Just do it like… Mike McGrath, Supply.ie

Tell us a little about your business…

supply.ie is an online marketplace for Irish businesses that I started before I reached 30. It delivers value as it is easy to gather quotes which essentially saves companies time and money. supply.ie provides a “simple tendering” process for businesses with free usage for buyers, while the winning supplier simply pays a small referral fee. 

What inspired you to start your own business?

I always planned to work for myself when the time was right. I have numerous family members running their own businesses and I was inspired by their risk/ reward motivations. The ‘time was right’ when I identified a problem – as a previous IT Manager within an SME, I spent hours and days identifying, sourcing and negotiating with suppliers whereas now with supply.ie, we ‘shop around’ for our clients, to source the best prices and suppliers.

How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?

I got my very first clients through family, friends and contacts. I learnt very quickly the importance of networking and built up our first clients through organisations such as CorkMeet, Cork Chamber and it@cork.

South Cork Enterprise Board, now known as Local Enterprise Office South Cork, was also paramount at the start of this journey. Before we had any business, they helped with the business plan, queried our business model, and thereafter provided some much needed seed funding.

I was lucky enough to then take part in UCC’s IGNITE Programme, driven initially by Cork City Enterprise Board (LEO Cork City), which again ‘opened doors’ to get the business motoring.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I have been given lots of advice since I started the business but the best advice has been ‘to solve a problem that is big enough’. When we started out, we were focusing on ‘nice to have’ benefits, whereas now we continue to develop ‘must have’ offerings.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest initial challenge was the patience required to launch the business. I thought we would have our prototype up and running within 12 weeks, when in reality it took almost 12 months! That was an early lesson highlighting the patience and determination required.

Who is your hero?

Denis O’Brien. Being from Cork is a good start! However, building a business empire across numerous industries and continents is very enviable. Denis is also supportive of other entrepreneurs, while he has ‘failed’ a few times which is important in a role model.

What’s the best thing about having your own business?

The reward and recognition associated with success. Most aspects of the business are difficult initially, so the successes need to be celebrated.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Yes. Not going it alone would be one thing I would change. The right business partners could have driven the business forward at a quicker pace.

What are your business plans for the next 12 to 18 months?

Continue to grow, expand and add products and services that save our clients money.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?

Get your business model right before you invest time in a business plan. Talk to as many potential customers as possible to define a value proposition that resolves a pain for them. Searching for a business model is the most important task for any start-up.


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