Inside Track: Denis Kiely, owner of Tom Skinny’s Pizza Parlour
Clonmel institution’s founder says abolishing employers’ PRSI would help SME growth
Denis Kiely: “Everybody’s shopping online but yet the retailers are carrying the can for all these other business that are operating not having an actual premises.” Photograph: Shane O’Neill
Tom Skinny’s Pizza Parlour is something of an institution in the Tipperary town of Clonmel. Established in 1992, it has evolved through many changes over the years including a move to a larger premises and the introduction of a milkshake bar. Now Denis Kiely is expanding his business a step further, to the supermarket shelf with the SuperValu food academy.
What distinguishes your business from your competitors?
Well, I suppose I’m at it 25 years. It’s an authentic Italian recipe that we use. We bake everyday fresh from scratch and our emphasis is on making sure the quality is right all the time.
What’s been your biggest challenge that you’ve had to face?
I’d say the downturn in the economy was the hardest hitting of all, basically the rug was pulled from under us. Our whole customer base emigrated to Australia and America, all the 18- to 30-year-olds were gone and we had to start again with the five- and six-years-olds and building up our trade again.
So what’s your major success to date?
Surviving the recession. The people that’ve come through it, they’re more heroes than they are anything else because they have gone through thick and thin and stuck at it. Longevity. I had a man in here saying “my son is having his 13th birthday in here and I had my 13th birthday in here”, it’s when you hear little stories like that.
If you’ve loads of money [banks] are open for business
What more could the Government do to help SMEs?
They like to be seen cutting ribbons on big factories with 100 employees. Obviously these things have been grant aided. I’m employing 11 people here now, the shop next door has six and the next door again has another six. I think something like abolishing employers’ PRSI for a start. Why should you be paying PRSI for giving somebody a job?
Everybody’s shopping online but yet the retailers are carrying the can for all these other business that are operating not having an actual premises. Commercial rates would have to be looked after and completely changed and revamped, either abolished or another structure set up. Whether that will happen or not, we’ll see.
Do you think the banks are open for business?
They say they are and they spend a lot of money advertising it but the restrictions they put on people . . . You go try getting a mortgage or a loan, the hoops you have to go through. Before they were giving out money for nothing and now they’ve gone the other extreme. Are they open for business? If you’ve loads of money they’re open for business.
I admire anybody that’s in business because they’ve taken the risk to go out and put their money where their mouth is and develop a business
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I probably need to delegate more and give people more responsibility. Just trying to do too much myself would probably be my biggest fault.
I tried to open up another place there and it just didn’t work. It wasn’t a mistake I suppose, it just didn’t work. That was up in Carlow. It was probably a bit too soon when I went up there but that’s a long time ago anyway.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I admire anybody that’s in business because they’ve taken the risk to go out and put their money where their mouth is and develop a business. There is a lot of risk involved in it and a lot of expense involved in it. There’s no such thing as a 9-5.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Keep on top of the figures. It’s a balance between having a good product and also having a good business mind, that you’re keeping an eye on your income and your expenditure at the same time.
How do you see the short-term future of your business?
Developing the fresh pizza bases and frozen dough and then to develop a frozen pizza range as well. A prepared product that you could just put in your oven at home and it’s ready in 10 minutes.
What is your business worth and would you sell it?
I probably would sell it alright but my oldest will be going to college next year so I hope he’ll be working here to help himself to go through college and I’ve two others to follow in a few years’ time and I’m hoping they’ll be paying their way too. That’s the intention that I’d hope that they would be able to work away here. Anything is for sale if you’ve got the right offer but I haven’t even thought about it or I haven’t even put a figure on it.