. David adds: “Our mission is to continue developing cutting-edge, disruptive technology.”

With Overstock working across online retail, blockchain and other disruptive technologies, the future is an exciting one for the Irish teams in Sligo, a place of majestic beauty dubbed by some travel writers as Ireland’s ‘adventure capital’. David and his staff are frequent visitors to Sligo’s surf spots while the Overstock office itself in the heart of a spectacular urban park ringed by mountains and the famed Lough Gill. Ireland’s national poet WB Yeats found inspiration among the waters there. It’s an exciting place for younger people as well as those with families.

“We set the bar pretty high for recruitment we love being able to offer that cutting-edge tech work environment and Sligo’s natural charms which allows people to enjoy life inside and outside of work.“

At Overstock, we go above and beyond to deliver. I guess that’s what we are all about creating great solutions for the company as a whole and a great environment or the people who work here.”

Job Opportunities:

Check out the roles Overstock is currently recruiting in Sligo for in our Jobs Section.

henandstagsligo.ie

Fergal and Kevin Quinn, HensandStagSligo.ie

The Quinn family is well known in Sligo for their entrepreneural spirit and Fergal Quinn is no different. Fergal and his brother, Kevin, got their first taste of running a business when they were teenagers and helping out in the family businesses, which now includes The Embassy Steakhouse Restaurant, Lola Montez niteclub, Hen and Stag Sligo, a snooker hall and three pubs (the Bourbon Bar, the Belfry and Kennedy’s).

However, initially Fergal decided to pursue a different career. After studying Maths and Economics in Trinity College, he worked with Deutsche Bank in London before coming home to Sligo in 2000 to work in the family business. He had a few great years in the nightclub, pub and restaurant during the boom times, but after the recession things began to change. This encouraged Fergal to add a new business-generating wing – a hen and stag party booking service – to the family business. Fergal and his brother Kevin set up henandstagsligo.ie

In May 2014 and it has since established itself as a one-stop-shop for hens and stags coming to the North-West.

1.     Can you tell us where you live now and why you like it?

I live in Sligo now after spending nearly eight years between Dublin and London. I was born here and moved to Dublin for college when I was 18. It’s a great town with loads to do for those who like the outdoors. I am a keen mountain biker and there are lots of great trails all over Sligo. I also enjoy running and it’s great to have two fantastic beaches less than 10 minutes away where I can run.

From a business perspective, there is a lot of ‘working together’ here which is great to see and probably a lot more than a few years ago. The economic downturn was a great catalyst to get people collaborating on events and projects that would bring people in to town so that we all benefit. We have numerous great festivals each year like Sligo Summer Festival, Strandhill Surf Festival and the Yeats International Summer School to name a few.

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

Our core business was started by my parents over 30 years ago and has grown to now include three bars, a restaurant, snooker rooms and a nightclub. Myself and my brother Kevin run the day to day business now and we started the website Hen and Stag Sligo henandstagsligo.ie back in 2014.

The pub and nightclub business has changed quite a bit over the past decade and we were looking for new avenues to generate business. We noticed that some towns like Carrick-on-Shannon and Westport weathered the downturn a bit better than Sligo due to them being quite popular hen and stag destinations. Sligo was not seen as a ‘go to’ destination for this market but we knew it was perfectly positioned to capitalise here given the huge amount of activities you can do in the adventure capital of Ireland.

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

Start-up costs were about €20,000 and it was financed through our main business. We used this primarily for the front-end website, back-end database systems and payment processing. The website is where all the content is and it’s our shop window for the customer, so we had to make sure it was designed right. We were conscious of having the right content to attract customers and the right structure for search engine optimisation.

We also had to design a bespoke database system that managed all our bookings. This is probably the most important spend for us as it contains every single piece of information relating to our bookings from accommodations to meals to transfers. We got a company in Pakistan to build this system. Lastly, we have a system to manage the online payments for all our groups. This has proven really popular with our customers as it really takes the hassle out of collecting money from everybody going on a hen or stag party.

henandstagsligo.ie

4.     Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?

Our market is primarily Ireland and Northern Ireland. We get about 50% of our business from the Northern market and 50% from Ireland. It used to be slightly higher from the Northern market but I think the recent move in the value of sterling may have impacted here. Our target market is really about 150 miles radius of Sligo so it’s great to be able to target this exact area on both Google and Facebook.

We are considering targeting the UK market, particularly the cities that fly into Ireland West Airport which is only 35 minutes away from Sligo. Once again online advertising makes it quite straightforward to target all the major cities that have routes to Ireland-West.

