The Spade Enterprise Centre: Empowering Food Entrepreneurs in Dublin

Are you a budding food entrepreneur with a passion for culinary innovation? Look no further than The Spade Enterprise Centre, your gateway to success in the vibrant food industry of Dublin! Our state-of-the-art shared kitchens provide the perfect platform for new and young food businesses to flourish and grow.

At The Spade Enterprise Centre, we understand the unique challenges faced by food startups. Our purpose-built facility offers fully equipped shared kitchens, tailored to meet the needs of aspiring chefs, bakers, and food artisans. By providing a professional workspace, we enable you to focus on your craft and turn your culinary dreams into reality.

Our shared kitchens are designed with collaboration in mind. Network and learn from fellow entrepreneurs, exchange ideas, and gain invaluable insights into the ever-evolving world of food business. Surround yourself with a supportive community that shares your passion and drive, creating opportunities for synergy and growth.

By choosing The Spade Enterprise Centre, you gain more than just a kitchen. Our comprehensive range of services includes mentorship programs, industry-specific workshops, and access to our extensive network of food experts and investors. We’re here to guide you through the entire journey, from concept development to product launch and beyond.

Don’t let logistical barriers hinder your progress. Our flexible membership options ensure that our shared kitchens are accessible to all, regardless of your business size or stage. Whether you’re starting from scratch or expanding an existing venture, we have the perfect space and support system to help you thrive.

Join the vibrant community of food entrepreneurs at The Spade Enterprise Centre and take your culinary business to new heights. Embrace the opportunity to create, innovate, and inspire. Together, we can shape the future of the food industry in Dublin and beyond.

Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we’ll dive deeper into the success stories that have emerged from The Spade Enterprise Centre. Get ready to be inspired by the trailblazing entrepreneurs who have made their mark in the world of food!

More details available here  :

Phone: (01) 617 4800

Instagram for Business – Beginners

Instagram – it’s where your customers spend their time! 

I had the opportunity to sit in on the ‘Instagram Reels’ workshop facilitated by Denise Horan of The Entrepreneurs Academy and what an amazing three hours it was. This workshop was based for beginner Instagram users who aren’t quite familiar with the app yet.

To begin the seminar Denise took us through the basics:

My Wall – Your wall on Instagram is your ‘Home Page’, it’s where you find your display name, Instagram handle, category, bio and where notifications are listed.

My Timeline- Instagram timeline is where the user can view stories of those they follow and posts that followers create. It allows them to interact with them leaving a like or comment.

When a user is getting to know Instagram for the first time it is important that they understand the five symbols that are available on your timeline.

Starting with the first symbol from the left, the ‘Home’ button which is shaped like a house. This allows users to access their timeline and view followers posts and stories. This is also where you access your activity and view all your post and story interactions.

Moving onto the second function, the ‘Search’ button that looks like a magnifying glass. The search button is fairly straight forward and it’s where you can look for other users you may or may or may not follow. It can also be used to search for other business’s.

I like to think of the third button as the ‘Creator’ it’s the box with a + sign in it. This tab allows you to choose one of four functions to create a Story, Post, Reel or go Live on Instagram.

The fourth function will look like a love heart and allows you to see all of your activity such as post likes, story likes and reviews and shares. This is the tab that shows whatever type of content you have created, how it’s doing and what your followers think about it.

The final function, ‘My Profile’ is shaped like a person. This is where you access everything on your own profile such as Settings, Bio, Tagged Posts, Edit Profile and much more.

Why Instagram??

Millions of people use Instagram on a daily basis for many different reasons, to get your message out there or show what you are up to. When using Instagram, it allows the user to be authentic and engage with multiple users and it’s an amazing way to connect with people from all over the world and explore new opportunities. Remember, ‘’You are your own brand’’ sell yourself.

Instagram Insights – Another very useful tip would be getting to know the ins and outs of Instagram Insights. I can’t stress enough how important and valuable this function is especially if you are a business owner and are looking for feedback on a post / story. The Insights button can only be accessed if you have a Business / Creator account on Instagram and is a native analytics tool that provides data on follower demographics and actions, as well as your content. This information makes it easy to compare content. Measure campaigns and see how individual posts are performing. The insights include information on how many followers you have lost / gained, top locations of your followers, age range and times they’re most active on Instagram.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog on how to use Instagram and that you have gained a few pointers that may help you and your business when it comes to using Instagram.

