The EY Entrepreneurs: How Much Money Do They Make?

31 Jul 2017 | 03.22 pm

The EY Entrepreneurs: How Much Money Do They Make?

Under the financial hood of 24 Entrepreneur of the Year finalists

31 Jul 2017 | 03.22 pm

What does doing well in business look like? Nick Mulcahy trawls through the finalists in the three categories of the 2017 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year programme to find out

 

INTERNATIONAL CATEGORY

Harry Hughes, Portwest
If bookies were offering odds on the EOY competition, Portwest would be among the favourites. This Westport family business styles itself as a world leader in the design and manufacture of workwear, and with turnover of €103m in the year to February 2016, that’s no idle boast. Sales improved by 17% in 2015/16 and operating profit was €14.4m, an impressive margin of 13.7% for a clothing retailer. Net worth at year-end was €65m.

Postwest is run by a triumvirate of Hughes brothers, Cathal (65), Harry (63) and Owen (61), and it’s Harry who’s stepped forward to claim some long overdue recognition for this Mayo powerhouse. Portwest distributes its goods from bases in Ireland, the UK, Poland, Dubai, the US and Australia, while the company has factories in the Far East, and customer support staff in 100 countries.

Portwest brothers Harry Hughes (left), Cathal Hughes and Owen Hughes

 

Mark Barrett, Applied Process Consulting
Judges in the EOY competition may find it difficult to understand what APC does, but they’ll be impressed by the abridged accounts. APC was formed by Prof. Brian Glennon and Dr Mark Barrett from the School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering in UCD in 2011. As the company explains, APC’s platforms and information deliverables help clients accelerate the development of their medicines.

Based in Cherrywood in south Dublin, APC’s headcount increased from 28 to 43 people in 2015, when the company booked a net profit of €4.3m. Unusually for a biopharma startup, APC hasn’t had to tap investors for capital – the called up equity total is €2. Barrett (34) and Glennon (51) are equal partners in the venture and it’s the younger director whose name has gone forward.

 

Jane Gallagher & Roisin Callaghan, Cogs & Marvel
This female duo could be a dark horse in this year’s EOY competition. Women hardly ever win the award and with diversity a top-of-mind issue with organisers EY and sponsors Enterprise Ireland, Jane Gallagher (44) and Roisin Callaghan (44) are in with a shout.

Cogs & Marvel’s niche is organising events for the tech aristocracy resident in Ireland such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Slack, Uber and Twitter. Such events can range from in-house meetings to sales conferences, and the firm has the wherewithal to organise big events outside Ireland too. Things have gone so well that Callaghan has relocated to San Francisco to manage the first Cogs & Marvel overseas office. In the year to August 2016, headcount expanded from 13 to 32 people and the operating company booked a net profit of €1.7m, raising company net worth on the back of €2 equity to €3.5m.

Róisín Callaghan (left) and Jane Gallagher with Cogs & Marvel colleagues Killian Whelan and Dave Smyth (right)

 

Fergus & Frances McArdle, Height for Hire
Five members of the McArdle family are directors of Height for Hire, including Harry McArdle (74), the company founder and CEO. Fergus McArdle (45) is managing director and runs the UK operation. Height for Hire is the number one access platform rental company in Ireland and the UK, offering cherry-pickers,
boom lifts, self-drive van mounts, truck mounts and specialised spider lifts.

The business was started in Drogheda 1978 and expanded into the UK in 1998. The business is also active in Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. Group turnover was €24.4m in the year to March 2016, though operating profit was well down at €1.2m from €4.7m the year before. The P&L is deceptive though as capex is substantial: in the April 2014 to March 2016 period, the company spent €31m on fixed asset purchases versus disposals of €14m. In 2015/16, the headcount increased from 158 to 242 people and net worth at year-end was €30m.

 

Alan Foy, Blueface
Blueface encourages businesses in Ireland, the UK and Italy to shift their landline telecoms from copper cables to the cloud, also known as IP telephony. The principals are CEO Alan Foy (35) and co-founder Feargal Brady and their perseverance since 2004 was rewarded earlier this year when BDO Development Capital Fund came on board with a €6m equity investment.

As of March 2007, Blue Face Ltd had run up startup losses of €1.1m. The company was subsequently profitable, with the P&L deficit in the balance sheet wiped out by March 2015. In 2015/16, Blueface booked a loss of €320,000 as it expanded operations overseas.

Blueface CEO Alan Foy (right) with Anthony O’Driscoll (left) and Andrew Bourg of BDO Development Capital

 

Brendan Monaghan, Neueda
They do IT consultancy very well in Northern Ireland, aided perhaps by access to state-funded mainland clients that are a harder reach for consultants in the Republic. Whatever, Belfast-based Neueda has been growing fast in recent years and booked a net profit of £590,000 in the year to March 2016.

