Me and My Money: Kinsale Spirit founder Ernest Cantillon

‘I’ve had a few good winners and lots of smaller losers’

Are you a saver or a spender?

This may sound self-deluded but I save for the big things but spend a lot on the little things. I don’t have a car or a flashy watch, but I eat out a lot and love going on holidays. I’ve been saving up for a deposit for a house for years, but every time I’m nearly there, a business opportunity comes along that I can’t resist, and the cycle starts all over again. My wife is clearly a saint!

Do you shop around for better value?

Professionally yes, personally no. While that might sound odd, I think it’s common for people in business. You spend all day looking at numbers and accounts so when you’re off you just want the easiest, fastest option.


What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?

Electric Bar and Restaurant in Cork would be by far my biggest purchase – it was nearly €3.5 million by the time we got the doors open, but thankfully it has proven to have been worth it. Personally, I’m not into extravagant things.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?

I would say the ring I proposed to my wife with, but that sounds too cheesy, so I will say my two dogs that I got from the shelter. I couldn’t ask for better friends, and they are very much part of our family. The only cost was a voluntary donation. In business, it would have to be Sober Lane, another one of my bars in Cork – 13 years on and still going strong.

How do you prefer to shop – online or local?

Very much local, but that’s easy when you live in Cork. Be it the English Market for grub, Eddie in Fitzgerald’s for clothes and Cafe Velo for coffee beans – the list goes on. I understand why people in rural communities might have to go online, but in Cork there’s an outstanding local offering that is great to support.

Do you haggle over prices?

It depends on my mood and on the relationship. In business, we have suppliers that we really trust so it isn’t often an issue. Personally, I think I’d rather not buy it than go through the back and forth of haggling.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

Not really, to be honest. I’ve never been a big spender and that hasn’t changed.

Do you invest in shares?

I’ve always had a great interest in the market. I would have caught the bug from my father, and my brother is always good for a tip. I don’t have the knowledge or expertise it takes to seriously invest and I think knowing that is half the battle. I’m happy to invest small amounts in risky ventures or penny shares and treat it as a gamble.

Cash or card?

I love cash, but find I spend it far too easily, so for that reason mostly card. Contactless has been a game-changer in that world.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?

I bought lunch recently in the Raven Bar in Cork and it was a great value. It’s one of my favourite spots for a bite out.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?

I’ve invested money that I’ve made in one business into new businesses, so I guess I have.

Have you ever lost money?

Lots of times. Penny shares are a sure-fire way to lose money, for a start. I’ve also had ventures that haven’t worked out, but thankfully I’ve had more winners than losers – or, to be more accurate, a few good winners and lots of smaller losers. I’ve also pulled the plug on things that weren’t working and I feel that’s important. I’d definitely prefer to live to fight another day than go down with the ship.

Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?

I love a gamble, but I’m quite happy to bet small amounts. I play the card game 110 a lot – it is very competitive but the prize is always only €2. It’s the buzz of the win rather than the size of the prize that does it for me. And obviously, being Irish, the lotto each week is a given.

Is money important to you?

It’s certainly necessary. I wish I could say it wasn’t important to me, but in the modern world I’m not sure how it couldn’t be. It’s certainly not everything to me, but as my family grows it gets increasingly important.

How much money do you have on you now?

In one pocket I have €21, and in the other I have a lotto ticket and parking fine. That just about sums me up.

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea