Taking part in Bord na Móna’s Accelerate Green accelerator for scaling businesses Global Hydrate, the brand created by Borrisoleigh Bottling in Tipperary, wants to give eco-conscious consumers a better choice.
Founded in Borrisoloeigh, Co Tipperary in 2016, Borrisoleigh Bottling Ltd is one of several impactful, established Irish businesses taking part in Accelerate Green, the first Irish accelerator dedicated to scaling companies leading the response to climate action and sustainability by developing products and services based on green innovation.
Running from February to May 2022, Accelerate Green operated from from Boora, which represents the centre of Bord na Móna’s innovation heritage, demonstrating Bord na Móna’s commitment to the Midlands’ communities who are a key part of an ecosystem of projects and assets connected to eco-innovation, circular economy, and sustainability.
“Our core product is bottled water, sourced from our on-site well that has been the winner of numerous Gold medal awards for excellence over the years and was Ireland’s first certified Natural Mineral Water source”
This work is supported with partial funding through the Bord na Móna led European Commission funded LIFE Integrated Project “Peatlands and People”, an initiative that aims to support the realisation of a carbon-neutral, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable country.
“We are seeking to provide the consumer with a more sustainable alternative to fossil based plastic PET in the bottled water market by providing excellent quality water in containers that are primarily plant based and fully recyclable,” said Dermot Honan, CEO of Borrisoleigh Bottling, speaking ahead of the forthcoming Ireland’s Sustainable Future conference on 9 June.
“Our core product is bottled water, sourced from our on-site well that has been the winner of numerous Gold medal awards for excellence over the years and was Ireland’s first certified Natural Mineral Water source.
“We are now shipping this primarily in glass bottle and carton packaging and, over the past two years, have been proactively ramping down our PET usage.”
Clear as crystal
The company was founded by John Hegarty, Rory McLoughney and Frank Cooney and a number of other local investors.
“My background lay in a completely different industry sector, the tech industry, but I got involved initially as an investor and then got more involved in the operation of the company. In my previous roles, I had been involved in a number of start-up initiatives, mainly associated with FDI-based companies.”
Honan believes that supports for entrepreneurship has improved in Ireland.
“I believe it has been on a continued improvement path over the years. There are now a growing number of supports that entrepreneurs can leverage, but equally important, I think that there is a growing sense of belief and confidence in the nation as a whole that encourages individuals to take the plunge. Quite often the challenge is funding the journey to get to initial sales and subsequent growth – this is the area where a number of incubators and accelerator programs have significantly contributed, in the sense that they try to help the start-up to navigate those initial perilous times.
“In fairness, there are a number of Government supports available that can help start-ups, but sometimes the difficulty, in the crazy world of start-ups, can be in knowing what they are and being able to call on them at the right time.
“We have been fortunate in that we connected in with both the Tipperary Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland at critical times for the company and the supports that were offered were incredibly helpful to the company. At a broader level, we found many business suppliers and customers that were incredibly supportive in going the journey with us, even through the challenging period of Brexit, Covid and now the conflict in Ukraine, all of which have had a knock-on impact to our business.”
He says the company is looking at its funding options. “As a start-up we have been fortunate to get funding in place to help us quickly grow the business. However, some of this is at what I would call ‘mezzanine’ rates and we are looking over the coming six-to-nine months to restructure our financing operations.”
Key learnings from his foray into entrepreneurship are centred around product development and the importance of fostering strong relationships with suppliers.
“Sometimes as a start-up, you begin with not just one great idea but with a plethora of what could be good ideas, maybe ways of broadening a core product offering into adjacent markets, etc. I would say a key learning was getting focus into the product range and deciding when and how to evolve that product line. Double down on the core and expand prudently as and when the company (and market) is ready.
“Another key learning was that the relationship you build with your supplier base is incredibly important as things rarely play out the way you expect. Getting their support to see you through the start-up rollercoaster can be a life saver for a fledgling business.”
His advice to fellow founders: “Be clear why your product/service/idea is better than what’s currently available and what problem it is solving. The attention span of your customer (business or consumer) is relatively short and if they cannot see this value, it will be difficult to get sales traction.”