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Industry:Thatching - Roofing
Is this your first business?
When did you first decide you wanted to work for yourself?
I had always wanted to be a Thatcher and when the construction industry started to slow down and I was made redundant from my carpentry job, I decided to take the opportunity to go back to FAS and retrain as a Thatcher.
What are the things that you find most valuable and rewarding about working for yourself?
The job satisfaction I get on seeing a new roof I have just finished thatching.
Where did you get the idea for your current business?
I worked as a carpenter / roofer and wanted to stay in that line of work but more in the craft side than in the construction industry.
About Starting Up:
How did you evaluate your business idea before deciding to go ahead with it?
I was aware that there were only a handful of Thatcher’s working in the West of Ireland and it was classed as a dying trade. I felt that I could combine my roofing and carpentry skills with the thatching to ensure I had enough business to maintain me.
Did you prepare a business plan before starting your business? How often do you revisit it? What advice would you give to others when writing a business plan?
I didn’t do a business plan, but I have recently done a Start Your Own Business Course with the City Partnership and I have found this to be a great help.
What challenges did you face in the early start up stage of your business? How did you overcome these challenges?
After serving an apprenticeship as a Thatcher I had to establish myself as a qualified Thatcher. I undertook any thatching jobs I could get and started to build a portfolio of my work and asked clients if I could use them as references for other jobs I tendered for. I also went to agricultural shows around County Galway and demonstrated thatching and gave out business cards.
What did you learn about yourself during the start-up experience?
I learned to have patience as the thatching work was slow coming in. I also had to plan my working weeks and be very organised as my job is often governed by our Irish weather.
About your business:
What is the nature of your business?
Irish Roof Thatching and Carpentry Services
How many employees do you have? Full- or part-time?
Currently just myself as I have only been established a few months, but I do hope to take on a Trainee in the near future.
What is an average workday like for you?
Like I said earlier, my working day can be governed by the weather so on a good day I will work as soon as its daylight until the sun goes. If I am rained off during the week I will work Saturday and Sunday if possible.
How has your market changed in the past few years? How has your business changed to keep pace?
With the current economic climate there are not as many new builds requiring thatched roofs so a lot of the work I am doing at the moment is maintenance and repair of existing thatched roofs. Being a qualified carpenter has also helped as I can offer additional services to clients, for example I recently roofed an extension and then thatched it for a client.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business? What plans do you have now to expand your business further?
I have gone door to door to thatched houses in the Galway area with my business cards, to introduce myself and explain what services I offer. I have demonstrated thatching at horse and agricultural shows and I built a website.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
Calling directly to people’s houses and introducing myself and demonstrating at the shows.
What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Thankfully all the advice I have received to date has been of great value to me.
What’s been your most successful strategy in building your business so far? What tips do you have for other entrepreneurs that want to use that strategy as well?
A lot of my business is now from word of mouth and repeat business from previous clients. Strive to build up a good relationship with your clients and it will pay off.
What is the toughest feedback you have ever received? And how did you learn from it?
I have been told that I am too obliging, I now try not to take on a million things at once.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
Research the area you are thinking of going into and do a business plan.
Who do you look up to in business?
My wife, she has a full-time career, a part-time weekend business and she has recently completed a BA part-time over 3 years.