Check out the Local Enterprise Office for upcoming workshops like this one.

Facebook for Small Business

I had the privilege to sit in on the ‘Facebook for Small Business’ workshop facilitated by Michael Keogh of The Entrepreneurs Academy and what a fantastic three hours it was. This course helps people who have small business’s and are looking to maximise Facebook to promote their companies while being unfamiliar with the social media platform. Below is an overview of all content discussed.

      • Set up your Facebook page for Business
      • Administer the page with multiple users
      • Understand patterns of usage to maximise the potential of Facebook
      • How to create and schedule content
      • Understanding Facebook insights for your business page
      • Introduction to Facebook advertising
      • Benefits of using Facebook events

Did you know that 92% of all consumers report that a word-of-mouth recommendation is the ‘Leading reason they buy a product or service’? So, if social media is word-of-mouth then having a strong Facebook page for your company is absolutely vital to help you and your business grow to the next level. If you are looking to optimize your Facebook page, why not try joining groups that would attract your customer base,  and liking other pages on Facebook targeting customers similar to yours, this helps build a community.

When learning your way around Facebook it is very important that you understand how the ‘Insights’ work. Insights are information about your page’s performance, like demographic data about your audience and how people are responding to your posts. You can use insights to understand how people are engaging with your page. From getting to understand Insights, I learned that photo posts see much higher engagement than text posts. An eye-catching photo/illustration is a great way to catch the attention of a potential customer. It was reported that video posts see even higher engagement rates. If pre-recorded videos aren’t your thing, try dabbling with live videos. Facebook Live video is a live streamed broadcast right on your Facebook page, live video is an intimate, authentic way to connect with followers and potential customers or clients.

I found this workshop extremely valuable for anyone who has difficulty finding their way around Facebook whether that be insights, scheduling content, understanding the main factors of Facebook or for anyone wanting to maximize their Facebook skills. I would highly recommend this online course run by The Entrepreneurs Academy for entrepreneurs wanting to grow their social media strengths and promote their business on a new scale.

If you and your business could benefit from a course like this, be sure to check out what is on offer from your Local Enterprise Office, their supports are wide and varied. This is only one of many workshops available. Keep learning, keep growing your business!

Smartphone Video for Business

I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of The Entrepreneur’s Academy’s courses on how to use your Smartphone to create Video for Business. The instructor utilized the app ‘InShot’ – Video Editor. For those who aren’t familiar with this app it’s an all-in-one visual content editing app that allows you to create videos that you can trim, change the speed of your footage, add music and text and much more. This app is brilliant for all users from beginners to experienced video creators, InShot has everything you need to create quality videos.

Link for further details:

This 3 hour workshop was led by Michael Keogh over Zoom . From the very start of the class, we were told to create our own little clip while watching Michael create his video. We would follow what he did on the app giving advice along the way and every 15 minutes we would get the chance to add to our video. By the end of the workshop, everyone taking part had a 3–5-minute video with amazing content and brilliant features throughout. I found the InShot app very user friendly and creating your personal video couldn’t be any easier, but with the help of Michael Keogh it was outstanding, as he gave us an insider’s view of how everything works. It was just brilliant.

The knowledge and understanding I took away from this workshop was great, especially the tips Michael provided. Below are 8 useful pointers from the class that you might find very beneficial.

    • Set-up your camera on a tripod or a steady surface, this will eliminate camera shake in footage.
    • Position the camera at eye level if possible.
    • Leave enough space around the subject so the video can easily be cropped.
    • Leave some distance between the subject and the backdrop.
    • When shooting at home, look for cozy corners in your home that are intimate but not cluttered.
    • Use plants, desks, ornaments, chairs, books and cushions to add character to videos.
    • Record in a quiet location. Make sure all doors and windows are closed to avoid unwanted noise.
    • Record in a carpeted space, or somewhere with plenty of soft furnishings to get the best sound possible.

