‘He believed in four guys who knew nothing about running a business’

Inside Track: The Irish Handmade Glass Company

Tony Hayes of the Irish Handmade Glass Company

Tony Hayes of the Irish Handmade Glass Company


Following the closure of the Waterford Crystal factories in Ireland in 2009, a team of master craftsmen, including Tony Hayes, got together to form the Irish Handmade Glass Company. Located in the Kite Design Studios in the Viking Triangle in Waterford City, the Irish Handmade Glass Company is run as an open studio where visitors can watch the glass being mouth-blown and hand-cut. Specialising in coloured glass, the designs are both affordable and contemporary in appeal.

What sets your business apart from the competition?
We make all our products from scratch in Waterford City. We melt the raw material, blow the molten glass, cut, engrave and polish every product by hand. We design our products to include cutting as well as colour. Inspiration comes from nature – ferns, reeds, dragonflies, etc – so these cutting patterns are not what you would associate with traditional Irish crystal.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
We started setting up the business almost immediately after we were made redundant after the closure of the Irish Waterford Crystal manufacturing plants. The chief executive of the Enterprise Board at the time had a belief that we could make this work. It wasn’t the advice he gave us but the fact he believed in four guys who knew nothing about running a business that gave us the drive to succeed.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
In the beginning, we believed we knew what the consumer wanted. We thought that if we liked it that the consumer would naturally like it. Needless to say we were proven wrong and learned pretty quickly.

What is your major success to date?
We have worked with many well known international companies here and in the US but our biggest success is growing the business into a recognised quality brand both here and abroad.

Who do you most admire in business and why?
I don’t really look up to anyone in particular – I think anyone who has started a company and kept it going through good and bad times should be admired.

Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
Yes, I have to say we were supported in the worst of times so I would think so.

What one piece of advice would you give to the Government to help stimulate the economy?
There is more to Ireland than Dublin. Please invest in other centres, we need investment to create jobs.

What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Trying to keep the company afloat during the recession.

How do you see the short-term future for your business?
We think the future is looking bright. We have invested in a new engraving system which allows us to work in the corporate market more competitively than we have previously.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
I don’t know. I’d have to ask our accountants that. And would we sell it? No, not yet.