Inside Track Q&A
Padraig McEneaney, founder of Celtic Pure water
What is the most unique thing about your business?
We’re the only independent, Irish-owned water company with its own blow moulding facility to make our own bottles. This eliminates possible contamination risks and reduces our carbon footprint. We produce around 30 million bottles a year at our plant in Monaghan.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I don’t believe I’ve made a “biggest” mistake – yet. But you’re only as good as your last decision. What seems like a
small decision at the time can turn into something much bigger. If I were to broaden the question to my life in general, my biggest mistake was leaving school at the age of 15.
What has been your major success to date?
Starting Celtic Pure from scratch in my garage and building it into a profitable business that employs 40 people in south Monaghan. Celtic Pure has become a recognised brand in a very competitive sector and exports account for 20 per cent of our sales. In 2008 we engaged in a very successful rebranding process and our branded product is widely distributed in Ireland through independent stores and symbol groups. Just recently we did a deal with one of the largest food distribution companies in Britain, which will add around €2 million to our turnover over three years.
Who do you admire most in business and why?
Michael O’Leary of Ryanair. He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get stuck in. I was on a flight to Gatwick early one morning and he was on the flight as well. But instead of sitting back and hob-nobbing in the business lounge, he went straight up to the desk and started checking in people for the flight.
What piece of advice would you give to the Government to stimulate the economy?
I have two pieces. The first is to reduce VAT back to 21 per cent. The second is to take steps to reduce the energy costs that are crippling businesses, so we can become more competitive and in turn create jobs.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
Funding. In particular getting the money to invest in plant and machinery in order to reduce the cost of manufacturing. Since 2007 we have invested €2.4 million in the business, which has come from our own resources, Enterprise Ireland and the bank. The other big challenge is cash flow and that’s a constant problem. You have to be very direct with customers and ask them to abide by payment terms and conditions.
What are the short-term goals of your business?
To increase our distribution network, to target new customers, to continue building our brand and supporting our customers with a quality product and very good service.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
I have never had it valued and right now it’s not for sale. But if the right offer came along, who knows? However, I’m only 42 years of age and at the rate my mind works I’d go insane if I sold the business. What would I do? I don’t have the patience to play golf. I’m always on the go. When other people are enjoying their Christmas break, you’ll find me up to my elbows in grease, working on our machinery.
Do you think the banks are open for business to SMEs at the moment?
In my experience, yes, provided you have a convincing and well thought-out business plan supported by facts and figures. The days of discussing an idea in a casual sort of a way and coming out with money are long gone. Now it’s a six- to eight-week process to get any significant amount of funding.