Web Presence Key for Businesses

Irish Times – Business Technology – 5 November 2020 

Web presence key for businesses to cash in on ‘shop local’ mood

Irish Times - Getting Online

By using simple Google tools and website grants, small businesses can take steps to move online fast
Joanne Hunt
Lobster, langoustine, crab and hake – “I’ll see you at the harbour in the morning”, fishmonger Alison Bates tells a local Greystones Facebook group. The small business owner doesn’t have a bricks-and-mortar shop or a website, but her friendly social media banter along with pictures of the latest catch has customers queuing around the block.
For many small businesses not already online, their shuttering by the coronavirus pandemic for the second time this year has left them bewildered. Their customers are still there and still need their products but, with doors closed, hard-fought custom can seep away.
People still need books, gifts, sandwiches, office supplies and everything else. We may need them now more than ever, as the constant zip of delivery vans attests. So how can small businesses get in on the online act, keeping relationships with customers alive and positioning themselves to survive and thrive in this pandemic and beyond?
Seven in 10 Irish adults have made a conscious effort to support local businesses due to the impact of Covid-19, a survey by iReach has found. “Shop local” is a sentiment small businesses can tap into. If someone googles “bookshops near me”, there are simple steps you can take to make sure your shop is found. And it doesn’t even require a website.
“If you are a small local business, you can go to ‘Google my business’ and create your free business profile there,” says Google’s director of small business in Ireland, Alice Mansergh. Add your address, opening hours, phone number and photos of your business and you can even specify whether you offer click and collect or kerb-side pick-up during lockdown.
This first dipping of your toe into online takes about 15 minutes. “This is going to ensure that if your local customers are searching for you, your details are compelling and accurate and up to date on Google Search and Google Maps,” says Mansergh.
Google has also launched Grow with Google, a package of free training, advertising credits and grants to help Irish small businesses to recover from the effects of the pandemic. On the grow.google/intl/ie website, small businesses will find video tutorials on how to set up a business profile, or create a website that sells.
And if you don’t already have a website, it’s now easier than ever to get one. If you have one and it’s effectively just a brochure, it’s time to up your game.
Your Local Enterprise Office is a good place to start. Its Trading Online Vouchers assist businesses with up to 10 employees to make online trading easier and more profitable. Businesses can claim up to €2,500, with co-funding of 10 per cent from themselves, towards developing an online presence.
They must participate in training first, however, with courses on everything from developing a website to digital marketing, social media and search engine optimisation.
The Government says the grant will cut the cost for a small business to develop online trading by up to 90 per cent. And, with Covid-19, Irish small businesses appear to be receptive. Local Enterprise Offices have approved some 9,920 such vouchers already this year. That’s 8,790 more than last year.
For small businesses looking to get their products online fast, a monthly subscription to sell on marketplaces such as Shopify or Etsy is a good option, says Noel Davidson, lead trainer with the Entrepreneurs Academy, which delivers the training for Local Enterprise Offices.
A level up from that comes off-the-shelf website builders such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace, he says. By paying a monthly subscription, small business can use these tools to quickly and easily build a website, choosing from a selection of templates.
The downside is once you stop paying the subscription, you lose your website. The free version of these tools will give you a generic “@squarespace.com” website address, for example. “That may not look as professional,” says Davidson. You can buy a personalised website address option from these providers, but you will have to sort out a personalised email address yourself, he says.
Branded email
The next level up is website builder WordPress, and paying for hosting with a separate provider, says Davidson. This gives businesses a branded email address.
It also provides the best option of future-proofing an online presence, with the ability to add downloadable plug-ins as a business’s needs grow, he says. One such is the free WooCommerce plug-in from WordPress. “You can bolt it on to your website and you are up and running in minutes with a full ecommerce platform,” says Davidson.
All the platforms have easy ways to install a payment gateway such as Paypal, Stripe or Elavon, says Davidson. However, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly charge a fee for this to be switched on.
With all payment options, when something is sold on your website, you pay a small percentage to the provider when the payment is processed.
“A lot of website designers build for WordPress so if, at some stage, you want to link your accounting package to it, you can.”
Features such as livechat or a booking engine are among other plug-ins. “Our advice is to give the business as much flexibility as possible, so a self-hosted WordPress website on one of the local Irish hosting companies is probably preferable,” Davidson says. Hosting costs are about €70-€80 a year.
An SSL certificate, another plug-in that protects sensitive information such as credit card information, usernames and passwords, will cost about the same annually.
Google Ads is where Google displays your ad when people search for products and services like yours. You pay for results, like when someone clicks your ad to call your business or visit your website.
If you don’t have budget for that, you can help yourself in other ways. It’s about putting yourself in customers’ shoes, says Davidson. A chiropractor may have that word all over their website, but if potential customers use the search phrase ‘back pain south Dublin’, local chiropractors may miss out.
“Ask your customers how they found you – that’s the easiest way to source search terms,” says Davidson. Update your website regularly with the search terms customers are using, perhaps through a value-add blog or company updates. Glowing reviews and testimonials from customers also cut through.
A website that looks great but doesn’t do a lot is really just a brochure and it won’t drive much business. “The example I give to clients is, ‘We’ve built your online store, but it’s as if we’ve built it in the middle of the desert. We now need to tell people about it. We need to build roads to your store,” says Eoin McKenna, managing director of Golden Spider-winning web design agency Tribe Digital.
Paid search such as Google Ads is a quick way to get traffic to your site within minutes but other, more guerrilla-like marketing methods on social media can bring the same results for free. But you have to work at it.
Knowing your customer, hanging out online where they are and using the right tone of voice will bring results.
Fishmonger Bates shares quayside pictures of her latest catch to local Facebook groups, and says she hopes everyone is doing okay in these hard times. Members respond warmly, sharing recipes and images of how they have cooked her fish. She offers free fish to householders having a tough time. Her video announcing the winner of €50 worth of fish for those who liked and shared her Facebook posts has been viewed 1,500 times.
“If you are going to be all ‘salesy’, no one is that interested. The idea with social media is that you can join conversations other people are having that are relevant to your brand, chipping in in a really relevant way that’s useful to them,” says McKenna. It’s about knowing who you are and having the confidence to be authentic. “If you are approachable, you understand your audience and can converse about the stuff they are interested in, you don’t need to spend a penny on marketing, ever.”
Instagram is another great place to cultivate a community of like-minded people. This is just what Higgins Butchers in Sutton has done, says McKenna. Within a few hours of posting pictures to Instagram of Wagyu beef it had sourced, all 40kg of it had sold out.
Tribe Digital is currently revamping Higgins’s website. “At some point next year, they expect their online sales to pass their store sales,” says McKenna.
“If someone visits your website, they are interacting with your brand; if they see a Facebook or Instagram post, that’s your brand. It’s important to maintain the same
messaging and tone of voice across all these touch points. Your posts might not be perfect, but they might be endearing and that will draw customers.”
‘Hunting and gathering’
Facebook and social media are fantastic for “hunting and gathering” advertising and customers, agrees Davidson, but nobody is going to share their credit card details there. Social media posts should direct customers to a professional-looking and secure website that they trust.
“But the power of recommendation is huge. We won’t buy something until we see someone else has bought it first. That means a review or a testimonial, somebody mentioning on social media that they bought your product or booked your service, linking to your site. That works extremely well.”
Once inquiries and orders start flying in, you need to be responsive. Retailers will be used to spending their time on the shop floor, perhaps responding to emails when there is a lull. Selling online can turn this on its head. Online customers, just like those coming through the door, expect attention.
“If they are going online, it’s not going to be this dream set-up where orders just come in and stuff gets shipped out – it needs to be manned,” says Eoin McKenna. “You need to prepare to resource that side of things.”
If online customers don’t get a timely response, they will go elsewhere. Likewise, if you are shipping products, you will need to allocate time to packaging them for dispatch and dealing with returns.
The explosion in online shopping during the pandemic means more competition among delivery companies. Small business options are available from the usual providers, including An Post, which offers tracked and untracked options for small businesses with an online shop.
So whether Covid has closed your doors or not, make sure your customers can find you online. Pandemic lockdowns will end, but online shopping is here to stay. In a world where your customers can shop anywhere, Irish small businesses must make it easy for them to shop at home.


