EY Entreprenur of the Year industry category: Sean Brett, Steeltech Sheds

Brett’s first business venture was at 13 when he bought and grew 18 apple trees

Sean Brett of Steeltech Sheds speaks about breaking into the UK market where there can be a great demand for products and services. Video: EY


Seán Brett is the founder and chief executive of Steeltech Sheds. An entrepreneur at heart, Brett’s first business venture was at 13 when he bought and grew 18 apple trees with the intention of selling apples in the local markets.

Brett left school at 14 to work as a trainee mechanic. Two years later, he began buying and selling cars. However, after this venture failed, he went back to the horticulture industry and sold shrubs, plants and trees in separate market stalls in different towns.

He achieved moderate success with this, but then went to London in search of new adventure, entering the construction industry working as a machine operator.

After two years there, he returned to Galway and, unable to find any work, decided to start a painting and decorating business, which lasted almost 10 years.

He sold that business and started a coal-distribution business.This proved to be very profitable, enabling Brett to, credit free, embark upon a new venture in the shed-manufacturing industry 10 years later. The coal and shed businesses complemented each other well as they reached peak season at opposite times of the year.

However, with Steeltech rapidly outgrowing the coal business, he decided to sell Brett Coal and fully immerse himself within Steeltech.

Today, Steeltech has grown from one small display yard in Galway that was self-operated, to 15 sizeable retail outlets nationwide with almost 100 employees.

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique. Steeltech design, manufacture, distribute and assemble steel sheds and garages. Our product line includes garages, chalets, greenhouses, home offices. Steeltech consistently strives to innovate and deliver new products to the market.

How are we unique? Each shed can be custom-built to whatever the customer desires. We offer fast free delivery and can assemble sheds on site in one day. We also give our customers a lifetime guarantee for all products.

What is your greatest business achievement to date? The purchase of our new 40,000sq foot manufacturing plant, which was a Coca Cola factory, without the requirement of capital.

Where would you like your business to be in three years? We expect to be the number 1 shed provider in the UK, along with being its strongest brand. Since there’s currently no clear leader in the UK shed market, we aim to assume this position and aggressively take market share off an unorganised market full of small operators.

We also strive to continue to increase financial independence from banks, such that we will almost be able to fully self-fund expansion projects into western Europe.

What was your biggest business mistake? Importing log cabins from Lithuania. While they were inexpensive and looked great, they were totally unsuitable to the Irish climate. This resulted in wasting time and energy promoting a product that is inappropriate for the Irish climate.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur? Don’t be afraid of failure, you will learn more from failure than you will from your successes. I had to set up countless businesses, taking decades to achieve even moderate success.

I also suggest to never concern yourself with what others think, to quote Oscar Wilde: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”