SELLING via the internet can help level the global playing pitch for Irish exporters, according to innovative hurley entrepreneur Daithí O’Regan.
The founder of Handcrafthurleys.com was one of the guest speakers at a packed seminar entitled Fostering the Spirit of Entrepreneurship from within the Community last night in Mitchelstown, Co Cork.
He was joined by entrepreneur Sean Gallagher of Dragons Den, and Theresa Mulvihill of Smart Marketing.
Mr O’Regan caught the imagination of the Dragons Den team on RTÉ last year with his plan to build a new business by replacing the 150,000 imported hurleys sold annually on the Irish market with local products. Many of those imported hurleys were being sold in supermarkets.
“I have definitely had an effect in my first year,” said Daithí O’Regan. “Some of those companies have left the Irish market, though some are still selling online.”
The Dragons Den team helped O’Regan tap into new markets. He recently signed deals to provide hurleys to 27 hurling clubs in the US, worth €8,000 a week to him in sales revenue. Hurling has just taken off in Dublin, and it is growing in almost every county in Ireland.
Ten or 15 years ago Coillte realised there was a shortage of Irish ash and they drove a wave of ash plantations.
“About 30% of locally produced hurleys are made with Irish ash, the rest is made with UK ash,” he said. “In four years from now that will rise to 60% Irish ash, and within eight or nine years it will be 100% Irish ash.
“My website, handcrafthurleys.com, has a page for each of the hurley makers I work with. They explain the different hurleys, like the Cork hurley with its big boss, the lighter Kilkenny hurley with its straighter back, and the Tipp hurley, which is a bit in between the two.”
In terms of last night’s business talk, Mr O’Regan also gave attendees great insights into the role of marketing in ensuring sales growth, and using the internet to tap into overseas markets.
A native of Broadford, Co Clare, but now living on the Kerry side of Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, Daithí O’Regan told attendees that they could all start their own business, and that the internet could play a valuable role in helping them build sales. His own business has grown from a local artisan enterprise to a business with real growth potential.
Made redundant last year, O’Regan created his own business, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Hurling is picking up now in places you wouldn’t have imagined,” said Daithí O’Regan. “There are hurling clubs setting up all over the world. The internet is a great way to access these new markets, but any new business must learn for itself how to make it work for them.
“Business is a bit like the Tipperary and Cork hurlers in the last few years. Business has lots of ups and downs, but if you have a good plan and stick at it, you can succeed, like Tipp winning the All Ireland last year.”
There is great job-creating potential in the Irish hurley-making industry. It currently supports around 400 jobs, between hurley makers, tree cutters and tree-plankers.
““Hurling is an Irish game, and the hurley should be an Irish product. You wouldn’t want to go to Australia and buy a boomerang that was made in China. It’s the same with the hurley.”
Having overcome the typical financial hurdles facing any start-up, O’Regan has been invited onto the Endeavour Programme in Kerry, a business incubation venture created jointly by the Institute of Technology Tralee, Shannon Development’s Kerry Technology Park and entrepreneur Jerry Kennelly.
Last night’s seminar is one of a series collectively titled The Way Forward, led by Mitchelstown development manager Siobhán Finn.
Siobhán Finn said: “People are looking for guidance on how to start up a business. The response to this first of three seminars was fantastic, with people coming from Tralee, Limerick and West Cork. They want advice.”
“We will host two more talks between now and the end of the year.
“Hopefully, we will provide people with some of the solutions they are looking for, and that some new businesses will come from this initiative.”
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