Dead Centre Brewing

Liam Tutty is the founder of Dead Centre Brewing in Athlone which opened in February 2019. Liam participated in the IBYE (Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs) programme which we facilitate for the Local Enterprise Office. 

 Hi, my name is Liam Tuttyy. I own and operate Dead Centre Brewing here in Athlone in County Westmeath. We started a craft brewery here about a year ago, but we’re far more than that. We have a full seven -day publicans license. If I wander back this way, you can see the bar through the glass there and we have a pizza kitchen and then we have a five hectolitre brewery with a 10 hectolitre fermentation capacity here in Athlone. Craft breweries are a dime a dozen in this country, at the moment. The thing that we’re doing different, is the bar and the kitchen and as well as that, the brewery itself is kinda standout. It’s a very pretty piece of equipment and the fact that we’re already working with Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and getting as many people into the brewery and experiencing the beers as possible. Last night we actually won, I’m really thrilled about this, we won best Gastropub in County Westmeath. We’ve been trading for 11 months. It’s a big achievement. So, we do things differently. We’re not just making beer, we’re really taking things up a notch, we are trying to anyway.


How many years have you been in business now?

How long have we been in business? This is a tough one, because I started Dead Centre Brewing as a contract brand. We had been brewing technically since the summer of 2017 when we rented space from Saint Mel’s Brewing Company in Longford and released our first beer, Marooned IPA and we’ve
been open here as I said, we celebrate our first birthday this month. So February, so we have been open a year at this point.

What course did you participate in with us?

I was lucky enough to actually win best business idea at IBYE or whatever you want to call it, Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur a couple of years ago and in my preparation for that, I did the IBYE course with the Entrepreneurs Academy and that really helped myself prepare for that
competition, which really paid off for us. 

At what point in your business development did you do this course?

At the time, the business was an idea and we had actually, just literally, taken it out of the phase of being just a simple brewery idea. We were lucky enough to work with the Local Enterprise Office really close in Westmeath, they were brilliant. I cannot recommend them highly enough and what became
clear from our feasibility study, the market was crowded, and shelf space was tight. It was really difficult to carve out a little bit of room for yourself in the craft beer market. So, we decided to do things differently. As I said full bar, seven -day license, kitchen, tours here at the brewery and I’m taking a different direction to a lot of the other breweries in the country. 

