EY Awards: CLS head Evelyn O’Toole named industry entrepreneur of the year

O’Toole set up firm a week after losing job when the lab she was working in burnt down

Evelyn O’Toole, founder and chief executive of CLS. The firm is the largest privately owned contract laboratory in Ireland

Evelyn O’Toole, founder and chief executive of CLS. The firm is the largest privately owned contract laboratory in Ireland

 

Evelyn O’Toole, founder and chief executive of Co Galway-based Contract Lab Solutions (CLS), the largest privately owned contract laboratory in the country, has been named EY Industry Entrepreneur of the Year.

The Clifden native set up the company in the village of Ros Muc in the heart of Connemara in 1994 just a week after being made redundant when the laboratory she was working in burnt down.

“To win is fantastic. Obviously, it is a huge personal accolade but it is also great for the team who have helped make CLS an ongoing success,” said Ms O’Toole.

“There are so people working for the company who gave up on possible opportunities elsewhere to stay with me and create something very special so this is for all of them,” she added.

CLS now employs about 140 staff across two labs and has an annual turnover of about €7 million. It provides sampling, analysis and fully trained micro and analytical analysts to clients in the food, environmental, medical device and pharmaceutical industries.

The company, whose customers include Allergan, Shell and Diageo, is growing sales at a rate of more than 20 per cent a year and is expecting turnover to be in excess of €10 million in 2017.

“Evelyn is a true entrepreneur. She has created CLS, which is a remarkable company, from her redundancy money in a previous job and built the business in her home county of Galway when other were seeking employment opportunities elsewhere,” said Jeremy Finch, of Invest Northern Ireland, one of this year’s judges. “This is a fantastic story and hopefully and inspiration to others.”

The other industry category finalists were: Patrick McAliskey of Novosco; Gary and Andrew Irwin of Bedeck; Ramona Nicholas of Cara Pharmacy; Patrick McCann of Simplyfruit (Ire) Ltd; Trevor Annon of The Mount Charles Group; Louis Keating of L&M Keating Ltd; and Jim Burke of GoBus.ie.