Future Proof: Padraic George, Cheetah Electronics
How getting off the fence took business into new areas
Padraic George: “The demand for reliable, remotely controlled monitoring equipment is going to grow.”
Brought up on a farm, he started his business by travelling all over Ireland collecting faulty electric fences and repairing them. He subsequently designed and started to make his own fences, producing his first units from a caravan in the back garden. His wife Maire ran the administration side of the business from the kitchen table while rearing four children.
Today the company employs 11 people and has about 60 per cent of the electric fence market here. It has also branched out into other areas such as LED lighting, a power tool battery re-cell service and water management. However, electric fence manufacture for the domestic market still accounts for about 75 per cent of its sales.
More recently Cheetah has turned its attention to growing the bespoke LED side of its business and its water management systems. Leading the charge is electronics engineer and son of the founder, Padraic George, who has been running the company for the past six years.
“My Dad was very ‘hands on’ in the business from the design and engineering perspective,” he says. “He was constantly coming up with new designs and looking at ways of improving and upgrading our products from a practical point of view.
“He didn’t try to expand into export markets because he believed you needed to be close to your customers if you’re producing a critical product. You have to be there to provide back up. We sell mainly through the co-ops and Cheetah is a very trusted local brand.
“Of course, the company has experienced difficult times during its history when farming was suffering, but we’ve coped with that by scaling back on costs.”
The company’s customers are primarily in the agricultural, equestrian, commercial and industrial sectors, and include Dairygold, Glanbia, Connacht Gold co-operative and most recently Irish Water.
“Our focus has always been on producing durable quality products that perform well in difficult conditions,” George says. “For example, our LED lighting is made with a robust steel frame housing that makes it suitable for use in harsh environments. The lights are also IP 68 rated, which means they can work under water.”
The company broadly divides its manufacturing year in two. Fencing is largely produced during the summer months while lighting products are made during the winter.
George is working on a new LED product that will bring the company into a brand new sector – the fitness market. “It’s an LED light for people who run or train in the dark,” George says. “It will be ready for market this year and will be a reflective guiding light to keep them safe at night.”