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

Our first year was 2015 and it was really a case of learning the business. We were fortunate that bookings started as soon as we launched the website and have being growing since. In our first year, we would have had some weekends managing 100 people coming in to Sligo. We thought this was a lot at the time. This is now a quiet weekend for us and we hope to be bringing 400-500 people in on peak weekends this year. We have had extremely strong growth from the start and the first quarter of 2018 is looking like it’s about 50% percent ahead of 2017, so the momentum is continuing.

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

I always had a strong interest in computers. My undergrad in Maths included some programming courses which came in handy. However, the biggest part of the hen and stag business is customer service which is the same foundation as pubs and restaurants. We are in the business of customer service as we try to ensure the customer experience with us is fantastic from start to finish. It’s the fundamental principle of the service industry – we work very hard on ensuring our customers are happy.

7.     How do you promote your business?

Since our business is online, it is natural that most of our marketing efforts are focused online. Our two main advertising platforms are Google and Facebook. We had a small amount of radio advertising in the past, but we now just focus online. We probably use Facebook more for brand awareness and Google for the more targeted advertising. The combination of both are best for any online business.

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

There is a huge amount of support for new business and it’s something we weren’t fully aware of in the early days. We have taken on employees through the JobsPlus programme and developed software solution with assistance from the Local Enterprise Board. We have also had huge support from Sligo Leader for a large marketing campaign. There is a huge amount of support out there – I wish I knew about this at the start.

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

I suppose the fact that it’s easier to run with your ideas rather than get them passed by someone else. Drawbacks are higher stress levels and it can be difficult to switch off.

10.  What should happen in the West of Ireland to support self-employment / entrepreneurship?

Financial supports are an obvious area that helps business. We have got a lot of support from various bodies which has really helped us develop our business. From a business owner based in the North West of Ireland, I think the single most important issue is infrastructure. Whether it is for attracting new business to the area or attracting tourists to our town, Sligo requires a motorway from Dublin.

Sligo

11.  How does the cost of living in Sligo compare with where you previously lived?

It’s definitely a lot more affordable in Sligo compared to Dublin or London. Property prices are much more affordable here. It’s gone mad again in Dublin and it’s very difficult to get a foot on the property ladder. There’s loads of great properties in Sligo.

12.  What are the main advantages and disadvantages of relocating / living in the West in terms of working and living?

The main advantage has to be quality of life. Commute time to work is nearly non-existent and there is a huge amount of things to keep the work-life balance in sync. While the scope to scale a business within the pub/club scene is clearly greater in big cities, I think the business is more personal in smaller towns like Sligo. It’s also great to be able to finish work and be out surfing or mountain biking within 20 minutes.

13.  How do you find accessibility to where you live and access to public transport / road networks / airports?

There is no doubt accessibility to Sligo needs improvement, particularly the road network. The train link between Dublin and Sligo is good but there is scope to re-introduce the Western Rail Corridor. Ireland West Airport is a huge asset to the area and it really opens up the UK market to Sligo – we just need to advertise effectively to capture this market.

14.  Why do you love Sligo? What are your top tips for any visitors to where you live? 

I love going out on a Sunday to Strandhill. It’s a really popular area with some great pubs/restaurants/walks and they have a fantastic market every Sunday in one of the hangers of the Airport.

Surfing at Strandhill

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

If you have an opportunity to move back to the west, I would definitely highly recommend it. For me, Sligo has some fantastic opportunities and a real vibrancy about it. We have an incredible Institute of Technology that is expanding every year and a host of great primary and secondary schools. We’ve a newly built centre of excellence for GAA and a great Rugby Club that has numerous players representing Connacht. There is an endless amount of things to do for the adventure enthusiasts like surfing, mountain biking and coasteering – it’s easy to see why Sligo is known as the Adventure Capital of Ireland.

For more about Kevin and Fergal’s business, visit henandstagsligo.ie

triona

Creative Entrepreneur: Tríona O’Donnell, Jewellery Designer TRíONA

TRÍONA is a new Irish design brand encompassing a life-long appreciation of Irish craft and design, and a commitment to quality craftsmanship.

Inspired by life along the Northwesterly edge of Ireland, where the beauty of rugged landscapes and seascapes dictates her daily musings and adventures, TRÍONA works with a community of like-minded designer-makers, creative trailblazers and collaborators to bring you designs du dernier cri.

