“The IBYE process makes for a great experience in many aspects of forming a start-up and running your own business”

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Jack Crotty, founder and owner of The Rocket Man won Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur “Best Existing Business” category from the Local Enterprise Office Cork City in 2015. He told us a little about how his business has grown and what’s next….

The Rocket Man Food Company will celebrate its 5th birthday in March 2017. What started as a farmers market stall has grown to a company employing 15, many of whom are full time and has a network of up to 40 local producers on our books.

Our second Cork City location E A S T is almost a year old and trade is great.

Our next moves are as usual a big secret, but for the time being focuses are being put on our existing outlets to polish and reinvent some of our offerings.

IBYE is not only a great chance for financial assistance, the process also makes for a great experience and vital training in many aspects of forming a start-up and running your own business. I couldn’t recommend it more.

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“IBYE was the helping hand we needed to bring the business to the next stage”

vancouver-day-37-9Stephanie Lynch is the founder of OnTheQT.ie, an innovative tourism and digital marketing business.

OnTheQT was an idea which came to Stephanie while working in an American summer camp in the USA. An idea she turned into a successful, award winning business.

OnTheQT was named IBYE “Best Established Business” from the Local Enterprise Office South Cork in 2015, scooping €20,000 investment.

We chatted to Stephanie about life since IBYE 2015, and here’s what she told us:

IBYE was the helping hand we needed to bring the business to the next stage. Winning IBYE 2015 meant we could grow the team, grow our sales and expand at a much faster rate.

Since IBYE 2015, we launched our vlog section to our site, which acts like an online TV series, an area which is growing from strength to strength for us. We just won Ireland’s Best Vlog 2016 in the Blog Awards Ireland 2016.

Since IBYE 2015, we have also grown our team, our sales, and our brand to the next level. At the moment, OnTheQT is working with larger brands worldwide in the area of content creation, digital marketing, and innovation. We are looking to expand the team in the next 12 months, while also expanding our client base in the USA.

We haven’t looked back since our success at IBYE last year, and I would recommend it to any young entrepreneur looking for a kick start!

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Be bold, be brave, #StandOut like Breffney O’Dowling Keane

Breffney O’Dowling Keane, founder of FruitCubed won the ‘Best New Idea’ category from the Local Enterprise Office Cork City in the search for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur last year. We asked her to tell us a little more about her business and share her advice with those considering entering IBYE this year.

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Hey, I’m Breffney – a food scientist, chef and Cork’s biggest food pusher. If it’s fresh, local and healthy – it’s mine!

I started Breffney & Co, my blog (@breffneyandco) to help me share some of my recipes and foodie finds around Cork.

Around the same time I began to look into why people in Ireland aren’t consuming their 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables. After a lot of research I pinned it down to four main reasons:

  1. Price – Eating healthy, fresh fruit is expensive!
  2. Perishability – We have all been here. Buy raspberries on a Sunday, getting ready for the healthy week ahead. Open the fridge door on Wednesday and half the raspberries are mouldy, so you throw them out vowing NEVER to do it again. Next week comes and you do the exact same thing!
  3. Preparation – No one, and I mean no one wants to get up 15 minutes earlier to prepare fruit and vegetables for the day.
  4. Prettiness – 20% of all fruit and veg are left on the branches to rot because they are imperfect looking. This further increases the price of fruit and it all goes around in a vicious circle.

I wanted to create something which removed all these factors and make healthy eating accessible to everybody, so I created FruitCubed – a blend of nutritious, delicious fruit and vegetables, cubed and proportioned to 90g ready-to-eat cubes! They can be blended with liquid to make smoothies, spread on toast like a sugar free jam or even added to curries to give a fruity note.

I was lucky enough last year to win LEO Cork City’s ‘Best New Idea’ category in the search for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, and this was invaluable to me. IBYE helped build my networks and was the best kick start I could have asked for.

Entering IBYE was one of the best decisions I could have made. I can’t think of any reason why you should not to enter. My advice for those considering entering IBYE is be yourself and show your personality. Your business is a reflection of you and you have to embrace that and show it off and show why your business is different. Be bold, be brave, #StandOut

Just do it, like… Peter Coppinger, co-founder of Teamwork.com

Next up with advice for young entrepreneur starting out is Peter Coppinger, co-founder of Teamwork.com.

Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to start your own business?
Growing up in West Cork, there was always food on the table but I always only had one pair of shoes. I knew from an early age I’d do whatever it took to be successful. I was fascinated by computers from the second I rested my greedy little 8 year old eyes on my cousin’s zx-spectrum. At 10, my first computer came with a programming manual and I found something I loved to do.

When I first read about Bill Gates, I was immediately inspired and knew then that I was going to try to follow in his footsteps. In college, I felt that the internet was happening without me so I dropped out and started Digital Crew, a website and web application services consultancy.

After a few years and with hundreds of websites and web applications under our belt, we spotted a gap in the market and made the product that became Teamwork.com. After years of hard work we now have almost 40 staff, millions in revenue and some of the biggest companies in the world as our customers including Disney and Microsoft.

How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?
When we were getting started it wasn’t as easy to access the resources that are available now for first time entrepreneurs, so a lot still happened behind the scenes and was painfully slow. In our first month with Teamwork, we made just $124. But we stuck with it and 2 years later it was earning €30,000 a month, enough for us to quit the consultancy and focus on the product full time.

These days you have one-stop shops, such as the LEOs, that you can go to in terms of advice about getting started, the conversions happen in the open and there’s a lot more positivity about the contribution that first time entrepreneurs can make to the economy.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?
In the early years we didn’t do any marketing whatsoever. As perfectionist programmers I guess we never felt the product was ready. That was a huge mistake and that’s something I would certainly look at if we were starting out again.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?
I’m asked this a lot and I always say the same thing: “Think Big”. It has never been cheaper or easier for you to build a successful business. Anyone can do it so why not give it a shot. Tip: Some good books here to get you started: http://personalmba.com/best-business-books/

Anything else you would like to add?
I feel too many potential entrepreneurs want overnight success and deep down are unwilling to do the hard slog it takes to be successful.

Getting started its important to have the focus on what’s important. There’s great resources out there to help you get started these days, as well as grant funding in some cases. Our success as a business has been built on a laser focus from day one, on building what our customers want and keeping them happy. This single-mindedness has allowed us to build a global business with more than 370,000 customers like Disney, eBay, PayPal and Netflix, across the world, without ever taking outside funding, debt or investment, so we’re captains of our own destiny. It all depends on your business idea, your circumstances and your needs, but the great thing now is that there’s a wealth of advice and help out there to help you make these difficult decisions when you’re getting started.

And make sure you buy yourself a second pair of shoes!

Bitcove co-founder James Nagle, winner of LEO Cork North & West “Best Start-Up Business” category shares his IBYE story

Last year, the Best Start-Up Business category for LEO Cork North & West competition was won by brothers, James and Peter Nagle for their business, Bitcove (formerly ‘The Crypto Broker’). 

Bitcove provides a simple avenue for customers to acquire, maintain and transact with their Bitcoins instantly. With the €20,000 investment from LEO Cork North and West, they planned to establish their own crypto currency exchange platform and use the investment to develop the exchange platform. 

James took some time out from his busy schedule to tell us how IBYE helped launch Bitcove to the next level…

How did winning Cork’s IBYE competition help you and your business?
I think a lot of people might assume it would be the financial aspect, the €20,000 investment that our business Bitcove received. While the financial aspect is fantastic and really helped us to propel and accelerate our business operations, the main thing Bitcove got from IBYE was exposure. As a Bitcoin exchange, to have the backing of IBYE behind you and the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Cork North & West is massive as it really adds credibility to your business, which is very much needed in our area especially as a young start-up.

Having the backing of IBYE and the LEO gives you that added confidence and validation in your business going forward. In addition, the skills it provides to young entrepreneurs is vital. Building your own start-up can be daunting at first but through the support of IBYE and the LEOs, young entrepreneurs are given the necessary tools to build a business which can strive.

Shortly after winning IBYE, we started on UCC’s IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation programme, and just last month were named the Bank of Ireland/ IGNITE Business of the Year. I believe IBYE kicked started our business and the experience of going through the IBYE competition aided us massively in setting down the infrastructure for our business success.

What was your biggest learning from the boot camp and mentoring you received?
For me it had to be the pitching, I’m not afraid to say it but I was terrible at pitching. I knew we had a great business and huge opportunity but trying to get that across was something I really struggled with.