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Did you already have your current business idea when you started the programme with us or did we help you to form or strengthen it?

When I started the course with the Entrepreneurs Academy, I did already have the idea, but it’s been in flux ever since, it’s been an odd one and we’ve been at the point when I did it. I’d probably been 18 months in planning and a lot of that seemed to not just be thrown out, but certainly adjusted, amended, fine-tuned, is probably the right word for it. So I had the idea, but it wasn’t exactly where I needed to be in my opinion.

Can you remember how you felt before the course?

Probably the same way I feel most of the time just kinda daunted and it’s a really, really big undertaking to do. What we’re doing here in Athlone or to do it anywhere for that matter. But we have built a brew pub, a gastropub outside of an major urban area. Technically Athlone qualifies  as a rural area, so it was daunting before I did the course and a little bit less so afterwards but still a bit daunting.

How did you feel after the course?

After the course, I felt like we really tied things down a bit. I think that we had time to be a little bit more fine-tuned on how we were doing things and not just how we’re doing things, but the things that we were doing because we’ve decided to take things in a complete different direction to a majority of other breweries, not every other brewery, but certainly a majority of other breweries in the country. I think that’s what makes us unique. What makes us different and why people keep coming back. And people that do visit once, love to visit.

We aim to help you build the skills, confidence and network to be successful. Was that your experience?


The network I built out of it absolutely, you can see that it’s been strong since. People that I met on it, I still deal with fairly regularly. Confidence? Absolutely, I wasn’t confident in the idea that I had probably because craft brewing for me is a passion. But you can’t let your heart rule your head when it comes to business and I really feel like I was possibly trying to shoe horn the business into existence, when technically the business as it stood, wasn’t going to work. I think that really came to light after the course with the Entrepreneurs Academy, to see okay, so A doesn’t work, does A plus B work? Does A plus B, plus C work or does A not work? We just focus on B and it was really good. It was a good lateral thinking exercise and actually making yourself see what is viable here.

How many people are on the team now?

At the time when I did the course, it was just me and even though I wasn’t pulling a wage from it, it was the best idea application. We won best idea, but what I do love is that we came out of that course and entered best business idea in Westmeath and won it and the following year the final, the County final for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur in Westmeath was held in the premises here. So, it just goes to show that an idea that’s been well researched and well thought out and attacked with a lot of passion will come to fruition and will actually turn into something bricks and mortar. That was a change from running a side hustle basically with zero employees to taking on … we’re currently at about 10 employees here in Athlone, which still kind of frightens the hell of me to say, to be perfectly honest with you.

What are you most proud of in your business, so far?

To be honest with you, there’s a lot of things and it’s a graft. It is not easy work at all. These are just constantly 80 -hour weeks, again and again and again and it just keeps on going. What I’m proudest about? I have to say recognition is good. I’m not normally one for awards because I don’t understand how people can hang their hat on something that somebody else judges them on, but it was nice to win at IBYE. It was really nice to win at the Irish Pub Awards this year, it was great to win at the restaurant awards this year and I I think I’m just proud of the team. The team here are strong. They’re really good. They love what they do and that shows in everything that they do. The team is what I’m proudest of. It’s been difficult and they’ve come through really really well. I’m very proud of them.

What’s the greatest challenge you have faced?

That’s such a weird question to come right after the last one, it’s probably the team as well. Managing people is not easy and it’s a time sponge. It takes up a lot of the time that you really wish you could put into something else in the brewery. But at the same time, I’m not trying to build a staff here. I’m trying to build a family and I really do want people to be tight knit and close and when staff are unhappy, which is going to happen, that’s the nature of the game, it makes it difficult. People management has been tricky.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?


This is a strange one, because I say it and I genuinely mean it a lot of the time. People will say, would I do it all again? Honestly, they’re are days when it really gets on top of you. I have a 16 month-old baby at home who I see far too little and I’m pulled between all the different departments. I think that will be the thing I need to stop doing. I’ve employed really, really good people who really know what they’re doing and all I tend to do, is put my nose in, so I would say, absolutely drive, drive, drive and you have to know every area of your business – 100% be involved. But when there’s no need for you anymore, graciously bow out, allow the staff to do what they do best and leave them to it. That will be my advice. 




For more information:http://deadcentrebrewing.com/

The Book Centre

Maeve Ryan, with The Book Centre https://www.thebookcentre.ie/, talks about managing four locations in Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and Naas. 

I’m with Maeve Ryan, who runs The Book Centre, Maeve do you want to tell us a little bit about what you do?

I’m the Managing Director of The Book Centre and Barker and Jones in Naas. We’re an Irish owned family-run business. We’re in business since 1971. We are four shops, we’re bookshops predominantly, but, they’re about 10000 square feet each, so they’re large stores. So we sell books. We have a huge children’s selection of books and games and then we also sell lots of other products. We have a magazine department, and a large gift department, greeting cards, stationary, eco-friendly products, Leonidas Belgian chocolates and school books. 