Founded by Creative Director Tríona O’Donnell, a keen linguist and educator, the Sligo native has spent time travelling the globe to far-flung places like South America, Africa and Europe, collecting inspiration and ideas. Read more

Prannie Rhatigan

Prannie Rhatigan, Irish Seaweed Kitchen

Prannie Rhatigan is a medical doctor with a lifetime experience of harvesting, cooking and gardening organically with sea vegetables. Born and raised in the North West of Ireland where she still lives, she has a lifelong interest in the connections between food and health.

She holds a BA Honours degree in psychology ( NUI Galway), a medical degree, (NUI Cork) and is a qualified General Practitioner. She has worked on the National Cardiovascular Strategy programme and represented the Irish College of General Practitioners on the National Steering Group for the implementation of “Smoke Free at Work” in Ireland. She was a tutor with the ICGP for many years, training GPs in the skill of Brief Intervention and Motivational Interviewing. An experienced GP she now works mainly in Public Health.

Hailed as “Ireland’s leading seaweed expert” in Food and Wine in June 2012 she has represented Ireland’s finest food abroad on many occasions and has given workshops and lectures on sea vegetables and cooking. She delivered the President’s address to the PSA (Phycological Society of America, Seattle) in 2011 and facilitated a workshop on seaweed cooking with seaweed researchers in the USA. She shared her knowledge and gave a seaweed cookery demo at the Nordic Food Lab in Denmark when it was the research arm of Noma (awarded Best Restaurant in the World on three occasions). She has been featured on many TV and radio programmes both nationally and abroad. Read more

Barry Mottershead

Barry Mottershead, Sligo Kayak Tours

Sligo Kayak Tours is a small, locally-owned and operated business which strives to be an industry leader in sustainable tourism.

Owner Barry Mottershead grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. His life revolved around the outdoors and the ocean and at the age of eighteen he came to Ireland on a surfing holiday and fell in love with the culture, waves and scenery of Co. Sligo.

He has lived in the area for 10 years and is passionate about exploring the coastline and mountains that are on offer. An enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable attitude makes Barry the perfect guide for your sea kayaking adventures. Barry is also a big wave surfer, he is a regular fixture at Mullaghmore and the local reef breaks of County Sligo.

Barry Mottershead joins our schedule of Creative Entrepreneurs speaking at SeaFest. Barry speaks on Friday, 30 June at 3pm.

Read more

Ashleigh Smith

Creative Entrepreneur: Ashleigh Smith, Atlantic Equipment Project

In 2014 Sligo native Ashleigh Smith founded a small and special brand called The Atlantic Equipment Project. She designs and manufactures a growing collection of backpacks and satchels, inspired by Atlantic adventure.

A youth spent exploring the rockpools and surfing the powerful waves along this coastline, partnered with an education in Industrial Design and the design process led her to setting up her business.

From this, she created a family of products designed to support the experience of wilderness. AEP champions natural fabrics, small supply chains, and classic minimal design to deliver beautiful and functional bags.

Ashleigh sells her bags on her website and in selected shops.

Ashleigh will speak in the LookWest.ie Marquee at SeaFest on Friday, 30 June at 1pm. See full details of LookWest.ie at SeaFest here.

Read more

Martina Hamilton

Creative Entrepreneur: Martina Hamilton

Martina Hamilton is a jewellery designer, retailer and gallery owner based in Sligo.

Together with a small family team of master goldsmiths she designs and makes contemporary jewellery collections. She owns The Cat and the Moon craft shop in Sligo, which showcases a selection of Ireland’s leading craft makers and designers. She also owns and and curates the Hamilton Gallery in Sligo which hosts monthly solo exhibitions by Ireland’s leading visual artists. Martina Hamilton Jewellery also offers a bespoke commissioning service.

She has enjoyed many prestigious commissions, including the creation of bespoke cuff links for President Barack Obama during the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington DC in 2016. Martina has won numerous awards for her jewellery collections from DCCOI, Showcase Ireland and IJL  (International Jewellery London).

Martina is also an elected member of the Design and Craft Council of Ireland, a member of the Made in Sligo Network, Craftfest, and Yeats Day Committees.

Martina will speak in the LookWest.ie Marquee at SeaFest on Sunday, 02 July at 1pm. See full details of LookWest.ie at SeaFest here. Read more

Case Study: Ciaran Byrne, Martha Kearns, StoryLab Content and PR Agency, Sligo

In our latest case study, we speak to Ciaran Byrne and Martha Kearns, of Storylab PR and Content Agency in Sligo, about opening up an office in the West of Ireland and the unique opportunities and quality of life which he and his family enjoy here.

