Back for Business: Barra Kelly, SHD Consulting Engineers

Barra Kelly is founder and director of SHD Consulting Engineers, a business he set up on his return to Ireland after working in Scotland and South Korea.

Barra Kelly was working on a project for BP in South Korea when he got the call from his wife, who was at their home in Scotland, to tell him she was pregnant. It was then he realised that he no longer wanted to live so far from home and the couple set the wheels in motion to move back to Ireland.

Barra had been working as a structural engineer in his hometown of Dublin, when the construction industry in Ireland fell to its knees, as a result of the economic crash in 2008/2009.

“I always admired entrepreneurs and wanted to create something myself but making the jump from full-time employment is a daunting experience”

He went to Scotland to ride out the recession and completed a Master’s in Civil and Structural Engineering in Aberdeen University. Then he started working on some of the world’s largest engineering projects, employed by companies such as Shell and BP.

“It was great and exciting. I was designing and managing huge multi-million projects. But when I got that call in South Korea, I wondered what I was doing half away around the world from everyone I loved. Family suddenly became hugely important,” says Barra.

After their first child, Finn, was born, the couple moved home in 2016 and since then have had another son, Ollie. Barra started working on projects for Irish Water, Google and EirGrid but he had a desire to go out on his own and set up SHD Consulting Engineers in 2018.

Design for life

Based in south Dublin, SHD Consulting Engineers is a design-led structural and civil engineering consultancy that provides services for the construction industry.

The company is a structural and civil engineering consultancy that specialises in providing expert analysis, design and project management services for both the residential and commercial sectors.

“I always admired entrepreneurs and wanted to create something myself. However, making the jump from full-time employment is a daunting experience. When I joined Back for Business, I was suddenly surrounded by all these people who were building their own businesses and sharing their experiences.

“Setting up a business is nerve-wrecking, however the support from Back for Business was amazing. Being able to work with such inspiring Lead Entrepreneurs on a very real level really opened my eyes and provided me with great networking support.”

While Covid did hit the construction industry badly during 2020, Barra says: “We were energetic, agile and all worked hard to find new ideas and revenue streams. Fortunately, some of these ideas worked and I am delighted to say that, by being very client focused, we were able to grow during Covid.”

“I encourage entrepreneurship within the business, I believe if people are given opportunity and the company is willing to listen that great things can happen, I want SHD to be a different kind of consultancy.”

Since being part of Back for Business, Barra co-founded in 2019 with a colleague. There are now five people employed full-time in SHD and Barra has plans to double that by the end of 2021.

“We have plans to grow revenue and workforce in 2021 and want to double both so that we can take on larger private contracts and more government projects. At the moment, we are in a growth phase establishing SHD within the industry. We are really fortunate to be in this position and are looking forward to the future.”

This is the fourth year of the very successful Back for Business developmental programme, which is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Since the call for applications was launched in mid-December by Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Colm Brophy, TD, there has been great interest in the initiative. To learn more click here

Published: 14 January 2021