Pet farms, lingerie at start-up night

Lots of items on the agenda at AIB Start-up Night in Athlone

John Tuohy: said cash flow and market research are essentials for new businesses. Photograph: Maura Hickey

John Tuohy: said cash flow and market research are essentials for new businesses. Photograph: Maura Hickey


Pet farms, ticketing platforms and lingerie were some of the topics that emerged at the AIB Start-up Night in Athlone .

Guest speaker Ciara Donlon, founder and chief executive of Theya Healthcare, talked about her company, which makes lingerie for women who have undergone cancer surgery or are having treatment.

The idea came to her while running her shop, Cup Cakes Lingerie, in Ranelagh. When customers asked her about specialist bras for cancer patients, she found the market lacking.

That led to Theya Healthcare, which Ms Donlon started two years ago. The company is expanding and is developing medical device products for the same market.

Donlon’s advice to start-ups is to do their research.

“You might have a great idea, but before you do anything else, validate it with your target customers to make sure that is what they actually want . . . I think that’s why we’ve had a reasonably smooth ride. We did so much research, we knew it was what the customers wanted,” she said.

The audience also heard from John Tuohy, chief executive of Nightline Group, Ireland’s largest independent delivery company.

Mr Tuohy started the company with friend Dave Field 23 years ago and now employs 800 people and recently created 20 jobs at a new parcel depot. Mr Tuohy said cash flow and market research are essentials for new businesses.

Three companies pitched at the event to show aspiring entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups how a pitch is done.

Karl McCarthy pitched Usher, the event-booking platform that curates and showcases quality event listings.

Possible partnerships

Daragh O’Rourke pitched Auctus, a company that supplies animal health and nutritional products to the farming community.

He said the company, which he and two cofounders started in 2014, predominantly concentrates on young animal nutrition products.

It also addresses the gap in the market left by EU restrictions on dairy production, which were lifted earlier this year. Now, there is more demand for nutritional advances to produce better animals.

Linda Syron pitched her pet farm, Mollie Moo’s, which she opened on her family farm in Mullingar earlier this year.

Ms Syron came up with the idea when researching alternative farming enterprises, and she has relied on social media and word of mouth for advertising. She said the business is “going brilliantly, considering the weather has been very bad”.

The event was part of a nation-wide tour leading up to the AIB Start-up Academy, now in its second year. There are forthcoming events in Killarney, Kilkenny and Dublin which will run throughout the autumn. AIB Start-up Academy: What’s it all about? The AIB Start-up Academy is a joint venture between The Irish Times and AIB to help people start or strengthen their businesses by providing information, networking opportunities and the chance to win a place on an intensive training course run by Irish Times Training.

AIB teamed up with The Irish Times to launch the inaugural academy last year. The 2015-2016 academy involves a series of Start-up Nights, events across the country where industry leaders share their insights and experiences with entrepreneurs and people interested in starting their own business. The nights, which run until November, connect entrepreneurs with like-minded people and the wider start-up community.

The academy also wants to find the top start-up talent in the country. Entrepreneurs can apply for a spot on the intensive, eight-week training course that begins in early 2016.