All in all, I thought this was a very practical class and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their video editing skills or wants to learn how to create a professional video. The instructor, Michael Keogh was amazing, super helpful and kind. I would rate this workshop 5/5 stars.

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 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 “” 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. 

Liam Tutty_Dead Centre Brewing_Co Westmeath-8515

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:

November Seven Films

Daragh Murphy is the founder of November Seven films and participated in our Momentum “Don’t get a Job – Build a Business” programme.  Daragh is an award winning Irish filmmaker and has been telling stories visually his whole life.

He began making movies at a very young age and finally realised his dream when he moved to New York to attend The New York Film Academy in 2005.

I’m Daragh Murphy. I’m the owner of November Seven Films, which is a film production and animation studio based in Dublin. We produce commercials, music videos, corporate videos, animations, and motion graphics. I myself, I’m a director, cinematographer, editor, writer, colour grader, animator and motion graphics artist. I also do my own accounts and admin and…

I started the business in 2012 – 2013. I was working abroad in New York. I studied over there and studied film and was getting some work over there and then I ended up coming home, straight into a recession, which wasn’t great. So I started working freelance, doing some motion graphics and animation work and that was decent enough where I decided to get an office and, you know, just move out of the bedroom and start trying to log my hours and trying to get a more professional feel and look to just what I was doing and for myself personally.

So I was getting some freelance work but also kind of on the dole at the same time. It was quite a depressing period for a while until that actually, until you moved into that office, it was strange. It was tricky. It was just, I was frustrated because I wanted to be there and I was there, you know, when someone recommended the momentum course to me, I was like, okay, I’ll give this thing a go.

From what I read of the of the course, it seemed like they knew what they were doing. It seemed it was going to be demanding and challenging. So the first day was pretty daunting. I walked into the hotel room in the city center and the 30 people in the class, cause we didn’t, we didn’t have the Entrepreneurs Academy and all the other amenities. We were the first, you know, we were the inaugural bunch.

It was terrifying, but in the right way, you know, we were getting asked the hard questions. You know, the easy question is, what are you good at? And it’s the easiest thing in the world. What I’m good at, I’m a filmmaker. I’m a good editor. If someone’s a good salesperson or musician or you know, gardener, whatever, a painter, whatever people skills are. I remember Steve, who I had actually known for about 10 years beforehand, Steve Thompson when he walked in, I thought he was part of the class when I saw him, so I just said, Hey, what are you doing here? And he said, I’m teaching you today. I was just like, Oh Christ, you know? And so that was terrifying. But he didn’t hold back. He was amazing. And he just kept asking the hard questions, like, look, I know what you do, but how are you going to make money from it? I’m going to make movies for people and I’m going to make, you know, corporate films and music videos or you know, Steve’s like, okay, well but how are you going to, how are you going to get to these people? If you target a company and they already have Joe blogs making videos for them, why are they going to choose you? And that really made me think, was like, well, how do I communicate to people? My worth to them? That was the start of a very long journey.

What the momentum course gave me personally was renewed confidence. Like I’ve always been a positive person, but around that time it was just like, I’m faltering here. I’m just, yeah, I’m kind of fading away. But it gets structured to the kind of chaotic nature of trying to start a business and trying to build a business. All the trainers just seemed really invested in us as a group. And in me, you believed that they, like I believed that they wanted me to succeed and they would get, a sense of pride and achievement to see me succeed. And at the end of every day you’re walking out of the class 10 feet tall, just like you’re Bulletproof, just like bring it on, bring it on. Why can’t I do it? The course not only gave me the skills necessary to become an entrepreneur and to start your own business, but the kind of camaraderie in the group and that kind of support structure within the group was amazing. Because we were all going through the same journey, all on the same path. We all shared the same trepidation and we all shared the same fears and joys. We all championed each other’s achievements. And, and we’re there when people needed assistance or help or support in any way. And the same thing applies when you just go up to the trainers. They were all just fantastic. What they did because they were entrepreneurs themselves and you, you believed them, you trusted them that not only that they have the knowledge that they could impart on you, but they had gone through the journey that we were going through the highs and lows. And so they were there to really lend a helping hand. That kind of sense of camaraderie and support and friendship and kind of family that was present in our class was the same with classmates, with the trainers and with Joanne herself, who is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.