Net worth at year-end was £1.4m compared with £132,000 four years earlier. The principal shareholders in the venture are CEO Brendan Monaghan (56) and fellow director David Bole, who each have a shareholding of 38%. According to the company, Neueda has 200 professionals on the books and has a focus on public sector, utilities and capital markets.

 

Kevin O’Loughlin, Nostra Systems
For many years Nostra Systems was just another IT support firm but it has ramped up its ambitions with a focus on cloud and virtualisation. Earlier this year Nostra announced plans to add 50 new roles to the existing staff complement of 75. Managing director Kevin O’Loughlin (37) co-founded the firm in 2006. Nostra Technologies Ltd booked a net profit of €373,000 in 2016 as year-end debtors expanded from €980,000 to €1.5m. Year-end net worth was €150,000.

Nostra Systems directors Kevin O’Loughlin (right) and Barry O’Loughlin

 

Darragh Cullen, Edge Innovate
Established in 2008, Edge Innovate in Tyrone manufactures material handling and recycling equipment for quarries, mines, port terminals and municipal refuse facilities. Products such as stockpilers, tracked stackers and feeders, trommels and material classifiers enable customers to shred, screen, separate, stockpile and size a vast array of materials.

This muck and brass specialist has enjoyed good demand for its products in recent years, with turnover growing from £9.1m in 2013 to £11.9m in 2015. Operating profit in the two-year period improved from £315,000 to £1.9m. Darragh Cullen (43) owns a third of the business, as do fellow directors James McKiver and Niall McKiver.

 

INDUSTRY CATEGORY

Evelyn O’Toole, Complete Laboratory Solutions
Evelyn O’Toole (49) is one of the west of Ireland’s most successful female entrepreneurs. She founded her laboratory testing business CLS in 1994, based in Rosmuc in Connemara. The company carries out food testing for clients such as Supermacs and Topaz, with a fleet of vans collecting samples daily to check that the ready-to-go food is free of bugs. A second arm to the business is testing water, waste water and sea water, with a strong niche in testing water for hydrocarbon contamination.

More recently O’Toole established a second laboratory, CLS MedPharma, in Galway city to carry out analytical and microbiological testing for medical device and pharmaceutical firms. Operating company Saotharlann Chonamara Teo recorded an operating profit of €518,000 in 2015, up from €157,000 the year before. The staff count through 2015 was 97 people and the company’s year-end net worth was €2.4m.

 

Patrick McAliskey, Novosco
Patrick McAliskey learned electronics in the Royal Air Force and established Real Time Systems in 1994. A merger in 2007 led to the formation of Novosco, where McAliskey (49) is managing director. The company delivers enterprise-level hosting services to mid-market organisations in the UK and Ireland, and the firm is the only company in Ireland to have been ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 every year since 2000.

This very profitable venture has offices in Belfast, Manchester, Dublin and Cork. Belfast-registered Novosco Ltd grew turnover by 7% in 2015 to £20.8m. The company booked a net profit of £1.7m and net worth at year-end was £5.1m.

 

Ramona Nicholas, Cara Pharmacy
Cara Pharmacy is a pharmacy group consisting of 16 stores located in Donegal, Sligo, Cavan, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Longford and Galway. There are also two Cara Home stores. The financial scorecard on Cara Pharmacy has been unavailable since 2013, when the company went unlimited. Ten years earlier, Ramona Nicholas and her husband Canice bought a chain of five pharmacies in the north-west for €11m. She was 26-years-old and he was 29 and practically the entire consideration was borrowed from the bank.

The business grew from there and in in the year to August 2011, the last accounts filed in the CRO, turnover was €24.6m compared with €16.9m the year before. Ramona Nicholas came to public prominence when she featured as one of the investors on the RTE version of Dragons’ Den.

Ramona Nicholas, co-founder of Cara Pharmacy

 

Trevor Annon, The Mount Charles Group
There aren’t many big companies in Northern Ireland that haven’t done business with The Mount Charles Group. Founded by Trevor Annon in 1988, MCG has grown from a small-time catering firm into a support services giant with five divisions – catering, cleaning, vending, retail and ancillary business services.

Annon (69) was general manager of the NI operation for Compass before establishing his own business. He’s chairman now and sons Chris and Gavin are in the business. Sales growth was 21% in 2013, 17% in 2014 and 10% in the year to September 2015, when turnover was £24.1m. Operating profit in 2014/15 was £1.2m.

