Kilkenny is known for the vibrancy of its business, art and food scene and these 11 scaling businesses are no exception, writes Barry Walsh.
While the county of Kilkenny is famous for its hurling, the city of Kilkenny has a number of galleries, historic buildings, top class hotels, festivals such as The Kilkenny Arts festival Kat Laughs or Kilkenomics.
Kilkenny is also home well-known businesses such as Connelly Red Mills, Glanbia and Avonmore as well as the Academy Award-nominated Cartoon Saloon.
Here are some emerging entrepreneurial businesses from Kilkenny to watch.
Cool for cats
Founded by Morgan Ging and his family Ballykeefe Distillery is a labour of love. Michael had been a farmer for 25 years until in 2016 when he created his own distillery. They grow barely on their farm and the by-products are fed to the animals. These are organic and leave no waste in their production. The company produces Ballykeefe Irish whiskey, vodka, poitin and gin. Ballykeefe Distillery came third in Ireland at the 2018 Irish Food and Drinks Business Awards for its achievements in sustainability. It won the Environmental Award at the 2018 Kilkenny Chamber Business Awards. Its Extra Dry Gin was awarded bronze at the World Spirits Championships in San Francisco in 2018.
Founder Paddy Cox underwent dialysis for a kidney disease for many years. One of the issues he found was how invasive the treatments were, having to expose body parts in front of others to find a vein to put the drip into. To solve this issue, Paddy created his own clothing brand with extra zips to stop people having to expose themselves or certain body parts. In November of 2020 Paddy went on the Late Late Show Irish Business Special and won the overall prize for best innovation during Covid-19 award.
Laura and Rory Ganning wanted to create their own special food brand. The business was “born out of the desire to create unique, quirky and unusual cakes, pastries and desserts. Cakeface specialise in the unexpected and delicious, their range of desserts is designed to wow and surprise. Laura and Rory are constantly experimenting with new and unusual flavours, ingredients and modern techniques, to ensure that their creations astound and delight.”
Opened by Terry Clune over 25 years ago CluneTech runs websites such as Taxback.com, TransferMate, Immedis and Grad Guide to name a few. With more than 100 million users worldwide, the group has always been headquartered in the county and now employs more than 1,500 people, has 35 offices and works in over 20 countries around the world. One of its brands TransferMate joined the unicorn club after a new $70m funding round brought the company to a valuation of $1bn.
Started in 2014 by Gerald and Gabrielle Costello Costello, Costello Brewing prides itself on its local Kilkenny roots. Now taking on the world of craft beer Costello’s mission is clear: “We started this brewing company to ensure the craft of brewing in Kilkenny flourishes. Our city needs our brewers as much as we need our butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.” The beer is characterised by meticulous preparation and high standards and their low calorie beer doesn’t use additives, preservatives or process aids. It is a graduate of the SuperValu Food Academy.
Loanitt Limited is the Group holding company of Loanitt.ie and Kyiper.com. The company was established in 2019 to target the opportunities emerging in the Open Banking space. Loanitt Limited currently holds six regulatory licences including a European Open Banking Licence.
Loanitt.ie is now one the largest financial brokers in Ireland, using advanced technology to provide customers with the best access to finance. Loanitt.ie has multiple credit and insurance product offerings in the market such as Car Finance, Agri Finance, Commercial Finance, New Mortgages & Switcher Mortgages and Insurance products.
Kyiper is the technical arm of the group and a global aggregator of Banking API infrastructure connected to multiple Open Banking infrastructure providers across Europe, UK and the US. Using Kyiper, businesses of every size, from startups to large enterprises can access Open Banking data for client/customer validation, financial insights or instant payments.
Hurler Noel Doherty was prevented from winning a third All Ireland after suffering from hamstring injury in the lead up to the game. With his background in design he developed Hamstring Solo Proexercise aid, which enables athletes to train effectively by safely performing a range of high-tension exercises that improve hamstring performance and resilience. In 2018 Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) syndicate invested €300,000 in ND Sports Performance’s Hamstring Solo, a cloud platform for hamstring injury prevention. The company now uses data analysis through their fully trained performance analysis physio and personal trainers to create a data set that can show the performance of your muscles in relation to your strength training.
Created by Vincent Graces, Riverfield Farm reached organic status in 2013. Initially set up as a vegetable box ordering scheme, the quality of their products meant that local shops and restaurants quickly came calling with orders to supply their stores. Growing all their vegetables seasonally and organically is a big selling point for their suppliers. Now taking orders nationally their also stocked in some of Ireland biggest stores, as well as being graduates of the SuperValu Food Academy
TJ Reid Health and Fitness was opened in April 2017 by owners TJ Reid and Richard Connolly.
This 10,000sq ft facility consisting of two fitness studios, a leisure section and high-performance area was later expanded to 15,000sq ft. It now boasts, a state of the art high-performance strength and conditioning area, a larger spin room, and a reimagined fitness studio which delivers a greater offering for their members.
Like most businesses, TJ Reid Health and Fitness was forced to shut their doors during the global pandemic in March 2020. The business joined the digital revolution and developed an online training offering. This has since evolved to a permanent offering for its community not only in Ireland but across the globe with members availing of 1-to-1 bespoke online coaching service, helping clients near and far achieve their goals in training, nutrition, and mindset.
“We take pride in providing uncompromising quality that meets the needs of every member’s health and fitness and have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of those in the community. We aim to work together as a team to maintain a welcoming and professional state of the art facility, that will benefit both members and staff”.
The award-winning gym facility plan to grow and expand further in the future.
The U-Casadh Project was established in 2008 by former prison officer, Stephen Plunkett. U-Casadh’s vision is to be a catalyst for change in attitudes to crime, social exclusion, rehabilitation and justice throughout the region. U-Casadh offered people who had been in prison, or who were on probation, the chance to take part in programs to change their lives through stabilisation, supported training and personal development. This programme helps former offenders to develop confidence and re-integrate into society. The vision was to have a U-Casadh in every county in Ireland. Current in-house activities include woodwork, metalwork, landscaping, basic IT, training, CV preparation, cookery classes and one to one counselling services.
Veri Connect enables companies and empowers communities to sustainably deliver ambitious large scale multi region programmes using its award winning software. Founder and CEO Ann Marie McSorley, after 20 years seeing the problems of paperwork in training programmes, wanted to streamline and improve the complexities involved in programme delivery. Whether for participants, trainers or managers, a single simple central dashboard to turn mandatory and needless paper into real time data and intelligence for improvement with measurable outcomes.
The software is only the beginning, with rapid growth during Covid -19 the company has a suite of additional services from recruitment, e-learning development and social media, their specialist delivery teams that include inhouse ecologists, employability and mentoring as well as the digital solutions for private and public sector companies. Wild Work, is one such current programme using Veri Connect developed e-learning, virtual reality and place based biodiversity training with over 400 expected participants.