The Small Business Column: Put Corofin on your SatNav

Not a town usually associated with going out of your way for, Corofin has been rejuvenated in recent years thanks to the hard work and dedication of its locals. Put it in your satnav the next time you’re passing out west.    

Corofin in Co Clare is one of those typical towns if you spend most of your time in the car: It’s the type of place you always pass through but in which you rarely stop. However, it held its annual Festival of Finn this bank holiday weekend and yours truly was covering the festival for the Small Business Show.

What I expected and what I ended up getting were two very different things. I met with one of the festival organisers — Martin Waldron from Burren Escapes, a beautiful self-catering accommodation two minutes from the town — and asked how the town has fared in recent years. I expected the usual story of tough times and woe; the story of many rural communities in Ireland.

However, there is more to this town than outside expectations.

Martin said: “The past few years have seen a turnaround in the town. People are opening new businesses and developing new strategies to bring people into the town.”

He offered to show me, so we jumped in my car and headed in to town.

We headed for An Cupan Tae on the main street. The back courtyard is the venue for the World Stone Throwing Championships during the Festival of Finn. Accuracy, not brute strength, is key to winning the coveted prize, I’m told. We walk past a large open space which Martin explains is a new garden centre that has opened up and doing really good business. We head back inside to the warmth of the cafe.

Emer and Tom Brosnan run the café and, over some hot chocolate (with marshmallows) we chatted.

“It’s tough work,” Emer said, “but you’re prepared for that. You have to love what you do and we love this. You work eight days a week and that’s hard, but we are part of the community here.

“When we took over this place we got it on a Thursday. Friends and people from the area came in, helped to tidy the place, paint, fittings, etc. By the Wednesday of the next week we were ready to open. Where else would you get that?”

After gulping down the last of the hot chocolate and bidding goodbye to An Cupan Tae, we’re off across the road to the health food store, Solas Mo Chroi. Martin told me the shop is new. I noticed as I walked in the door that they sell Magic Mayan chocolate, which is made for diabetics and which is made about 20 minutes away by Matthew Norrish. One freshly made detox smoothie later and Martin brought me round the corner to the community hall.

The community has taken shape over the past two decades, thanks to the involvement and the majority of monies coming from the locality. Ger Kennedy is retired from the Clare Local Development Company and showed us around. There are brand new business meeting rooms, a large hall, with a stage and kitchen about to be fitted out with equipment. It could all act as a testing ground for food start-ups. Here is a town that seemed so innocuous but where life is being reborn. There is a community at work and developing a new future at a time when many others are questioning the future they have left. Corofin is proof that you can reclaim your own rural destiny with new thinking. Now, I’m off to see the competition to crown Ireland’s best moustache and beard, which is being held at the community centre.

READ MORE: Small Business Q&A: Sean Mitchell, co-founder of Movidius


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