Trevor Annon, founder of The Mount Charles Group

 

Jim Burke, GoBus
GoBus is one of the reasons why state company Bus Eireann is in such financial turmoil. Jim Burke’s company was Ireland’s first non-stop motorway coach service and currently operates up to 16 daily return services from Galway and Cork to Dublin, priced from €13 one way. Jim Burke (61) has been in the coach business since 1986 and the GoBus venture was launched in 2009.

Advised by Grogans Accountancy in Galway, Burke’s business set-up is multi-company: he’s the principal in related companies Cummer Bus Group, Cummer Coaches, Commercial Coach Sales & Rentals and Evobus & Coach. Cummer Coaches Ltd booked a net profit of €690,000 in 2015 and had year-end net worth of €4.2m. Average pay for 27 drivers and four cleaners was €17,740 per annum.

 

Gary Irwin & Andrew Irwin, Bedeck
This family business based in Magheralin has had a good run since the start of the decade, growing turnover from £24.7m in 2011 to £35.5m in the year to September 2015. The business is led by directors Gary Irwin (51) and Andrew Irwin (47) and it all started with the grandfather Alex Irwin, who manufactured linen handkerchiefs from 1951. Bedeck is now the UK market leader in premium branded bedlinen. The company doesn’t make everything it sells but they do not sell designs by anyone else.

Bedeck, also known for its towels, has a very good website and operates its own stores in Belfast and Dungannon; down south their products are available through House of Fraser, which is also the main retail partner in the UK. In recent years operating profit peaked at £3.4m in 2012/13 and was £1.2m in 2014/15.

 

Louis Keating, L&M Keating 
The ‘L’ in L&M Keating is Trinity engineering graduate Louis Keating (the ‘M’ is Mary Keating). Louis (57) graduated from Trinity College in 1981 and started his own venture in 1987, near the firm’s current headquarters in Kilmihil, Co Clare. Unlike most of the EOY shortlist, Keating is the sole shareholder of the company, whose numbers suggest that the principal is one of those SME grafters that the awards should applaud.

L&M Keating’s main engineering niche is marine related projects, and there was a step-change in activity in 2015, when turnover zoomed from €33m to €61m. Operating profit in 2015 was €505,000 compared with a loss of €90,000 the previous year. Accumulated net profit in the balance sheet since inception stood at €3.7m in December 2015.

 

Patrick McCann, Simplyfruit
Originally known as Pippin Foods, the business was founded by managing director Patrick McCann (59) in 1990, primarily to process Bramley Apples for bakery, condiment and foodservice customers. In the early 2000s, the company formed a partnership with Capespan and diversified into fresh-cut fruit products that are sold in small packets in multiples. Simplyfruit is the largest manufacturer of fresh cut fruit products in Ireland. Turnover at Simplyfruit (Ire) Ltd increased by 15% to £8.7m in the year to March 2016, with operating profit coming in at £1.2m – three times the outcome four years earlier.

 

EMERGING CATEGORY

Aoife Lawler & Niamh Sherwin-Barry, The Irish Fairy Door Company
At the start of 2013, the two married couples behind the Irish Fairy Door Company were assessing their career options and contemplating emigration. Now they run a company with 18 staff and orders coming in from across the globe. The quartet are Aoife Lawler, Gavin Lawler, Oisin Barry and Niamh Sherwin Barry, with the two ladies going forward for the EOY award.

The company makes and sells tiny wooden doors that are affixed to skirting boards, walls, trees and other surfaces. These ‘fairy’ doors are sold online and in shops, along with various decal packs and other miniature props. The company tapped Enterprise Ireland for €150,000 in June 2015 after raising €225,000 from two private investors. Startup losses to the end of 2015 amounted to €312,000, though year-end debtors had expanded to €278,000 from €27,000 a year earlier.

The venture would seem to have progressed further since then, with three private investors investing €350,000 in February 2017, along with another €250,000 from taxpayers through EI.

 

Niall McGarry, Maximum Media Network
Lowest common denominator online lads fare has worked a treat for Niall McGarry (39), the Mayo lad behind Joe.ie and its UK spinoff. In the year to April 2016, Maximum Media employed more journalists (37) than many national newspapers, with the total headcount increasing from 41 to 58 people in 2015/16. The company’s filings don’t reveal turnover but a year-end debtors figure of €2.4m, up from €0.5m, suggests annual turnover north of €10m. Net profit was €466,000.

In 2015 and into 2016 McGarry funded expansion through debt of €700,000 from Bank of Ireland. The balance sheet was strengthened in the latter half of 2016 when €2m was raised from EIIS investors. For being in touch with the zeitgeist, McGarry should be in with a shout for the award in this category.