On the Saturday evening of the boot camp we all divided into groups and had to pitch, and when it came to your turn you just had to do it! So I got up and pitched, and pitched again, and pitched again. Noel Davison, one of the mentors explained it was just a matter of practice, so after a few tries you start to get more comfortable and with their help you have a great pitch. I learned the importance of a hook to get the audience drawn in, simplifying your key message, and really getting across your value proposition.

What advice would you offer someone considering applying this year?
Start now! There are too many excuses not to start. There’s nothing to lose, it only takes a few minutes to apply, and there are huge opportunities to gain. For a budding entrepreneur IBYE is the ideal competition for you to launch your start-up. Even if you are not an eventual winner, the experience of writing up your business plan, pitching your business and attending the start-up boot camp provides a fantastic experience and gives you great perspective and insights into your own business.

What’s next for you?
We are due to officially launch our website Bitcove.ie in the next few weeks; from there we will engage in an extensive marketing campaign to ensure the name Bitcove is synonymous with Bitcoin in Ireland.

We also will be expanding our team. My co-founder Peter joined full time in January and Claire joined part time in May as processing analyst. Shortly we will be looking to raise investment to expand out team and operations outside of Ireland. We are looking to add Claire full time as CFO, and add two additional members, a marketing executive and processing analyst.

Anything else you would like to add?
The IBYE competition is a fantastic opportunity for anyone, even if you’re just at the idea stage, to meet and network with like-minded people. You don’t realise the support that is out there until you take the first step and apply!

Just do it, like… Ciara Crossan, founder of WeddingDates

We asked a number of established Cork entrepreneurs to share their gems of wisdom and advice with young entrepreneurs in the region.

First up is Ciara Crossan, founder of WeddingDates. Ciara Crossan

Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to start your own business?
After completing a BIS degree in UCC I took off travelling for a few years. I ended up going into an IT recruitment firm in Melbourne to see if they could help find me an IT job. As it turned out, all of their clients wanted someone who already had IT experience but the recruitment agency themselves liked me and offered me a job with them!

When I moved back home to Ireland I stayed in the recruitment field but went in-house to the HR department for Apple. When my contract ended I moved to Abbot Vascular in Clonmel, again in the HR department recruiting 450 production operators.  Moving into a medical device company was a big change for me with all of the corporate structure and processes and procedures.  I then took 3 months out and travelled solo to Ghana to volunteer in a small school there. While in Ghana I really had time to reflect on my life, the path I was taking and what I wanted for the future. It was there that I made the decision that I didn’t want to work in a corporate environment anymore, I wanted to do something that would challenge me creatively and test all of my skills.

My family background is in the hotel industry, so like a lot of new business ideas, the concept of WeddingDates was developed around the kitchen table. At that stage, 7 years ago you could easily book a hotel bedroom online in a couple of clicks but if you wanted to book your wedding there was no easy way to do it. I knew instinctively that the modern couples planning their wedding would want a more efficient way to find out this information and so – WeddingDates.ie was born.  Newly engaged couples log onto the website and can search hundreds of hotels, venues and suppliers that have availability on their chosen wedding date.

How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?
I started the business in a home office with a small start-up business loan from Bank of Ireland in February 2008. I had meetings with the Local Enterprise Offices in Cork City and South Cork, and was appointed a Mentor by LEO South Cork (formerly SCEB). Colette Quinn, a market research expert was assigned to me and was a massive help in scoping out the market for my idea and doing the initial research. I applied for the Genesis Programme in April 2008 and was delighted to get a place on the programme. The Genesis program enabled me to avail of free office space for 1 year in the Rubicon and participate in intensive training and seminars with various experts over a year long period. It also opened the door to Enterprise Ireland and apply for CORD funding which contributed to my salary in year 2.

Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Probably not, any mistakes I made I learned from along the way.

If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?
Reach out for help straight away. There are fantastic supports available through the local enterprise offices to help get you started. Research your idea extensively before you start – particularly your revenue model. You might have a great idea for a service that lots of people would use but if no one will actually pay for it then you probably don’t have a feasible business.

Anything else you would like to add?
It is never too early to start selling.  Too many entrepreneurs wait till their product/ service is “perfect” before talking to potential customers but the truth is, it will never be perfect and you can get fantastic insights and feedback from prospective customers even before you launch. The hoteliers that I did my initial research with on my early concept before www.WeddingDates.ie was even live turned out to be my first customers, and 7 years later they are my most loyal customers and advocates.

To any budding entrepreneurs out there I would say “Just Do It, Like!” – IBYE could be the ideal launch pad for your business.