Inside Track: Ceadogán Rugs – perseverance paying dividends
One of the few remaining companies in Europe to design and make own range of rugs
Denis Kenny of Ceadogán Rugs: “In an increasingly globalised market, people are coming to appreciate the positives associated with genuinely handcrafted pieces of work.”
Ceadogán Rugs, established in 1984 and bought in 1989 by Denis Kenny and his wife Fiona Gilboy, designs and makes high-end rugs and wall-hangings at its workshop in south Co Wexford. Ceadogán has worked in collaboration with many of Ireland’s leading artists and designers such as fashion designer Helen Cody, potter Andrew Ludick and artist Patricia Murphy as well as on commission for private clients. All Ceadogán rugs are made by hand in Wexford using wool and silk.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
We are one of the very few remaining companies in Europe that designs and makes its own range of rugs. Because our rugs are handmade and because we work with a number of designers, we are able to offer a huge degree of flexibility and versatility to our clients. We are painstaking in our selection of wools and silks, meticulous in our craftsmanship, exacting in the quality of work we produce and extremely proud of our customer care.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Know your market. Attend to detail. Attend to customer care and aftercare.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in business?
Taking too long to identify our market and giving it due focus.
And your major success to date?
Having persevered with our belief that there was, is and will be a place in the market for high-quality handmade pieces.
Whom do you most admire in business and why?
The world of craft is an extremely difficult one in which to balance the desire to produce something which combines merit and beauty with the need to make a living (rather than a fortune). There are three people from the world of craft whom I admire and find inspiring for what they have achieved. We started out in the late 1980s-early 1990s, about the same time as Michael Bell and Susan Zelouf of Zelouf + Bell furniture makers in Co Laois. From day one, they brought a level of commitment, innovation and perfection to their work and to the promotion of their craft that was ambitious, courageous and inspiring. Hot on their heels came another furniture maker, Joseph Walsh from Cork, who is, like myself, self-taught. He has pushed the boundaries of his craft to unique levels of creativity.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
We have never had much exposure to the banks, thanks in the main, I suspect, because I have always been reluctant to give collateral when seeking funds from them. I do feel the banks have very little interest in small businesses such as ours and I find the lack of interaction with “real people” within the banking system very frustrating.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
While I understand the attraction and benefits of attracting the multinationals to set up here, the memories of large firms such Dell which abandoned its operations in Limerick some years ago always stay with me. I feel there is a lot to be learned from the German model of small, family-run businesses located in rural areas. So I would hope our decision-makers would encourage and support sustainable and indigenous enterprises, in particular in the smaller towns and villages beyond the arc of the economic influence of the big cities.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Ours is a niche market and as such very difficult to target. I would have to say that overcoming our lack of expertise and acumen in this area has been our biggest challenge, in particular during the years of the big economic downturn. The years from 2011 to 2013 were definitely a time of sink or swim. We put a lot of time and effort into this aspect of our business and it is now paying dividends. We swam.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
I’m very positive. In an increasingly globalised market, more and more people are coming to appreciate the positives associated with genuinely handcrafted pieces of work and of the experience of being involved in the creative end of having something special made. While we have always been associated with floor rugs, we are now becoming more and more associated with wall-hangings.
What is your business worth and would you sell it?
Probably in the region of €450,000. Retirement doesn’t come with my DNA, but I am coming to the point where I need to make decisions about how I will manage my time in the coming years.