Niall McGarry, founder of Maximum Media, with Eavann Murphy, chief commercial officer of eir Business

 

Ciara Donlon, Theya Healthcare
Ciara Donlon (40), founder of THEYA Healthcare, won $100,000 recently when she was one of six winners from 1,900 applicants from around the world in the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. Donlon became a marketing executive after leaving college before deciding to establish a lingerie boutique in Dublin in 2010. From that venture she pivoted into Theya Healthcare in 2013, after spotting a niche for post-surgery lingerie designed primarily for breast cancer patients.

Theya Lingerie Ltd has received €315,000 funding from taxpayers through Enterprise Ireland, while private investors have invested €376,000. Startup losses to the end of 2015 amounted to €366,000 and since then the brand has found favour with House of Fraser and the NHS in Britain.

Ciara Donlon, founder of Theya Healthcare

 

Sam Dennigan, Strong Roots
Sam Dennigan (31) got a taste for enterprise while working in the family business, Sam Dennigan & Co, one of Ireland’s biggest fruit and vegetable distributors. Sam decided to go out on his own with the objective of making frozen vegetables more appealing to consumers.

Strong Roots sweet potato chips were launched in September 2015, followed by kale and quinoa burger, ripened avocado halves and garlic roasted sweet potato. The products are listed with major multiples and have been well received by consumers. Accounts to February 2016 for operating company Handy Food Innovation Ltd show that Strong Roots made a modest profit from the off, and end-period debtors of €232,000 was impressive for a startup.

Sam Dennigan, founder of Strong Roots

 

Jack & Declan O’Connor, Biomass Heating Solutions
If the EOY judges award high marks for entrepreneurial perseverance, then Jack O’Connor (56) and Declan O’Connor (46) should do well, though it’s a moot point just how emerging this venture is. It was back in 1998 that the brothers started exploring how to generate energy from poultry droppings. Biomass Heating Solutions Ltd (BHSL) commissioned its first commercial plant in Kinsale in 2009 and accumulated losses at the end of 2014 stood at €9.0m, financed by €4.1m in equity capital and loan notes of €6.9m.

In 2015 the company received €15.9m equity investment. €8.6m was invested by Delaney and Frances Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands, and €7.3m came from Biomass Loan Note Nominees Ltd. Investor confidence was boosted by a 20-year agreement with Cargill to convert poultry manure to energy at two factory farms in the UK. From December 2016 to February 2017, the company tapped investors for a further €5.4m.

 

Daithi O’Connor, Revive Active
Founded by Dáithi O’Connor (56) and Liam Salmon (50) in 2011, Revive Active makes and sells various health supplements. The eponymous Revive Active brand is an amino acid, vitamin and mineral compound that’s billed as containing “26 amazing active nutrients in one daily sachet to help you look, feel and perform at your best”. The product, which sells at €60 for 30 sachets, has been a big hit, especially with students at exam times. Other products include Mastermind, which claims to help brain and cognitive function, and Beauty Complex, which nourishes the skin with marine collagen and other ingredients.

Operating company, Galway Natural Health Sales Company Ltd, booked a net profit of €241,000 in 2015 as the staff complement increased from 12 to 18 people. Year-end debtors were up 50% to €269,000, and in December 2016 existing investors John Kilcommons and Pat McDonagh each invested €100,000 in the venture.

 

Jack Teeling, Teeling Whiskey
John Teeling is an Irish whiskey legend, with the Teeling family sharing around €20m in 2012 when Cooley Distillery was bought by US drinks firm Beam for €73m. His sons Jack (40) and Stephen (36) grossed around €6m from the Cooley proceeds and the brothers went on to establish the Teeling Whiskey distillery and visitor centre in central Dublin.

Dad meanwhile has a new whiskey venture too, the Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk, where the sons are also shareholders. Stock sales to Great Northern accounted for over half of Teeling Whiskey Company’s €24.6m turnover in 2015, so both ventures are closely interlinked. Teeling Whiskey’s trade debtors at end 2015 were €880,000, up from €570,000 a year earlier, indicating growth in traction for the brother’s whiskey brand. The visitor centre has also been successful, prompting Irish Distillers to pull the finger out and refurbish its tourist trap in Smithfield.

Jack Teeling (right) with his Teeing Whiskey co-founder Stephen Teeling

 

Ian McKenna, eLight
eLight facilitates businesses to make the switch to LED lighting. For customers, there’s no upfront capital cost, with project costs paid back over three years, with the promise that the energy savings achieved will fund the outlays. Led by Ian McKenna (50), the venture is doing particularly well among hotels and schools, and in 2015 operating company E-Light Solutions Ltd raised €840,000 from EIIS investors to fund further growth. The company booked a net profit of €194,000 in 2015 and year-end debtors increased by 26% to €1.1m. Ian McKenna is not listed as a shareholder, though Lorraine McKenna speaks for 20% of the equity.

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