We became very good friends. She’s a fellow tennis player and we’ve worked together numerous times over the past couple of years and I’m working with her again next month on her incredibly ambitious and inspiring new project. The course has really instilled in me a sense of pride, confidence that I could go out and not only start a business but maintain a business and not be a flash in the pan. That I’m constantly growing and growing and becoming better and faster and stronger. And it’s not a word of a lie that I would just not be here without them. They gave me a structure to my business and more so a structure and clarity to my ideas of business.

The biggest piece of advice is just to be dedicated and to be prepared to, to be in it for the long haul, to realize that it’s gonna take hard work and long hours. My first year or two, it was like 60 hours a week, 70 hours a week. In year two, I  topped a hundred hours one week. Cause I just couldn’t say no to projects because it was terrified about turning stuff down. And It’s just, it was hard. And maintaining that work life balance was really, really difficult. But because I love what I do and I still love what I do, I just threw myself into it, threw myself into it. Knowing that like after you get past the first year or two, of just hard work, you know, it does balance out and you get your awards for that hard work.


For more information:

Freestyle Events

Gemma O’Halloran is the owner and founder of Freestyle Events and has participated in two programmes with The Entrepreneurs Academy. Firstly a Start your Own Business programme in 2012 and she is now a participant on Thrive which is a two-year programme.  Watch the interview with Gemma above, or read through below.

I’m joined by Gemma O’Halloran – Hi Gemma.
Hi Noel. How are you?

So can you tell me what the business name is, where you’re based and briefly what your business does?

My business is called Freestyle events, we are based down here in Gorey, in County Wexford. Basically we’re an event project management service. We take care of those events like  conferences, galas, awards nights, expos, where any business or any event organizer has a gap in the time available, expertise available, or they have a leadership gap – or they just aren’t getting the results and would like somebody else to come in and help them. That is the solution that Freestyle provides. What we try and do is to work strategically with each of our clients to find out exactly what needs to be done and then to strategically work together towards creating an event, an impactful experience that ticks the boxes for both the attendees and for any stakeholders that are involved. Because events can get quite complicated, they can get quite stressful. So that’s where Freestyle Events come in. We are a flexible solution for companies and for events who need that little bit of extra help to make sure that the event has everything that they want it to be.

That is a fantastic range of offerings, Gemma, that you’ve put together as a business. For the sake of the viewers and the listeners, what course did you do with the Entrepreneurs Academy?

I think the first course that I did with Entrepreneurs Academy or with the group was back in 2012. I did a Start Your Own Business course and I had been thinking about starting my own business for several years by then, actually it was already a nugget of an idea, but I just wasn’t in the headspace yet. So I decided I needed to research, as I do. So I went to the Start Your Own Business course and it was absolutely fantastic. It gave me a great overview and then, at the moment, I’m actually on the Thrive course, being run by the business growth program. So I suppose, I’ve had two major courses for my
business, both through the Entrepreneurs Academy.

Gemma, at what stage were you at with your business or your idea when you did the very first course with the Entrepreneurs Academy?

When I did the Start Your Own Business courses to say I really was just at the very beginning. I really needed to better understand what was involved in being in business and I really needed to understand what was going to be involved to be successful in business. Because I knew events inside out, even at that stage. I started working in events in the beginning of 2007 and I had started, I got my postgraduate diploma and I
was like, okay, let’s go. But I hadn’t really thought so much about going into business, I suppose the Start Your Own Business course gave me the confidence I needed to get some things in place to ask questions, which is huge. You can get information, but being able to ask the questions that are relevant to you, which was really huge. So that was brilliant.

And then Thrive, I suppose. Gosh, times now what, 2019 it was when I started in Thrive and it came at a perfect time. I’m nearly five years in business, four and a half years, I’m in business. And it was just perfect timing because my headspace was now turning towards growth, turning towards working on my business, not just in my business. So it was the perfect accompaniment to that. And the people are great, so you get great training in different ways, but then you also have the group of people who were on the course with you and we’re all sharing experiences, learning, asking questions, figuring things out together. And it’s just been a perfect timing because I was ready to make changes in the business. I had to make changes in the business and it made a huge difference to have the support there. Thrive continues to, to have the support there with Thrive.

