Article written By Emma Connolly (Evening Echo)
WITH hard work and good luck, anything is possible.
That is the example that entrepreneur Caroline Murphy of West Cork Eggs wants to show her four children.
And having recently won the Emerging New Business category in the inaugural Network Ireland West Cork Businesswoman of the Year Awards, it looks like she’s nicely on track.
Caroline worked in a variety of areas including HR, sales, credit control and as an Avon Lady before moving from London to West Cork where she met her now husband Batt.
Living on his family farm, between Leap and Rosscarbery, they are parents to Billy, aged 15; Kaitlin, aged 13; Callum, aged 10; and Isabelle, aged seven — not forgetting her 3,000 free range hens who she works hard to keep happy. That’s because she believes ‘a happy hen is a happy customer’ and insists on giving her birds good food, freedom and fun so they’ll keep giving her delicious eggs.
It all started back in 2009 when Caroline bought four birds — to help her kids learn where food comes from.
With vision, hard work, determination and a very personable approach, she now employs two part time workers and a driver and distributes eggs to 21 Super Valu stores and other independent retailers.
Announcing her award, judges said: ‘West Cork Eggs is a great example of a sustainable and scalable farm diversification and it enhances and adds greatly to the West Cork food culture.
“Caroline Murphy is very determined and has achieved considerable success and traction in a short space of time. She has achieved this while by bringing fun into what was regarded as a traditional commodity product.”
Caroline is also part of a local initiative called ‘Eggsellent Breakfasts’, which promotes healthy eating among schoolchildren and encourages them to ditch sugary cereals in favour of more nutritious options — like eggs.
She was also shortlisted for a prestigious Business All Star award earlier this year — and she’s far from finished.
Next up is to extend their product range with egg-related products and build on the brand, she says.
“We’re not finished — we’ve expanded hugely in the last two years so we want to take stock now, assess where we’re at and go again.”
She described the Network Ireland West Cork win as ‘amazing’, saying: “We all need a ‘well done!’”
“Being in business and working for yourself can be tough and challenging. When you bring raising children and all that comes with it and running a household into it, there are a whole load more challenges. This is when you really rely on the support of your partner, family, friends or colleagues.”
Her advice to anyone else thinking of starting out in business is to believe in themselves, start small, and avail of expertise and advice from the likes of the Local Enterprise Office. Caroline will now go forward and represent the West Cork branch at the Network Ireland national awards in September.
OTHER WINNERS - STORI CREATIVE
A company successfully merging the craft of story telling with new technology won the Best Use of Digital at the Network Ireland West Cork Annual Business Women Awards.
Stori Creative was set up by cousins Grainne and Fiona Dwyer and was singled out by judges for showing that ‘digital success can be achieved in a remote location’.
The girls, based in Skibbereen’s Ludgate Hub, describe what they do as ‘authentic brand storytelling’ and as you might imagine are impressively convincing.
“There has been a huge shift in the way consumers purchase these days. People don’t buy what you do — they buy why you do it — and so we seek to extract those authentic, engaging stories from each brand we work with, to engage their audience and deliver this through video.”
However, acknowledging the video market is saturated, they specialise in grabbing attention through stories which have meaning.
“Our first client campaign last year reached more than three quarters of a million people so it validated the quality and approach to our creative process,” they said.
“We are not too concerned about how busy the market is, with all media 20% will be remembered by the consumer, (10% for positive reasons, 10% for negative reasons) and the remaining 80% of content out there will be forgotten about.
“It is our job to position our creative work in that top 10% by remaining authentic and capturing the imagination of the audience.”
It’s been a successful first year of trading: they’ve secured seed capital investment, hired a team of five, and won two awards as they go forward to the national Network Ireland awards.
“We have secured contracts for national and national organisations including technology, tourism, food, financial services, sports and health care companies.
“Our company also is currently producing a documentary to be released late 2018, shot in Romania and Ireland supported through EU funding.”
Challenges so far have included knowing when to hire and scale and operationally managing cash flow. They also feel the Government could be more supportive.
“There is still an enormous amount of change needed to best help support entrepreneurs in Ireland, access to basic social protection benefits, and Government’s approach to employee share options.
“Government needs to develop a pro-scale tax system for entrepreneurs, levelling the playing field of the self-employed earned income tax credit with PAYE tax credits, a reduction in capital gains tax (CGT) to at least 20% from the current level of 33%, in line with international standards.”
Being cousins, the girls obviously knew each other for years and say that setting up the company together was a case of ‘joining talents’.
Grainne explains: “Fiona has significant international experience dealing with large accounts and high value customers, I had national and international business connections and knew how to gain investment and scale the company. We then spent a number of months curating the best creative team, which was really important to us.”
Their top tip?
“Sometimes you can do too much planning and you just need to run the company and wait for the traits of the company to develop. Start Up founders need to pay themselves properly in order to be happy within the company, there is no point working 70 hours a week if you are also not looking after yourself, you company will ultimately fail, at the end of the day and turnover is vanity, profit is sanity. Business leaders in Ireland are always willing to offer a hand up to an Irish Start-Up - you just need not be shy in the ask.”
In the employee category of the awards, Katherine O’Sullivan, General Manager at O’Donnell Design Ltd, a chartered accountant, also goes onto the national finals.