Civil engineer Yvonne Brady is founder of EVB Sport and the inventor of medically endorsed compression shorts for sportswomen, which provide support to the pelvic and abdominal areas. EVB Sport shorts have recently been taken on by Elverys Sports and are now distributed throughout their stores nationwide.
What sets your business apart from the competition? We want to ensure that women exercise carefully and we are dedicated to creating products that allow women to do a high-impact sport safely. Our garments do that by offering support through compression material that is non-elastic and that creates support and uplift.
What was the best piece of business advice you have received? Having run an engineering practice, Brady Hughes Consulting, with my husband before I started this business, I would say it is all about the team. If you have a vision, you can't do everything so you have to trust in people who are experts in what they do. My favourite book Good to Great by Jim Collins is all about that: "First Who, Then What: Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go. Finding the right people and trying them out in different positions."
What was the biggest mistake you have made in business? Struggling to delegate. At the start of the business, one of the things that kept me going was the personal relationship I had built up with many of my clients. I had to realise that in order to grow the business, I had to allow my team to have that face-to-face relationship with customers while I take the next step and trust that they are as passionate as I am.
Your major success to date? Apart from creating something that is scientifically proven, I would say getting the product nationwide through Elverys. We started off small and Elverys has recognised that our product is one that people need and that's a real coup. Also, all the funding that we have got so far. We recently received funding from two private investors and Enterprise Ireland has backed us, which will also help provide mentorship while opening up markets in the UK and globally.
Whom do you most admire in business and why? Tony Ryan. I admire his ability to take risks and his self-belief – the notion that things will come right if you believe in it. I also admire Frank Greally, editor of the Irish Runner. He'll be at every race in the country, big or small, and is one of the stalwarts of Irish athletics. Shaking hands, chatting to people, listening to people and trying to connect people. He remembers everyone and knows what everyone is doing. He tries to give people a leg up and if he says he's going to do something, he'll do it.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs? Kind of. We did get some assistance with cash flow, albeit with zero risk. Our paperwork was unequivocal, they knew we would be getting paid and they got personal guarantees, too. However, I would say that relationships and track record don't seem to have much bearing on things any more, I suppose because banks were badly burned. I'm not saying things should go back to the way they were before, but I was 20 years in business and know how to run a business and I don't think that stands for anything any more. You're not dealing with the local manager any more, you're dealing with someone who hasn't a clue about you, your business or your track record.
What advice would you give to the Government to help stimulate the economy? Coming previously from the construction industry, if they could put some capital investment into infrastructure, reduce the cost of house-building and improve the supply in the housing market, it would be good. A busy construction sector has a huge impact on the real economy. I also think every person should have IT training from school, whether it's coding or digital marketing. Things are moving so fast and this country is so small that it is vital we provide the education at school that will stand to the country in the long term.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face? The financial challenge. There are great supports out there that I have managed to access, but it's the first time since I established the business that I have been able to take home a modest salary. I've been very lucky with funding but every penny of that went back into the business.
How do you see the short-term future for your business? Landing the listing with Elverys has been very exciting. The next stage is developing new products, branching into retail markets in the UK, taking on new staff, further testing, further endorsements and to be able to get the message out there that pelvic health is important. A dream would be to have the Irish women's rugby team get behind us, especially with the Women's Rugby World Cup coming here in 2017.
What is your business worth and would you sell it? Having just secured more investment and having a lot of work to do in the next couple of years, I can't imaging selling just now, but ultimately being bought out by a bigger brand would be an acceptable outcome if the price was right and it meant EVB Sport solutions got to more women globally. What's it worth? It's probably too early to say. evbsport.com