Barry Walsh captures the innovative and enterprising spirit of the midlands county of Offaly through 10 growing businesses
With a population of 82,668 according to the 2022 census, Offaly is the twenty fourth largest county in the island of Ireland in terms of population and the eighteenth largest county in the Republic of Ireland.
The landlocked county, on the borders of Leinster and Munster, is home to the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Birr Castle and is the ancestral home of former US president Barack Obama in Moneygall. Traditionally, the economy of Offaly relied on the agricultural sector but it has diversified in recent years.
Tullamore is the county’s largest town and the 30th largest in Ireland.
Here are 11 promising businesses to watch:
Anthony’s Wooden Crafts
A brilliant example of student entrepreneurship, Anthony Gorman created his award-winning business at the age of 15. Anthony’s Wooden Crafts has been around since 2019, creating custom, hand-crafted wooden items. It all started with a reindeer created from local ash, right here in Killeigh. A chance encounter with a business studdies teacher at school started the venture when she saw something special and immediately proposed selling the reindeer as a small business idea. That same day, the first 20 orders for Santa’s Reindeer were taken, and since then the orders never stopped coming in. They’ve now shipped across the country from Dublin to Galway. A range of hand-crafted items are now available, and custom items are requested all the time.
Castle Paints is a family run business that was established in 1985 by Brendan and Eileen Spollen. It is one of Ireland’s leading industrial paint manufacturers and additionally it manufactures a variety of other paints including recently launched luxury paint brand Acres Hall. The business continues to go from strength to strength with continuous improvement and sustainability at the core of how it operates.
ElectroRoute is an independent energy trading and services company, established in 2011. “Our mission is to bring our pioneering spirit and precision analysis to liberalise the energy markets of Ireland, Great Britain, Continental Europe and Japan. In 2016, we became part of the Mitsubishi Corporation family, who have brought with them a wealth of innovation and global energy experience which is allowing us to enhance and grow our client base and service offerings. We became an electricity supplier to large-scale users in the UK in 2018, working alongside customers and TPIs to provide clean, reliable energy to the UK market.”
The Factory is a multi-award winning eco-print, branding, and graphic design studio located in the countryside near Birr in Co. Offaly. Its mission is: “to be an inspirational, ethical business that helps protect our planet & our community.” The Factory is on a journey to becoming Ireland’s most sustainable business. They generate the majority of their own electricity on-site from a combination of wind and solar energy. Environmentally friendly materials and processes are central to all business activities and all packaging is plastic free. Where direct delivery is required, the company uses its own electric vehicle. This too is powered with their green energy. Employees enjoy a weekly yoga session during work hours and in 2020 they introduced a four day work-week to promote a healthy work–life balance. Five acres of land is managed to enhance biodiversity. This includes a Barn owl nest box and five bee-hives. The overriding goal is not only about making the small family business more environmentally friendly, but through its actions to show others that an eco-business is more fun and rewarding, better for people and the planet, and financially stronger; proving that business is capable of being so much more than a money-making entity.
Located on the grounds of Birr Castle, Giants Grove set out in 2017 with an ambitious plan to bring Redwood Trees, Giants and Coastals, back to Ireland. “The planting, maintenance, and establishment of the 1,000 redwoods is being financed by you, the Giants’ sponsors, dedicating space to family and friends. In each case, the dedication will be associated with a GPS coordinate within the Grove, identified on your certificate.” The project includes, as an under-storey to the redwoods, some small native Irish trees such as holly, rowan, spindle, and arbutus, both for biodiversity and as extra visual interest.
Jennifer Doyle started Milbee studio in 2019. Jennifer started out creating candles from natural beeswax from bees that she has at home. Now the entrepreneur has candles, balms, honey and food wraps that are all made from bee products. “Our Beeswax Wraps are monitored closely in their production. All our wraps are handmade in small batches at our County Offaly Studio located in the heart of Ireland. We use organic cotton infused with premium-grade A beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. Our products are sustainably packaged and shipped directly to your home when you order online.” The brand was a Finalist in the Irish Made Award 2020.
Mór Irish Gin
Eoin Bara came from a family of master distillers and founded Mór Irish Gin in Tullamore in 2015. The brand now uses fruits such as Raspberries, Blackberries and Cranberries infused with juniper, coriander, angelica root and rosemary to infuse its gin to bring out its unique flavour.In 2020 Eoin changed focus to create hand sanitiser to join the fight against Covid-19. Mór Irish Gin is stocked by The Celtic Whiskey Shop, O’Brien’s and Carry Out off-licences, as well as by high-end restaurants and bars in the UK, Canada and the US.
Oat in the City
The Lynam family have owned a farm in Tullamore Co Offaly for generations. Recently, the family decided to reduce their reliance on commercial farming and focus more on sustainable crops, such as oats. Having always wanted to create his own food brand the current owner of the farm, Liam, decided over lockdown to create Oats in the City. Liam and his family created the oat-based milk drink which has natural fibres, beta glucans and protein, has no added sugar and is low in natural sugars. They’ve also created their own mascot Eoin the Oat, and are now on The SuperValu Food Academy.
This award-winning skincare, beauty and wellbeing clinic is owned by Audrey O’Meara, who gained her international beauty qualifications from the prestigious Coogan Bergin College of Beauty Therapy in 2002. Her extensive experience led to Audrey gaining expertise in make-up to massage therapies, holistic treatments. In 2005, she opened Secret Essence Birr, and according to her website she offers an array of general beauty treatments from waxing, brows, massage, tan and make-up for which she gained a highly commended reputation and special love for bridal make-up and all things weddings. In 2010, Audrey proudly received a scholarship to train in France with make- up maestro Serge Louis Alvarez and his team at his academy in the beautiful town of Valence. “It was a wonderful experience, working with such a professional, trendy and unique brand, SLA Paris. Something quite special and in such beautiful, inspiring surroundings.”
A seasoned wild food expert, educator and food blogger Mary Bulfin has a background in science, cookery and natural medicine. However, it was a childhood spent foraging in her local forest that grew Mary’s passions in the area. Now providing workshops on foraging, Mary also sells her Wild Liqueurs which are “Sustainably produced from handpicked ingredients found in the local countryside, these liqueurs have truly unique and well balanced flavours. Wild Beech Leaf Liqueur is a unique drink with burnt toffee aromas, a good woody flavour and a pleasant smokiness.”
Woodfield Café and Garden Centre
Located on the outskirts of Birr, Woodfield Café and Garden Centre specialises in quality, local and seasonal produce – whether it’s plants or the delicious food available in the cafe.
“Woodfield has grown from a standalone garden centre to now including the very popular and growing cafe where all of our food is made from scratch. We use the best of raw materials, with as few air miles as possible. Woodfield Garden Centre focuses on plants, pots and organic products for your garden. No nasty chemicals here. Instead, we focus on providing you with sound advice on growing in harmony with nature.
“Woodfield Café uses real butter and is as organic as possible. If we haven’t grown the veggies ourselves we source them from Lough Boora Organic Farm and Coolnagrower Organic Farm. Rashers and sausages come from free-range Pigs on the Green in Tullamore.”