Book Centre

That’s fantastic Maeve, I have to say your shop in Waterford is absolutely phenomenal. It’s not just a bookshop. It’s so much more than a bookshop and it’s an experience, I imagine if I lived in Waterford, it’d be a place that I would frequent quite often. Really stunning. What have you done there to make yourself more special? I mean it’s the experience first of all but all those things you offer what’s been most successful for you?

To be honest with you Sarah-Lyn, harping back to, people talking about the recession, they talk about how are books doing, that sort of thing and really our biggest success has always been our books and our book product and also as you mentioned the experience and the atmosphere of our shops. People often say to me. ‘Oh, my treat to myself, is going into The Book Centre on Friday evening or Saturday, or whatever day it might be and I grab a cup of coffee and I relax and I browse a few books. I browse the magazines or the gifts.’ We have created an environment where you don’t have to feel like you have to buy all the time, you can come in. You can spend time at the one in Waterford, for example, it is an old art-deco cinema, so there’s a huge mural, actually all of our shops have  murals on the wall. The one in Waterford is up where the old cinema screen would have been. It’s all about what’s going on in the shop, the atmosphere of the book shop in general. We have a Cafe in all our shops as well. People just love to come in and browse, chat with the staff and the staff know that this is to be a welcoming place. It’s not about the hard sale and while all our products do work for us. Thank God. you know it’s the books and the book related products and especially the children’s books that do really well for us. 


I imagine your own children like to go into the shop?

They love it and because, I’m always here for work. They give out that I don’t actually bring them in enough, they tend to come in with their Granddad more than they do with me.

Maeve, you joined us last year on our AIB Growth Academy programme. So just for the listeners. This is a programme that’s run by AIB and it’s facilitated by the Entrepreneurs Academy. It’s all about leadership, so it’s for businesses that are a bit more established. Can you tell me Maeve, how you felt before you went on the programme?

I was thinking about this, Sarah-Lyn and about the programme when I knew I was going to come on to chat to you. I think, before the programme, I suppose, yes, I did see myself as a leader, but to be honest, I had a little bit of an impostor syndrome, like, no, the business would run without me and I’m not really a leader. I’m just saying I’m the managing director, and I was a little bit lost, I think I was kind of going along and reacting to a lot of things. I suppose not seeing the importance of me in the business and the importance of my role as a leader to my entire team. So, it really helped me put myself at the forefront of the business. If I become a better leader, my people, my managers, my staff will become better at their job and then it will all benefit the business in general. I think it definitely gave me a sense of purpose and kind of self-reflect and a say as to how can I improve myself as a leader and also say yes, I am a good leader for the business. I know that I can follow through with that. It gave me the confidence to do that.

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You’re leading quite a substantial team. How many are on your team now?

There’s about one hundred of us, which is great. We would have a four central people, three of them would be managers and then we have four shop managers. Then we have all the staff.

Having completed the AIB Growth Academy programme Maeve, do you see yourself as a leader now?

Yes, I do. It’s amazing, like it’s even funny saying that out loud, but I do. 


It was a lovely programme, the group of ladies that came on that programme. I have to say I think they were an amazing bunch.

They were fantastic and the fact that we’re all still in contact is just really lovely. It gives you a circle of people who, as somebody else said to me, ‘I’m glad I’m not the only crazy person in the world’, you know there are other people who can have family life and do all that sort of thing. They’ll like-minded people.

I suppose the fact that the network of that group as well, even this year, and going into the years going forward, you’re still in touch and you’re still providing support for each other, which is a massive thing at the end of a programme.

I know if I have any query on anything, that I could ring up any one of those girls and just say listen what do you think, which is a lovely asset to have because sometimes you don’t have anybody to knock ideas off. To have a whole group of people that you know in a similar position to you, it’s really good. It’s really comforting you know. 

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Maeve, what are you most proud of in your business so far?

I think it probably comes from having done the course. Actually, I think I’m more proud of actually now taking the business on, you know I inherited it from my dad. My dad is 83 now, he has retired, but I still always said and I still do say it is his  business, I think now I’ve made it my own and I just said right, no, this is me, I am the leader of this business and it’s my business to take in my direction, the way I want to do it and I’m proud of myself. I’ve been able to get up and to do that and make it my own, which was a hard thing for me to do having grown up in and always seeing it as somebody else’s. 

Wexford Mural

It’s really important and it’s great that you’ve come to that realization. Maeve, what advice would you have for someone going into business and running their own company?

I think just do it. I know that might sound like a cliche, but if you know you have an ambition, go and do it and then don’t be afraid to turn up to all the networking events that are around you because it is an effort to go, and you go on your own, it really might push you out of your comfort zone, but it really is a help to meet people that are like-minded to you and they’re in similar situations. So it’s to get out there and meet other people that you can chat about and to make you feel more normal in what you were doing and the problems that you have because everybody has all sorts of different problems in business. Especially when you’re setting up first. I do think it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people.

Great advice Maeve, thank you for your time today. 

Naas About Us

Doolin Inn

Deirdre Moloney, with Doolin Inn, who has participated in the AIB Women in Enterprise Growth Academy in Limerick and now the ‘Board You Can’t Afford’ programme, tells us about the transformation of two hostels into what’s now a modern country house, your home in the heart of Doolin.  Watch the video above to learn more, or read through the interview with Sarah-Lyn below. 

