With the economy literally on freeze because of Covid-19, here are 14 examples of Irish enterprises that have either pivoted or adapted brilliantly to their changing circumstances.

The devastation meted out by the Covid-19/Coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented, with social distancing and the enforced closures of certain business sectors having a chilling effect on Ireland’s economy.

Rebooting the economy will be no easy matter. As Cliff Taylor wrote in The Irish Times recently: “You can’t just turn an economy off and back on again.”

The road back will be long and arduous, but it is at times like these when people can be at their most brilliant and inspiring.

In recent weeks we looked at examples of great Irish innovation and ingenuity as the Covid-19 outbreak took its toll.

This week we feature examples of firms and social enterprises that have spotted opportunities, have pivoted or were forged to keep things moving. They are no doubt just a few out of many.

Beechlawn Organic Farm

Beechlawn Organic Farm is an organic fruit and vegetable supplier in Co Galway that has had to increase production to fill gaps created by production falls in Italy and Spain. Founded by Padraig Fahy, the company had to recently temporarily close its online home delivery service after orders quadrupled. The company is set to grow its workforce by a fifth to meet demand.

Beercloud

Web page selling beer.

BeerCloud was established at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak and sells craft beers online from a dozen regional brewers. The platform was established by Liam Tutty of Dead Centre Brewing after he found his pub and restaurant clients were shutting their doors. It now sells cases of beer to consumers from more than 50 labels including Dead Centre, Ballykilcavan, Black Donkey, 12 Acres, DOT Brew, Boundary, Dungarvan, Kildare Brewing Company, Lineman, Reel Deal, St Mel’s, Third Barrel, Western Herd and Scott’s Irish Cider, to name a few.

Carnaross Mart

Two brown cows in Ireland.

Carnaross Mart in Co Meath has become Ireland’s first-ever virtual mart, thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic. Using technology developed by Irish agritech firm Livestock-Live, the company sold more than 200 animals at its first mart with more than 900 logging in. Mullingar-based Livestock Live, headed by entrepreneur Brendan Hannigan, developed the software that allows farmers to buy and sell animals online through virtual auctions. The software can video stream a live auction where animals are dropped off at the mart and shown in the ring to buyers watching and bidding online. Sellers can also upload videos of animals they wish to sell.

The Doorstep Market

The Doorstep Market is a new initiative launched to help small businesses with no e-commerce presence to get selling online. The initiative, which was launched by Grace Tallon and Joe O’Connor, has already garnered the support of more than 150 businesses and offers more than 500 Irish-made products with credit and debit payments enabled by PayPal and Stripe.

Healthwave

Man in navy jacket leaning on a counter in a pharmacy.

Healthwave founder Shane O’Sullivan. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

A digital pharmacy service called Healthwave has developed a Carebot digital assistant that helps indicate if you need to be tested for Covid-19. Healthwave’s CareBot is a virtual assistant that uses AI and natural language processing to process prescription orders and other health related queries. The CareBot also features an online assessment tool that will indicate whether the user is potentially eligible for COVID-19 testing thereby potentially reducing calls to GPs.

The new Covid-19 feature could also be implemented in GP surgeries that are looking to prioritise phone callers.

Handmade Soap Company

Among businesses that have diversified to meet the needs forced by Covid-19 is The Handmade Soap Company, based in Co. Meath, which has included a sanitiser in its range and it’s flying out the door, all being purchased via their website. “They are dispatching thousands of orders nightly now,” said DPD Ireland CEO Des Travers.

Hibergene

Hibergene, a company specialising in rapid and easy to use molecular diagnostics, has secured €1m in funding from the European Union for the creation of a rapid diagnostic test for Covid-19. The company’s “Hg nCoV 19” test project is expected to be capable of delivering test results within 60 minutes. Hibergene, which was founded in 2009 by Brendan Farrell, is working with partners in China, Italy and the UK to deliver the platform.

Irish Distillers/Mervue Labs

A bottle of Jameson beside a glass of whiskey.

Irish Distillers, makers of Paddy and Jameson Whiskey, is going to supply hand sanitising gel for free to the HSE in partnership with Cork firm Mervue Laboratories. Between them, the two companies are going to provide the HSE with large-scale quantities of alcohol-based hand sanitising gel to aid front line staff.

Kobba

doctor wearing a face shield and mask.

Dublin-based creative marketing agency Kobba diversified its business due to the Coronavirus outbreak and started designing and selling protective counter tops and face shields for retail and health workers. Founders Niall Kilcullen and Patryk Szafranski decided to put their product design expertise to work when their business was hit by the suddenly harsh trading conditions and several marketing projects were cancelled.

Men’s Sheds

Forced to close its doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic, social enterprise Irish Men’s Sheds Association decided to establish a series of WhatsApp groups for each one of its sheds countrywide. This way its members have a way to keep in contact with and support each other. It has also set up a “buddy system” that pairs members into groups of two and encourages them to check in with each other by regularly texting or chatting by phone or video.

Mueller & O’Connell Bakery

A loaf of sourdough bread.

Mueller & O’Connell is a Midlands-based artisan bakery that sells in various bakeries around Laois and Offaly. The company has a brilliant solution to social isolation and restricted movement by selling par-baked sourdough bread that is delivered to your door. Just sprinkle the loaves with water and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes and you have perfect, fresh bread.

Roasted Brown

Independent Irish coffee roaster Roasted Brown has reported a 1,400pc increase in its online coffee sales across the month of March, as cafés and coffee shops are shut, and the nation continues to feel that impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. With orders coming to a standstill following the closure of many of the businesses it supplies, the company has moved to sell its coffee online, offering a delivery service and has made more coffee products available for sale online. In addition, and to support businesses across the country, Roasted Brown launched the ‘Our Shop is Their Shop’ initiative which allows customers buying online to nominate their regular coffee shop and buy from them, via Roasted Brown, who process the sale on behalf of the cafés.

Simply Fit Food

 

Just like many businesses Simply Fit Food was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, with sales falling away 50pc overnight. This forced the company to think outside the box. Evelyn Garland recently told ThinkBusiness: “We noticed a lot of people were nervous about going to supermarkets due to crowds and are therefore at a higher risk of catching coronavirus. That and there are people self-isolating and the vulnerable who all still need to be fed. We decided to open our online store … we are now delivering our healthy meals and soups straight to the customer’s door. We have also put the necessary HSE Covid-19 guidelines in place on delivering parcels.”

Aside from Simply Fit Food creating a new revenue channel, the company is also helping those most affected by the pandemic. People can donate as little as €10 which will go towards two meals. Simply Fit Food then delivers all donated meals to a minimum of two hospitals or vulnerable charities each week. If you would like to donate visit https://www.simplyfitfood.com/donate.

Treaty City Brewery

Founded by former Intel manufacturing engineer Stephen Cuneen, Treat City Brewery is bringing the art of brewing back to Limerick. Prior to the outbreak Cuneen put his home city on the map for beer, having refurbished a premises opposite King John’s Castle in Limerick. Faced with new restrictions, Treaty City Brewery responded with speed to the onset of the crisis by pivoting in the direction of home delivery of beer to customers in Limerick. And it seems the brews are going down a treat in the Treaty City.

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

Published: 8 April, 2020

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