Inside track Q&A
David Audsley, Copper Craft Gardens
What’s the most unique thing about your business?
The products are all handcrafted. I’m trying to promote them in the home market, but also promote them in the international market on the internet. Anyone who has seen the products has said they’re ideal – they’re simple and they’re beautiful. As far as I know, we’re the only people in the 32 counties and only one of a few in Europe doing this. We go from making copper containers for plants and window boxes, and units for hanging on walls, to individual bird feeders, nesting boxes and postboxes. Every-thing we do we try to keep at a reasonable price.
What is your major success?
My biggest success I suppose would be picking myself up from the liquidation and starting off again.
Liquidations are not very pleasant. I’d always made the copper items at home – I’m a coppersmith by trade. I was in construction doing metal roofing – copper, zinc. When I had to close my business, it was a big shock to me. I felt 40 years had been taken off me. I’ve been working since I was 12 years of age.
I didn’t forget my trade; I was able to continue even though I’m nearly 65. A lot of people said they wouldn’t do it at my age – maybe they wouldn’t but I would. This notion that at 65 you’re finished is rubbish.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
When the downturn started in 2007, when builders started going into liquidation, you can accept one or two. But when it started happening every month, there’s only so much a business can take, and instead of closing the business down I took independent advice from an accountant, which was to put money into it. I put my own pension money into it, and I lost that. I left it on my desk for weeks. But the pressure came on, people had to be paid and I went to the bank and paid the people, and it was gone. The money was just swallowed up.
Who would you admire most in business and why?
I think it would be JP McManus. He’s a self-made man. Whenever he is being interviewed, he’s the same as when he came out of Limerick yesterday. The amount of money that he’s raising for charity – and he is giving his own personal money into Co Limerick – is phenomenal.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
I think trying to get everything up and running again. I had a good reputation – I wouldn’t have had a business for 42 years if I didn’t.
How do you see the short-term future of your business?
Keep my prices competitive and just keep trying to market myself, going to various shows at the weekend. Also, doing some advertising, and online, and approaching good-quality craft shops who might take the products and sell them at the same price that’s on the internet. I think maybe that’s the future. I’m staying positive.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
You can’t put a value on it. For example, some of the machines I paid a half million euro for you wouldn’t get €25,000 now because there is no market for them. I wouldn’t sell the business. At the moment, it’s my design, my hands, my skills that is the business.
Do you think the banks are open for business to SMEs at the moment?
No, not really. When they were making a thousand euro a week from me on overdraft facilities, I was the nicest person in the world. When things went bad, I was the worst person in the world. Once banks get a judgment against someone, you have a black mark against you.
What piece of advice would you give to the Government to stimulate the economy?
Stop throwing tens of millions into multinationals and saying we’re creating 300 jobs, when those jobs are costing €30,000 or €40,000 each in grants and subsidies, and taking money off the long-term unemployed. For example, in the construction industry there are men in their late 30s or mid-40s who can’t get work and there’s no incentive there and no national plan to get those people back working. We need to support these people.
It’s pointless to say we have a load of jobs in Google for young people leaving college. They need jobs as well, but the long-term unemployed, the people who built this country, they need some hope as well. This is a great country, and we have so much potential.