I’m with Deirdre Moloney here today from the Doolin Inn in the lovely County Clare. Deirdre would you like to tell us a little bit about your business?

Absolutely, thank you for having me on, Doolin Inn is a Modern Country House in the heart of The Burren in Doolin, County Clare. We currently have 17 guest rooms, with another five being added on, so in March, we’ll have 22. We also have conference facilities, a little roofed hidden garden, where you could do your activities during your team building and we are a five minute walk from the beautiful Cliffs of Mohr walking trail.

Sounds incredible and I’ve seen the photos, it’s stunning down there. You must be rushed off your feet with 22 bedrooms.

We are very fortunate to have a team of 12 exceptional staff members and one fantastic manager who keeps me sane all the time.

That’s great and so what is it that you do a little bit differently to your competitors down there? Because you’ve got such a great location and it seems that you’re not just running an inn. You’re running so much more than an inn. What are you most proud of that you’ve done so far?


We have a reputation for very friendly service, a relaxed atmosphere and really good local produce. All of our staff have completed the Failte Ireland welcoming standards, so they all have certificates in that. Our main focus is on service to the guest as they come in, my husband and I are both from hotel backgrounds. We’ve both worked in five-star hotels, so service is always our top focus. 

So, it’s got a feeling of a five-star hotel from the moment you walk in, I’m quite sure the moment you walk in. You are the most important person there from the moment you walk through the door. I have to say I’m liking the sound of this Deirdre. So tell me, you came on our AIB Growth Academy programme last year, and just for our listeners, AIB run an incredible leadership programme and the Entrepreneurs Academy facilitate this programme for them and you were on the Limerick Growth Academy. Can you remember how you felt before you went on the programme and then how the program changed you during that course over those few months?

Absolutely, I remember I was stale very stale in my business. I was exhausted, frustrated, working extremely long hours, but didn’t seem to be achieving anything and when I went into the first masterclass, I remember thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t belong with these women’. They are all top of their roles. They’re very successful. I will have nothing to relate to them, but after the first full day with this dynamic group of women, you just refocus, you’re so comfortable with them, you learn so much from them and everybody there is willing to help each other. You come out of it with fresh eyes, you’re rejuvenated with energy and you actually get excited about your business again.

That’s exactly what we’re looking for in that programme. We really want to help people to build their confidence, build their skills and create a great network in the process, which sounds like it ticked all those boxes for you.


Absolutely and I have to say when I came home from my first full day there, the first thing I did was I ripped up my business plan. I said, I need to rip it up and start all over again. It was just absolutely incredible. You reassess your business. I’ve redefined my goals. I actually had two business starting off in Women in Enterprise. I have closed one now, I had a Doolin Inn and a Hostel. I have now closed down the Hostel and I am opening up a six-suite luxury townhouse, which I wouldn’t have had the courage to do without the Women in Enterprise and the support I got from that. 

Wow, that’s incredible and I actually remember the day when you told us that that was your plan and everybody around the room was just in awe and you know what, that’s what we were looking for in that, that whole transformation of your business into something that was good, but something that’s so much better. Would that be something that you’re most proud of then, Deirdre?

Absolutely, I mean when we took over this business eight years ago, it was two hostel buildings. It took us four years to renovate the first building to turn it into the Doolin Inn, to what it is today. So it’s only through the Entrepreneurs Academy that I made the bold decision. I threw it out to all the women in the room that this is what I’m thinking of doing and the support I got from that was just absolutely incredible. I remember, the day, coming home from the meeting telling my husband, so the business plan has been ripped up again and this is what we are now going to do and it has just been… well, I’m
so happy we decided to do this and we are excited about it again, which is the main reason we got into this business. I’m excited about what we love doing and I remember at one of the meetings, Joanne Hession saying that to us ‘do what you love doing’ refocus – ‘why did you get into this business in the first place?’ I was stale, I wasn’t excited about it and now I am back excited about my business again. It was a fantastic team.

You’re also part of a Board You Can’t Afford programme that we have recently set up. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Yes, I’m really enjoying that with Nancy Ward. It is the Board You Can’t Afford, it’s like they set you up with a group of people who would be your board of directors and you are answerable to them, they will guide you along the way. It’s people with incredible knowledge of their business level like we have an HR expert, we have so many different people on that can help you, finance experts on it, that can help you with any decision you have in your business. We have a solicitor on it, so whatever issue you are facing there is somebody at the table that can put their hand up and go, I have a little bit of information, a gold nugget of information, that may be able to help you with this, and it’s just priceless. They become a group of friends. So I now have my Entrepreneurs Academy WhatsApp Group and I also have my Board You Can’t Afford WhatsApp group, so it’s two WhatsApp groups, so no matter what’s going on in business. Somebody from one of those can help me with it.

It’s so good Deirdre, because I find certainly from listening to a lot of entrepreneurs and people who are in business that it can be a lonely place to be, so when you you’re talking about these networks of maybe 20 – 30, that’s a lovely support to have around you. 


Absolutely and for anybody out there running a business thinking of starting a business you can’t do it alone. You need your backup and when you’re trying to juggle kids, family life and business at the same time without a backup, it just doesn’t work. You need somebody that you can go ‘help me with
this’ or somebody who can go, ‘I did something similar a couple of years ago and this is who I reached out to’ without that support it can be it can be very frustrating. 

