“The most valuable thing that IBYE has brought for me is validation of my business ambitions.”

Vincent Forde won IBYE’s Best New Idea category from LEO South Cork and received €7,000 investment in his company, Gasgon Medical, which is a medical device company that supports medical staff in delivering improved patient care, with better outcomes, through collaboration and innovation. He also walked away with the title of ‘Best Young Entrepreneur’ for the South Cork region. We chatted to Vincent ahead of the IBYE Regional Final about his experience…

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Why did you enter IBYE?
It just seemed like the right time to get involved. I’ve been working on my business plan over the last 12 months and I saw this as a really good chance to engage with my Local Enterprise Office, to show them what I was developing and form a relationship. Entering the IBYE just seemed like such a good chance to get to work with the LEOs and take advantage of the mentoring bootcamp that forms part of the first stage. I also saw it as a good way to meet with other entrepreneurs from the Cork area, and maybe nationally, who are on the same journey of developing businesses from seeds of an idea.

My development strategy has been to go after opportunities that add tangible value – it’s very easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of startup life, so picking the right path forward is important. Key to this strategy of scaling rapidly from startup to delivery of product is to build a strong network and, as far as developing the business was concerned, engaging with the IBYE has proven to be a good move. My Local Enterprise Office in South Cork has put me in touch with mentors who have deep knowledge and important industry links that can streamline the path to my goals. The depth of knowledge, support and development opportunities that have opened up already from IBYE are helping to move the business in a more defined direction.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from your IBYE experience?
IBYE has done a lot to build my confidence in what I am doing. The most valuable thing that IBYE has brought for me is validation of my business ambitions. The challenge of starting a business can be daunting so it’s good to pitch to experienced judges and know that others share the vision too, find out what works or not, then get better at delivering on that vision. Regardless of whether I progressed through the competition I knew that every interaction with experienced business mentors and judges would help to add value to my plans.

How do you plan to use the investment you won?
In this early stage of the business these funds will be well utilised in prototype development and validation of product concepts, including 3D printing, fabrication, testing and optimising. The investment will help with legal and accounting service costs, as well as development of a website so Gasgon Medical will soon have a home on the web.

Also, in the next 12 months I intend to be traveling a lot to trade shows, to establish links with potential customers and to source suitable manufacturing partners.

Any advice to other young entrepreneurs?
Working alongside entrepreneurs with very different business models, it is clear that similar challenges and rewards are there no matter the opportunity you are chasing. It’s been really helpful to work alongside other start-ups and develop a network – it’s amazing the opportunities that appear when you start talking! Ireland is a small place and you are never more than a few conversations from getting to meet your ideal client or finding a strategic partner, so the most valuable thing you can do is just get talking! Be careful with your information, treat every conversation like a job interview because you never know where it will take you!

The most important thing though is – just go for it! That dream, that idea, you have to believe that you can make it happen, because if you believe then you will find very quickly that the supports are there to help you along the way and you will have a lot of fun making your dreams come true!

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“One aspect of IBYE that stands out the most is the access to a network of like-minded individuals.”

Pundit Arena’s Richard Barrett’s IBYE story started back in 2014 when he was named LEO South Cork’s South Cork Entrepreneur of The Year. He had the opportunity to enter this year’s competition in a new category, and walked away with the title of Best Established Business. We chatted to him about his evolving IBYE story…

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Why did you enter IBYE?
Back in 2014, I was lucky enough to be crowned South Cork Entrepreneur of The Year. This accolade and the prize fund that came with it changed my business. It enabled us to hire our first ever full-time employee and I’m delighted that he is still an important member of the Pundit Arena team today.

IBYE has always had a positive influence on Pundit Arena and when the opportunity came up to enter IBYE again in a new category, I wanted to challenge myself to see how far we had come in two short years. Thankfully, we were successful and it was a great recognition of our work.

IBYE is a life-changing experience and one that has aided Pundit Arena’s expansion massively.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from your IBYE experience?
I have earned a huge amount from my experience with IBYE but the one aspect of it that stands out the most is the access to a network of like-minded individuals. The bootcamp weekend enabled me to share the highs and lows of the startup world with my peers, many of whom were going through a lot of the same stuff that I had encountered.

As the saying goes; if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.

How do you plan to use the investment you won?
We are using the investment fund to increase our sales force in order to generate higher revenues. We have already hired the person tasked with that part of the business and we’re really excited about the impact he will have on Pundit Arena in 2017 and beyond.

Any advice to other young entrepreneurs?
I have learned a lot over the last three and a half years, but the one commonality between all successful entrepreneurs is perseverance. There will be ups and downs, there will be dark days, but it’s important to just keep working hard throughout every storm. Don’t sweat the small things, just focus on the vision and keep on going. You’ll get there eventually.

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.