Tell us about StoryLab

StoryLab is a content and PR agency rooted in the culture of quality journalism. It helps businesses craft interesting stories in different formats, build profile and shape their plans for digital content. The agency, with offices in Sligo and Dublin, is run by former senior national newspaper executives, Ciaran Byrne and Martha Kearns.

Why are you located in the West of Ireland?

We left our hectic newspaper roles in Dublin, bringing our young family to settle in the North West. We have found a vibrant business market where there are many small and large companies and organisations looking to improve their communications and profile. They need access to the level of communications, PR and senior-level media expertise that is usually concentrated in Dublin

StoryLab Fb Banner copy

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

The rapidly changing media world, which we were part of, inspired our decision. StoryLab has been operation since February 2014 and we are based at the Innovation Centre in IT Sligo, a centre that houses 24 companies in different stages of development. We came to Sligo after realising our skills were highly mobile and that the centre offered a unique opportunity with different supports to develop the business. The huge explosion in media and content needs for businesses inspired us to take the leap – after we realised the core skills of storytelling and editing were highly marketable. Social media has forced huge changes in the need to tell better stories and that is something businesses really struggle with. We are able to bring a journalist’s eye to the story, not a marketing or advertising perspective which can suffocate an authentic story.

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

We started the business with a single laptop and a new website to where we are now as a fully-staffed modern office. Thankfully as we are providing a service largely based on our knowledge, our startup costs were minimal. We were able to set-up shop and chase our first customers almost immediately. We took part in the New Frontiers programme from Enterprise Ireland, administered at IT Sligo. It was key, giving us hugely valuable insights into business and running a business from the perspective of experts.

Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?

Our market is in several areas; our content customers come form across Ireland, the United States and Britain, anywhere where English-language businesses need help with their stories. We reach out to them as part of a marketing strategy that includes social media. Word of mouth is also important – we have joined several networks that promote and list international content providers such as our company, showcasing examples of our work. We have produced content for Facebook in New York.

How do you recruit and retain a talented team?

We took on our first permanent employee in March 2016. We were lucky in that we attracted a lot of high calibre people to the role. We look for people that share the same professional attitude and approach to our work and who are open to training and further development.

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

We spent more than two decades working for newspapers in a variety of roles from reporting, writing and editing to management and executive positions. Those included running big newsrooms and large teams of people in a fast-paced, pressurised environment, as well as being responsible for large budgets. All very useful experiences when it came to starting out ourselves. We are lucky that journalism careers with trusted media brands such as The Sunday Times, The Observer, Irish Independent and Sunday Business Post help clients to make their decision to go with us a little easier.

How do you continue to grow and learn?

We are constantly observing and learning from others, noting what our competitors do, spotting emerging media trends and keeping up to date with what matters. But it’s also important to trust your instincts and be confident enough to believe in your own core skills. Some trends can appear and disappear overnight.

How do you promote your business?

We have a marketing plan – we network, we promote ourselves on several social media channels. We also accept any speaking opportunities from people who wish to know more about what we do. From time to time we appear in articles about media or marketing.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Nothing really!

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

Ok, so you’re no longer ‘working for the man’ which means you can jump in the car and hit the beach if you wish. The drawback is that can be a rare enough event! What we love most is the freedom to make decisions, change direction, work with people we like and generally control our own destiny. Creating the first additional job in our team was hugely satisfying. Downsides? Everything is on your shoulders – your accounts, taxes, employees, bills and chasing payments from customers. You need a solid process in place!

What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?

Some people say Rural Ireland is in decline. We say the opposite, it has a bright future. Government, however, needs to change the balance and give the West infrastructure and investment. Roads are key – just imagine if people could drive from Donegal to Cork on a motorway? In the short-term, a decent road between Sligo and Dublin would help along with a proper inter-city train that takes two hours or less. Connectivity is everything. I include broadband in that – so many new businesses would launch and flourish if the West had completely mapped fibre coverage. Build it and they will come. Media coverage of business outside of Dublin is also critical and the Dublin-centric focus on business is slowly changing. If the story is good enough, they will cover it.

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

Living costs in Dublin are insane. The West is not only affordable, it has the kind of space and beauty that is easy to forget about when you are busy rushing around an expensive city. It’s a perfect fit for young families and almost everywhere has affordable housing. There are good schools and great people and a business culture that thrives with a range of different supports to help you get off the ground. What are you waiting for?

For more information on StoryLab visit storylab.ie and follow @StoryLabIRL

{Image Credit: James Connolly, Picsell8}