Firechild Photography

Eadaoin has participated in two programmes with The Entrepreneurs Academy to include Thrive which is a two-year programme that Eadaoin is participating in at current. Watch the interview above, or read through below. 

Thanks Eadaoin for being with us today. We’re going to chat a little bit about your business. Do you want to tell us the name of your business and how long you’ve been running?

Thank you so much, Sarah-Lyn. The business is Firechild Photography. It’s been in operation since about 2014. It kind of started off quite slowly. I built it as I was working full time as a teacher and since February 2017, I’ve been full time. I initially started the business kind of marketing as a wedding and family photographer. And then towards the end of 2017 I moved to specialize in personal branding photography. So that’s the main thing that I offer now. I work with business owners who are kind of struggling to stand out in their market, they want to be able to tell their story in a really easy way that connects with their clients. They want to feel like themselves in the imagery that they use.

So how do you go about making that happen for them, because it’s obviously quite a different field to the wedding type photographer that you were before. How did you flip that?

It’s quite a process with each client, with each individual. I have studied personal branding for over 10 years, for myself initially, and then as I’ve grown the business around it. So there’s quite a process. I need to be able to know exactly what the business is about, who its clients are, what their story is. And so we find out all of that information before we start planning the shoot itself.

So you’re essentially giving them marketing advice along the way then as well, how to best brand themselves in the market?

I suppose in a way, yes. But it’s more about uncovering their brand that’s already there.

You’re three years full time in your business now. You started a program with us, the creative leadership program in 2018. Where were you in your business when you joined the Entrepreneurs Academy program?

I was getting to a point where I was becoming known as a personal brand photographer. But in terms of being able to lead myself in the business management side of things, I was probably struggling a little bit.

So important to lead yourself while in your business, especially when you’re starting up and you’re getting yourself your roots put down and so forth. It’s very important to make sure you manage yourself properly or you’ll go under very quickly. So what did you find most useful in that program?

To be honest, it was the fact, that it was hands on, it was kind of, workshop style sessions rather learning something from a book or from a webinar, that we could be there and we could ask questions, that was really useful. So whether it was around financial planning or sales techniques or even just in terms of solving problems within the business. You know, we were able to interact with each other, learn from each other as well as the facilitators.

We try to build your skills, build your confidence and increase your network as well because you’re working with other like minded people. Did you find that that was the case for you on the program?

Absolutely, 100 percent. In terms of skills, like one of the biggest things that I walked away with was a business plan that was valuable to me as a business owner. I’d seen and scrolled through business plans before that were a million pages long, but I just I didn’t know where to start. So actually walking away with something that I felt I understood and that was useful to me was really inspiring. And then the connections that I made with the facilitator and the other participants was brilliant.

So what are you most proud of in your business so far?

I suppose the fact that, three years in, the business is still here and it’s still growing as well, which I’m really, really proud of. The fact that I’m now at a point where I’m learning to blend a little bit more of my own personal life back in. In the early days, you sacrifice a lot of that personal time for, business development, networking. There’s a lot to learn in those early days. While, there’s always more work to be done, the potential for a nice blend of work and life is possible.

What would you say the challenges have been along the way? If you were to give some advice to young entrepreneurs, starting out now, have you any little pieces of advice that you’d like to offer?

Definitely for me, one of the biggest challenges, early on, was networking so not being afraid to get out there and meet people. I think taking courses with The Entrepreneurs Academy is such a beautiful way of networking because you’re working on your business, you’re developing your own business skills, but you’re also meeting these other business owners, and like-minded business owners as well. So, they can be potential clients. They can be really great resources, allies in business. That’s something definitely, starting out, feeling that fear of networking and trying things out. It’s not all horrible and dark rooms of bad coffee. I suppose the other thing is, I specialize in personal branding photography, so that’s the only type of photography that I do. As scary as it was initially to say that, ‘this is what I’m going to do’. It has so beneficial to my business. So, finding that thing that you’re really good at and also really passionate about and not being afraid to say no to the other stuff.

You’re part of our Thrive business support program at the moment with The Entrepreneurs Academy. I see the participants helping each other along the way. You’re all very, very interactive. How are you finding the program?

It’s absolutely fantastic. While a lot of the main headings would be very similar to the leadership and creative business program, I’m now coming at it from a different perspective, a different level, and it’s a lot more in-depth as well.

We have the in-person workshops, but then we also have online master minds. The fact that it is a lot of different styles of learning as well. We’ve got the group stuff, the in-person and online, and then we’ve got the question and answer sessions as well, which is really great. So from the Entrepreneurs Academy point of view, that’s a fantastic learning resource. But then the group, it’s been just fantastic. They are an amazing mix of people and businesses. I think the one thing that joined us all together is that we are all working very hard in our business, but we also want to help each other.

You’ve kindly offered a gift to share with one of our lucky followers. Can you tell me a little bit about the gift that you’re offering?

Absolutely. So as I’ve already talked about, I offer a personal brand photography and then also I offer mentoring service to creative entrepreneurs, particularly photographers. So I would love to offer your winner 50 euros off either one of those services.

Thank you so much for that. And thank you so much for taking part in this, because we love having you on our programs. You’re such an asset to the people who were there as well. Thank you so much for being here today. And best of luck with on Firechild Photography. 

