2014 Best New Idea LEO Cork City winner Darren Hayes tells us about his IBYE experience

Darren Hayes won the Best New Idea category in the LEO Cork City competition 2014. Darren received €10,000 investment in his company, D.A. Renewable Energy. The business goal of this renewable energy company is to remove fossil fuels in applications which can be replaced by a renewable energy source, whether wind, wave, tidal or solar.

Darren Hayes, D.A. Renewable Energy pictured with former County Mayor, Cllr Mary Shields and Adrienne Rodgers, Head of Local Enterprise, LEO Cork City at the 2014 regional final.

How did winning Cork’s IBYE competition help you and your business?
Taking part in IBYE 2014 put me in touch with the Local Enterprise Office Cork City which continues to support me as my business idea becomes a reality.

Throughout the competition I made many contacts, met great like-minded friends, and also got great publicity for the business. I learned a whole lot more about business and start-ups through the boot camps, mentoring, and experience of people involved. Making it to the National Finals was personally a really proud achievement, and I relished in having my friends and LEO Cork City there supporting me and the business. As a result of all this, I have the confidence in myself to make this business a success.

What was your biggest learning from the boot camp and mentoring you received?
Learn how to tell your story. A clear memory I have from the boot camp was ‘it’s not what you do but why you do it’. Tell your story in terms of why you are doing what you are doing. What is getting you out of bed in the morning? What are you passionate about? There are all kinds of supports out there for people looking to develop their ideas or start a business, if you’re able to succinctly explain who you are, where you have come from, and where you want to go, it becomes inherently easier to draw all kinds of support from people and organisations.

The mentoring that was provided by the LEOs was hugely powerful and effective for me. My natural preference is for this type of engagement – one to one conversations as opposed to workshops. My mentor provided a perfect balance of empowerment, enabling, and challenge, to really help me take my mind-set, and my business plan to the next level.

What advice would you offer someone considering applying this year?
Get that application in by the July 31st deadline. I spent a few weeks deciding whether I would apply in the first place, and what a mistake it would have been had I not! If your business plan or idea isn’t developed enough, spend some time thinking about some of the key areas that should be in the business plan. What problem are you solving? What is your market? Who are your customers? There is time to do detailed research later, for now think on some of the high level points, and see how it fits together, refine, and hit apply!

If you are in the ‘Not Yet Trading’ category, then its natural you won’t be as advanced or developed as the ‘Established’ categories. Identify the gaps in your plan, and look at how you will address them – whether it’s the where you will get your funding from, shortages in the team, or unknown market size. It’s all about having a logical plan to address these unknowns in order to achieve the goals of the business.

Throughout the various stages of the competition I was given great advice ranging from feedback from judges, the LEOs, mentors, and even the other participants. No matter what your business is, it likely has similar slips, trips and falls experienced by others before you. Take time to listen to these experiences and learn from them – hopefully will help you avoid making the same.

What’s next for you?
Having been juggling this business, and a full time job for the past few months, I am now in a position to enter the business full time this month. I am hugely excited for this as it’s a key milestone I set out for myself a long time ago; however I was determined I would only do it when the time was right, and finally that time is now. It’s the result of a lot of planning, research and testing from when I developed on an idea one night – this is the next step in making that idea a reality.

Anything else you would like to add?
I’ll just finish by saying that this year has been an experience like no other. It’s been immensely hard work but with hugely satisfying outcomes as we achieve one milestone after another from the business plan. For anyone entering this year’s competition, I wish them the best of luck, and can only hope the year ahead will be as rewarding as my own was.

Parting thought – be confident in yourself, be realistic in your plans, and just do it like!

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