In our new weekly series, we talk to emigrants who have returned to Ireland and have started businesses. This week we talk to Donegal and Derry-based Carol Banahan from Carol’s Stock Market.

Back for Business fosters entrepreneurial activity among emigrants recently returned or returning to live in Ireland through a peer learning approach. The initiative is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Thirty-eight entrepreneurs from across the country have just completed the second cycle of Back for Business. We will profile a number of them over the coming weeks.

“I had no idea if I had what it took to be an entrepreneur but I am absolutely loving it”

This week, we speak to Dubliner Carol Banahan who returned from Canada to live in Donegal and set up her business — Carol’s Stock Market — in Derry.

How long were you away from Ireland and what did you do?

I lived in Canada for 29 years. I spent over 25 years working in the financial industry as a stock trader. My last position before I retired from that industry was head of equity trading at RBC PH&N Investment Management. I retired in 2014 to move back home to Ireland to pursue some other passions in life.

What attracted you back to Ireland? 

We had a very deep yearning to move back home to spend more time with family and friends and be part of Irish life and society again. We used to come home every year but it was always a very long journey and we never wanted to go back so we knew we would make the move permanent at some point.   

Was it for personal or professional reasons?

Personal reasons as mentioned above. However, I wanted to follow a passion for food and start a food business. I had no idea if I had what it took to be an entrepreneur but I am absolutely loving it. In addition, my husband is a therapeutic radiographer and a new cancer centre was opening up in Derry at Altnagelvin Hospital so he wanted to be part of that team that was working on such an important cross border project.

What is your business all about?

I manufacture a range of cooking stocks, bone broth and gravy. We manufacture all our products in-house at our purpose built facility in Derry.

Was it hard starting up again in Ireland?

It is never easy starting a business. I think the food business in particular is notoriously difficult. There were so many hills to climb but you just take one challenge at a time and find solutions to move to the next stage.

What caused the most problems?

Lack of contacts/network/resources – When I started out, I knew nobody. I did not know where to start and I was basically starting from zero. I also live in rural Donegal so I don’t have access to the same facilities you would have in a larger city. The Back for Business programme was crucial for me in order to start building networks and to access advice on building a business.

What needs to change to make it easier for returning emigrants to start businesses in Ireland?

It would be very important if your past business/finance history wherever you lived was taken into account i.e. credit history. When you move back, you have to start from scratch. I was also not able to get an Irish driving licence right away so had to get a UK license first.

Anyone interested in receiving an application form for the next cycle of Back for Business – the call for which will be launched in November – should register their interest here.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published 25 July, 2019

Pictured (above) is Carol Banahan, founder of Carol’s Stock Market 

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