Thank you so much. Happy Birthday to the Entrepreneurs Academy.

For more information: https://firechildphotography.com/

Cork Sultan Delight

Thank you for having a chat with us, as you know, we’re celebrating 21 years by chatting to some of the people that we’ve worked with over the years in helping them start a business. So tell us a little bit about your business?

My name is Taoufik Hammami, originally from Tunisia. My business is a catering business. Plus, retail too. I established my business in 2013. I opened a restaurant called Sultan Cafe Restaurant and Shisha Lounge which was open until 2016. After that, I decided to open another business called Cork Sultan Delight, which is a unique business, similar to the restaurant. After a while, I opened cookery classes as well on the same premises, teaching people how to cook. And so I never stopped. I then got my family involved, and they wanted to run the restaurant. This was a good idea to leave the restaurant to the family, so I can take care of the other business myself, so I have two businesses. I was delighted with it. So the business is doing well and I’m very happy with it.

So I did open a third business, catering outdoors. So it involves a lot of events: festivals, private parties, private outdoor events. So, this is actually the business now, it’s called The Hand of Fatimah Cuisine, all international cuisine plus my speciality: Moroccan, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese style. Plus, Tunisian wine. as well. So far I’m doing well. I never stop. Always looking forwards, always looking for another thing.

Image may contain: outdoor

What we’re hoping to do with this series of interviews is to inspire people who are at the stage of starting. We met you when you were just about to start. Can you remember what that felt like? Do you remember how you felt before you started?

Yes. Before I started the business, I had the idea. Before the start, I had the idea about the business. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure if I was ready to open a business or not. Until I found the course. I said, ‘this is what I’m looking for’. How to set up your own business, how to be your own boss. I have to do that course. It helped me a lot for starting up my own business. I felt very happy when I heard about the course. When I started up in the middle of the course, I did open my own business.

You did! You didn’t wait till the end.

No, no, no. Actually, I got a lot information. I did focus a lot with it. I attended all of the course. I was always there, because this is what I was looking for. So after that, I did open my own business. I was using all the experience I gained from the course. So it has been helped me a lot, a lot, a lot. I am very happy after the course.

What we try to do, is we try to give people the skills to start a business. We try to give people the confidence to start a business and a create a network. Did you find that you made a lot of friends and good contacts from being on the course?

I met a lot of people on the course with me, and I keep talking to them. I got a lot of advice as well from them. I’m still in touch with you as welI, once a year, like the college around here. So it’s amazing.

What are you happiest with about starting a business?

I’m happy with it. I see my businesses still growing year after year, I’m the first person in Ireland with this unique business. I’m always finding something new in my business and I’m very happy with it. I’ll never give up, I’ll never stop. I’m happy to see my business grow and to be popular in the area where I am in Cork. It’s not only here, I’ve started going world wide too.

You’re in central Cork. That’s where people can find you – 21 Mac Curtain Street, Cork City and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CorkSultanDelight/

No photo description available.Is there any advice that you’d give to somebody, imagining yourself back in 2013? What’s the advice you would give somebody?

Absolutely. The advice I would give if anyone wants to see his dream come true. You can get it. The first thing is, he has to learn.

How to set up your own business, how to be your own boss, how you can get your dreams to come true, but you have to learn first. You have to go find a good course. Like the course I did, I would say, it’s easy when you know everything. It’s a hard when you don’t know everything? That’s important, the course I was taking myself. I used to work for somebody else. I didn’t have any idea about business or how to set up a business. But I wanted to open a business, but I don’t have any ideas about it. So, until I found the course where I can learn about it. But the course has helped me a lot in establishing my business.

Yes. I was confused. I was confused. I wanted anything like I mean, anyone want to open the business section I’m talking about as I did open a business. Anyone to open a business, just go for it. Don’t give up. Don’t go back. Go for it. If you stopped in the middle, you get confused. If I go back, will you continue.

What made you innovate in your business? Are there times when you really have to step back and think, what do I need to do? Do I need to change something or.

Of course, of course, I have had to change a lot of things I made a lot of mistakes, too. But for that, I’ve learned from the mistakes. I always go back to the experience I had. I always have to go back and remember what was said. This is the way I changed a lot of things in my business. A lot of mistakes can happen, but it’s I decided not to whine about it. I now know how to manage a mistake.

In closing…

Thank you so much, lads. I want to thank you so much because you helped me establish my own business and I am so happy for what I did now. Thank you so much, all of you. Everyone who came to teach me about the business. Thank you so much.

Ruth Anne Jewellery Business

Ruth participated in the first Momentum program back in 2013. We were lucky to get some time with her to chat about her business now and what she gained from her training with The Entrepreneurs Academy. Watch the interview above, or read through below.


Tell us a little bit about what you do, because that’s the most important thing.


My business is called Danu Ceramics, and Danu was the Celtic goddess of Earth and water. I make jewellery out of porcelain and 22-karat gold lustre, I also create homewares as well. I design all my work in Dublin.


What’s different about what you do compared to other people working with ceramics?


Well, a huge point is the fact that we use really good quality materials like porcelain, but also genuine 22 karat gold lustre and sterling silver. So we use really high quality materials, but our price points are all very accessible. It’s about affordability as well as something that school quality and sustainable. Our price points would all be under the 50 euro mark. As well, our story to go with it and that it’s all made in Ireland.

You’ve always had amazing photography. I covet your work because it’s so well styled.


That would be a key part of our marketing. With our photography, we try to create an enchanted world. I think people really like to buy into that and have a little piece of that as well.


So can you remember back to when you started the Momentum programme with The Entrepreneurs Academy? It was 2013 – early days for you. Can you remember how you felt coming into the programme?


Well, I was a very fresh graduate from NCAD (National College of Art and Design) in Dublin. I graduated making ceramic sculptures. I was in a very different mindset. The kind of sculptures I was making were very conceptual and they would take about a month to make. I graduated in 2011. Then I spent a year exhibiting the work, which I really enjoyed, but it wasn’t a viable way to make a living. Then I saw an advertisment for a business course. The timing was perfect. I did the Momentum course with The Entrepreneurs Academy in 2013, so I was very green. I was very new. I had to learn the mindset. I was very nervous and I didn’t really know what to expect, at the beginning anyway.


On these programmes, we try to give people the skills they need. Give them the confidence they need and help them build a network. Was that your experience of the programme?


Yes, a big part of my learning, was how to do the market research, which is something that I didn’t quite know how to do properly. A big part of the course that got me out of my comfort zone was speaking a lot in front of people, but it was in a very supportive environment, so that was great. And then it’s very powerful when you’re kind of reading your ideas aloud to other people and getting feedback as opposed to being alone in a studio, because that’s what it would have been. It would have been very different. That was a big part of confidence building for me in a nice, slow, gradual way, while also being out of my comfort zone.


Most small business owners, when they start a business, the financials are kind of scary there, that it’s the unknown and they’re just terrified of getting things wrong and maybe don’t put systems in place and don’t really understand what they need to do to be compliant and to be informed and be strategic about how they will handle their business financially. Is that something you took from the program?


Part of the actual program was to write a balance sheet and cash flow and we learned how to do that. We had to submit that as well. There was somebody on the course who was in business as an accountant. He was a great help to us as well. I know that’s probably the most intimidating part for most people anyway.


You’ve mentioned the support of other people on the course. Was that your experience that the peer to peer support was valuable?


The peer to peer support was brilliant, because you’re getting so many ideas from different people and so many different points of view. They might have completely different business ideas to you. Like for example, they might be in the service industry, but they have a really good insight as well. So that was brilliant.


Have you continued to build your network and do you use your network much?


Yes, I do. I’m still in touch with people and giving feedback and seeing what they’re up to. That’s giving them support as well.


What advice would you give to people if they’re considering starting a business?


This is just advice coming from my own experience. It would be to take things slow, because I rushed a few things which ended all slowing me down a bit in the long run. For example, I make handmade products, so it’s a big challenge for people. Because you’re making everything, it is important to have a range that actually generates a decent income for yourself.


I use wholesale models, where I sell into retailers, so I get a fraction of the retail price. It’s really, really important for me to make sure that I have products that have a good profit margin. My business changes every year because I’m constantly refining my products, to make something that generates more income. Every year, learning how to make things more efficiently. At the start, that was that was very hard for me. And I would have liked to have considered that a bit more, and taken things a bit more slowly.


Don’t be afraid to take things slow. But then also another thing would be, to be very self-aware. Ask yourself, is your photography good enough or if you have a retail shop, is your interior design good enough? So, be really self-aware? And, if you don’t think it is, you can work on that and you can make it better. If it’s not good enough, then you can hire a photographer or an interior designer to make it better.


What was the biggest challenge you would say you faced? Was it around that productivity piece?


Yes, that was a huge challenge for me because I was working really hard and it is my passion. But then if you’re working too hard, you could almost resent it a little bit. But now, I’m at the stage where I wanted to be, which is great. I’m really looking forward to this year. Last year was good as well. But for the first couple of years, it was really hard to get the balance right.

As well, because I was very new, I always do what the retailers wanted me to do. Whereas I think it’s better make what you want to make, it’ll work out. Then they’ll see that’s what you want to make it, that they’ll actually take to it very positively. But don’t be afraid to kind of put your foot down.


So, it’s OK to say no.


Exactly. Which is something that I had a huge problem during the first couple of years, but that is a confidence thing, which comes with practice, too.


Anything else you’d like to highlight about your business? Is there anything you want to signpost people to?


If you would like to have a look at the website – Danuceramics.com – it tells the story of my business and my photography serves as inspiration as well. There are some travel photos there, as a lot of my work is inspired by that. If you’re curious, check it out at danuceramics.ie


Your visuals are so strong. Everyone should have a look at your website!


That’s been a huge achievement for us, the social media following has grown very fast.


You have kindly offered to give a gift for us to celebrate our 21 years in business and being part of our journey. To be honest, you’re part of the ‘why we do what we do’ at The Entrepreneurs Academy. Supporting people like you to get a foot on the journey. To celebrate that, you’ve offered a gift to share with our social media followers.


I’ve offered one of my necklaces. It’s a gold fern necklace.

Thank you so much Ruth! Congratulations on seven years of success and best of luck with the future!

Image of Pink Gold Fern Necklace