So you mentioned there, moving from the Start Your Own Business course to our Thrive course. What was the catalyst either before or after joining Thrive that made you make changes to your business?

So when I started with Thrive, I had a business. I had been in business about four years. You know, it was going well. You know, I had great clients. All my business was word of mouth and referral, which was amazing and you know, in theory everything was fine. But for me, I just knew there was something, there were different things that I needed to finesse. I knew there was a different way that I could look after the business and what I was doing. And my hope was that by going on this course, which to be honest, I came across quite, you know, by accident, through networking. And I was so delighted that I did because it has, as I say, I had the idea for the business. I knew that the business was event management. I knew that’s what I was doing. I knew what I had done for my clients, but I really hadn’t finessed exactly what I was doing and how I was doing it and how that was a business. So it was in fact the perfect timing and it did help me shape. It is helping me shape what I’m doing and it gives me support and confidence to go after things I want to do with the business. And that’s what makes 2020 such a big year. It was just perfect timing and remained so, so that, that’s the big thing for me.

So you mentioned there Gemma, the value of networking. So you would have built up contacts and have you added to your team, have you people working with you?

Right. So Freestyle Events is just me. I’m a solopreneur if you want to call that a sole trader. But I do have an extended team that I work with. Other freelancers, other consultants, other micro businesses, small businesses. I call them the freestyle network. They are the group of professionals who know how to do amazing things that are all required around events, in different stages, different times. So like event managers, registration managers, transportation coordinators, virtual assistants. Fantastic. You know, helped me with marketing and other smaller details. And then, you know, there’s also pure teams, the different consultants there digital marketing, websites, branding, anything and everything. An event is many things and sometimes a client requires me to come in with a solution that ticks all these boxes. So that’s the nature of Freestyle Events. That’s the great thing about Freestyle Events.

It can scale up and scale down depending on what the exact clients’ needs are. So, you know, and in that way it’s incredibly lean. It’s incredibly efficient and it’s a bespoke solution for each client on their brief and on their needs. So that has been amazing. So I suppose, I’ve a network of subcontractors, if you want to call them that. My, I call them the freestyle network and we work together either the planning or the execution of the actual event itself. And that’s my team. They’re the people I love to work with and it’s brilliant because I keep meeting new people. I keep finding out about new insights, new people who do different things and together we have chats and we can create something new and we’re all constantly fresh cause we’re all working on different projects at different times. So it’s amazing what you can do when you’re a group of people who are experiencing different things on a daily basis and then you come together as a team on one particular project. It makes for great results. I absolutely love it.

That’s amazing to hear how the business has grown with you leading it from the front. So I suppose that leads on to asking you what are you most proud of so far? What’s the greatest achievement?

Wow, that’s a big question. I think I’m proud I did it. You know, I think I’m proud I did it. I was employed for nearly 10 years in events before I went and did and started up my own business. I think I’m proud I did it. I’m really, I’m proud of my team, the people I work with and the results and the service we deliver to our clients. Without exception, we give 150% and you know, seeing a project come together that you’ve been working on, that you’ve been, you know, thinking about, talking about, figuring out doing is huge source of satisfaction. So I would say I’m really proud of that track record. There are moments where you could just burst with pride, you know, with certain things that happen when people work together and you see the results seemlessly coming together in an event we see the attendees really, really enjoying, you know, the planning and the design of an event that you have been part of. That’s really cool. It’s really great. It keeps me motivated. So I’m proud of all of that. Because being in business, running events are all challenging things and you know, if, if there was anything to be proud of it, it’s doing your best for the people and being able to run your own business successfully and continue to do so.

Leading on from successes, I suppose, what is the greatest challenge that you have faced within the business?

