Tell us a little about your business John…
AgTeCH4, which launches this summer, delivers slurry gas detection solutions to the agricultural sector in Ireland, the UK and rest of Europe. Using AgTeCH4’s wearable hydrogen sulphide detector, the AT-171, wearers can be alerted to the presence of the highly toxic and flammable gas, hydrogen sulphide.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve always felt I wanted to one day work for myself and start my own business, it was something I’ve always aspired to, however, I hadn’t expected the opportunity to present itself so early in my life. I graduated from the University of Limerick with a Bachelor of Business Studies honours degree in August 2013 where I then went straight into the IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme in UCC last September.
I was motivated to start my business, AgTeCH4, to help prevent the tragic and needless deaths from slurry gas on farms in Ireland. During my time at university I learned of such dreadful incidents as there was much coverage in the media at the time. There I sought to find a potential solution through my work on a final year project.
How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?
IGNITE was instrumental in getting it off the ground. The structured supports have helped develop the business over the course of the programme to the point where I’m excitedly launching this summer. I also received a bursary award from the Clonmel Show and Agricultural Society for which I am very grateful.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Find your niche – an obvious but an important piece of advice. I spent a lot of time trying to deliver a product that does everything for everyone. Eventually, I had to settle on a starting point and go from there. That’s how I’m already in a selling position with first stock arriving at the end of June. I will re-concentrate on product development though in the near future.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
It can be tough to stay motivated all the time. Doing a business plan forces you to really think through all the minor detail and lets you realise how you can achieve your goals by following a plan and incrementally reaching various objectives along the way. It can provide guidance if you ever feel a bit lost or don’t know what to do next.
Who is your hero?
I’ve always admired the brutal honesty of Ronan O’Gara and his straightforwardness; two qualities people will always appreciate in business.
What’s the best thing about having your own business?
I enjoy the freedom of pursuing opportunities how I see best, which is essentially what I’m doing with AgTeCH4 rather than pursuing a different career. However, this can also be a pitfall so it is important to have a good source of advice or a mentor who can check on you now and again and get you to re-evaluate your decisions.
Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Looking back I wish I got to where I am now faster. I think this comes back to trying to do everything at once when I should have picked a starting point and gone from there.
What are your business plans for the next 12 to 18 months?
The aim is to officially launch at this year’s Ploughing Championship, in September, but I’ll be working hard all summer to build a foundation and get selling prior to the official launch. I aim to further develop existing ideas into tangible products later in the year and into next year and also to grow the team.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?
Figure as much of it out as you can before you start, do all the research you can to estimate whether the idea is feasible. In my case I had already done work on the project as part of my final year in university, if other students have the opportunity to do something similar or if those who have jobs can research or even do some of the work whilst still in their job they should. You may find out before you ever start it mightn’t be worth pursuing, but hopefully it will just minimise the time between earning an income, and generating revenue from their business.