EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists: Niall Stringer & Gillian Maxwell, Tiger Retail Ireland
Starting unknown retail brand in 2011 was tough but pair now have growing business
Niall Stringer and Gillian Maxwell: “Within the next three years we will have rolled out Tiger Stores across the entire island of Ireland to about 35 stores.”
Niall Stringer is a carpenter by trade, and started his own construction company at 22. This business, which serves a variety of private and public clients, specialises in commercial and industrial fit-out, construction and maintenance contracts.
Over the last 18 years, along with running Stringer Building Services, Niall has founded and run a number of businesses supplying the construction industry.
In Tiger Retail, Niall is managing director and drives expansion and oversees the financial function.
Gillian Maxwell studied human resources and French, and started her career on the Ibec EOP programme in Paris. She returned to Ireland in 1999 and started an outsourced graduate training programme.
In 2002 she joined the organising committee for the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games to be held in Ireland, She then joined the HR team in Trinity College Dublin in a recruitment specialist role.
Trinity facilitated a career break to let Gillian join Niall, who she married in 2003, in Tiger on a full-time basis in 2012. Gillian runs the people side of the Tiger business – focusing on customers and staff.
Tiger is a retail chain, with 24 stores throughout Ireland, offering customers good value, design-led products in a fun and exciting shopping environment.
It is a Danish design store with a quirky, ever-changing selection of own-designed and branded products at affordable prices.
The Tiger product assortment covers everyday categories such as kitchen utensils, office supplies, toys, hobby and crafts, party products, food, stationery, electronics, sports, gadgets and fashion accessories.
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start up in business?
While there was no lightbulb moment, we were clear from early on in our careers that we wanted to work for ourselves.
In the last 19 years we have owned and managed several businesses and it is this growth phase, when we connect with customers and build teams, that is the most rewarding part of running your own business and that is where we are at with Tiger.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
Starting an unknown retail brand in 2011 was tough – no credit, no cash flow – just long hours stocking shelves and behind a till!
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Within the next three years we will have rolled out Tiger Stores across the entire island of Ireland to approximately 35 stores.
We will have moved our team’s focus from rollout to management, ensuring a continued excellent customer experience.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
While retail sales have increased, it is not evenly spread throughout the country, and is not in line with wage and rent increases. Customers are still cautious.
Based on your experience are the banks in Ireland open for business?
Yes – we have always had a very open and honest relationship with our bank.
They have taken risks on us once we could show reliable forecast and budget figures.
How will your market look in three years?
We often hear how the main street is dying. As retailers, it is our job to offer the consumer an exciting, entertaining, bespoke shopping experience – that is the only way it will survive!