Well, the greatest challenge. Okay. That’s probably, that’s probably an even bigger, a bigger question to answer at this stage. I would say the biggest challenge is to have the faith. It still holds your nerve. When there’s so much about having your own business, it’s amazing. There is so much about it that I absolutely love, it’s been something that it has made me thrive not to overuse the course name, but it has made me thrive and I absolutely love it. But there are moments where cheerfully, you would just go, Oh my God, I can’t do this. I need to say I’m going to walk away. I’ve never quite got that far. But there are moments, particularly around, you know, financing and managing all the red tape and all of these kinds of things. Where you go. Right? Hold the nerve, take a moment to catch the thoughts. Don’t let it go too far. Put a plan in place and find a solution. I’ve managed to start to get, got to be at the challenge is holding the faith. It’s, you know, constantly keep on going and enjoying and believing and supporting. And I think the more there’s a group of people around you, like in Thrive where we have an amazing group of people plus the trainers plus everything else it is amazing because you feel like you’re, when you’re working on your own, you can be in a silo sometimes. And I think that’s, you know, the other part of the equation, it’s keeping connected to people. It is talking to other people. It’s sharing the questions you have about your own business and helping them find solutions. It’s asking for help when you might need it. I think that’s a challenge. I think that’s something that does pop up for a lot of entrepreneurs, but there are solutions out there, there are ways to do it and if you work hard and you know, you have your plans for marketing, you’re getting out there, you will get your sales and you know, finance and everything will come with that. But it takes time. And so yeah, I’d probably say that’s probably core of the challenge about having your own business.

That’s great, Gemma. What advice would you give other entrepreneurs based on what you’ve were experienced so far?

Advice? Advice… do it, if you have a great idea. Do it. Okay. Seriously though I would say simplest questions are the toughest ones to answer. So take your time to figure those out, because if you figure those out, you’re absolutely golden. So what I mean by simple questions, I mean, why are you in business? What are you doing? What problem do you solve? What problem does your business solve? What is the solution that you provide? You know, who are you providing that solution to or for? Who is your ideal client and how are you going to reach that ideal client? And these are really simple questions, but they are really challenging at times to answer. But if you really drill down into it and distil down everything you could think about for your business and simplify it,  they’re amazingly strong answers. If you have those answers, you can base everything that you do for your business around that.

It’s really easy then to explain very quickly what your business does. You solve a problem. You know, why are you doing it? And then all the other information that you received and all the training that you would receive goes with that. That’s another thing I would say , advice wise, there are a lot of different trainings out there with different groups, networking groups, LEOs, private groups. There is an awful lot on offer. Do your best to go to things that will help you understand more. I would say that’s been a huge help to me. But I like researching. I like hearing, learning and trying new things. So that’s always been huge for me. I would say be yourself, you know, as the quote goes, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’ – it’s your business. You’ve most likely started your business because you had an idea or you wanted an idea, an idea of what you wanted to sell or an idea and then how you wanted your life to be. So work on your business in order to create that life and that balance and how everything works. Don’t get lost in the business. One of the big things that came out of Thrive for me was during the leadership mastermind sessions that we had, with Murieann Fitzmaurice. She mentioned the book, The E Myth to me. And to be honest with you, I went on Amazon and I had a quick look, to see what a few of the different recommendations were. I said, okay, this sounds like it was just perfect timing.

I was so ready to hear what that book had to say. It goes into how you can be in a technician role, manager role, an entrepreneur role in your business. I was very stuck in the technician, little bit of manager, but really stuck in the technician and I wasn’t really happy there. It wasn’t bringing out the best in me and I was still delivering for the clients, still doing all that, but I was getting slightly miserable and that wasn’t good for anyone. So, through reading that and just exploring things myself and asking myself some really hard questions, I’ve now turned it around quite a bit and I now treat my business like one of my clients. I’m now working on the business and the changes that are going to come from that are hopefully going to be amazing. 2020 looks set to be the most adventurous and interesting year for us in Freestyle and for me. I’m really, really grateful for that. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens, slightly terrified, but really, really excited to see what happens. So I would say, work on your business, not just in your business and you’ll be amazed what that perspective will bring and how that can really help you move forward. So I hope that’s helpful.

Gemma, that is fantastic. Thank you very much for your time and for sharing your story so far and for being part of our journey of our 21 years in business. 

For more information:

The Book Centre

Maeve Ryan, with The Book Centre, 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. 

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