Barry Walsh casts his eye on 10 Sligo businesses that epitomise the county’s flair for entrepreneurship and innovation.
With a population of 65,535 Sligo is celebrated for its distinctive natural landmarks and natural beauty. Both Jack and WB Yates were born in Sligo and it benefits in modern times from being the start of the Wild Atlantic Way.
It also has major employers such as Abbott Technologies, GSK, Braun, LiveTiles and LotusWorks. There are also several successful entrepreneurs in the town with local businesses reaching international prominence including PollDaddy, Frankli and Nektr, which recently raised €1m for a biotech breakthrough that tackles antibiotic resistance and overuse in humans and animals.
In recent months prominent local business SL Controls was acquired by one of Denmark’s biggest IT operators NNIT group for €17m.
Founded by Declan Sweeney while he was a lecturer at Sligo, along with John O’Hagan and Dan Hinkley, who is a lecturer in the UK, the company was created in IT Sligo and has a number of online platforms which connected students to their colleges. The most popular, CampusConnect, is a student platform that is custom-designed for each college and students can access it through an app on their mobile phones or other devices. The app personalised student communication by providing the modern, mobile student with information and quality content right to their mobile phone rather than being left to gather dust in a prospectus or in pre-enrolment packs.
Frankli founder and CEO Noel Dykes with COO Ronan McCabe
Having returned home from New Zealand in 2016 Noel Dykes founded Frankli to develop a people-centric HR technology platform that helps businesses give their people the space they need to continuously develop and become empowered in their work. Companies of all shapes and sizes use Frankli to facilitate regular 1:1 conversations with their people as well as running their entire end-to-end performance review cycle in Frankli, bringing a sense of ease, consistency and familiarity to this once dreaded process. The business recently announced plans to expand with the creation of 20 new jobs.
“Our platform offers a suite of user-centric tools for goal setting using OKRs (Objectives & Key Results), measuring performance through pulse surveys and driving improvements through regular 1:1s, and 360 reviews,” the company states. Frankli’s software integrates into the ecosystem of workplace productivity tools people use as part of hybrid, remote and in-office teams to deliver performance management in the flow of work.
World renowned choreographer Gary O’Reilly started dancing at six years of age and was teaching dancing (particularly Lion Dancing) by the time he was 15. Gary discovered he had a natural flair which took him to a highly creditable second place finish in the European Championships. Three years ago, his international profile dramatically increased when he choreographed a dance to a Nathan Carter song that attracted widespread plaudits and critical acclaim. His reputation was further enhanced when he collaborated with renowned Line-Dance personality Maggie Gallagher on a fundraising initiative which generated €7,500 for Irish Cancer research. He won four awards at the Crystal Boot Awards in Blackpool, UK, including: “Male Personality”, “International Choreographer”, “Intermediate Dance of the Year” & “Dance of the Year.”
Based in Strandhill County Sligo, Innovision Media was founded by John Flanagan in 2016 and is “passionate about creating high quality photomontages and innovative visualisations for projects both large and small.” Its mapping software allows clients to visualise and analyse their 3D maps so that they can be investigated further.
“We provide high quality photomontages, visualisations, mapping and GIS services for planning applications and Environmental Impact Assessments,” Flanagan told ThinkBusiness last year.
“Innovision strives to become a leader in the visualisation of proposed developments and how they are displayed and viewed by planners, local authorities and the public alike. We aim to go beyond the standard approach, offering new and exciting visualisation techniques which enable interested parties to better comprehend and interpret the impact a development may have on the landscape.”
Lough Gill Brewery is an independent family run brewery based in Sligo, a town that once hosted five breweries. Lough Gill began in 2016 with a quest for better beer.
“We crave adventure and find inspiration all around us from our location along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way,” says James Ward.
“Since then, we’ve grown into a craft brewery with Distribution Nationwide here in Ireland and we work with distribution partners in Holland, NI, Italy, France, Japan, Russia, Spain and the USA.
“We are very excited to be part of Ireland;s growing craft beer scene. We brew a range of stouts, ales, lagers and also one off single batch releases. You can find our beers on tap locally in many of the fine bars and restaurants we have here in Sligo.”
One of the major attractions in Sligo is its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Since the creation of the Wild Atlantic Way the tourism in the region has increased and with that came new businesses. One of these businesses was Stoked Restaurant. Opened by Shane Meehan in 2018, the restaurant is a favourite among surfers and locals alike. The menu is inspired by Shane and his team of chefs travels all over the world, but uses locally sourced produce. In addition, the company has partnerships with a number of different local businesses in the area.
StoryLab co-founder Martha Kearns
Based in Rathquater County Sligo, Martha Kearns and Ciaran Byrne started StoryLab in 2014 in an effort to get brands to produce better content. With a background in newspapers PR Kearns and Byrne saw that many brands weren’t getting their message across to consumers because the PR agencies weren’t telling the right story. StoryLab works with brands to ensure they tell their authentic story, so that this will directly lead to more sales.
Chef and founder Carolanne Rush states: “We are a small, planet-first neighbourhood cafe and shop featuring inventive and creative plant-based dishes, pouring delicious 3FE coffee all while overlooking the Garavogue River in Sligo town. Our eco-retail collection is available to buy online or in-store”.
The business was selected by Feed the Heroes during the first lockdown and created over 3,000 plant-based meals for health service and frontline workers in Sligo. “That was a much-needed lifeline for our business. It got us through to summer, it felt like the entire county benefited from the Irish holiday-makers in July and August,” Rush said.
Founded in 2008 with expertise in toolmaking, moldflow analysis, metrology and fixture design and assembly, the expanded into the new offices in Sligo Business Park in 2010, expanded further into the UK market in 2015. More recently it expanded its services and opened a new research and development centre and in June 2021, it incorporated in Delaware USA, before opening office in Boston to serve its US clients. It now employs 35 employees with more than 150 clients and has won more than nine awards in Ireland and worldwide.
Based in Ballymote in County Sligo, The White Hag became Sligo’s first homegrown brewery in more than 100 years when it opened in 2013. Since then it has launched more than 20 different beers and ciders and a range branded merchandise. Their beers have an eye for detail and are brewed with a nod to the ancient ways of brewing alcohol in the county. The team launched a crowd funded barrel aged programme, where they implemented a “adopt a barrel” campaign so their customers could get their own unique beer from one of their 300 aged-oak barrels. The campaign was so successful they exceeded their target by 100 barrels. The White Hag is opening an airport bar in partnership with Dublin Airport in December 2021 and is also about to open a taproom at its brewery.