Ronan O’Brien never wanted a job with a salary. At 14 he was making more money than his teachers. Now he runs a growing empire.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I’ve never had a full-time job working for anyone else and I worked for myself since I was 14 usually earning more than my teachers. I did manage to keep up the education on the side. I don’t think people want to be entrepreneurs per se, that’s just a tag given to people who choose not to take a salary job. I think entrepreneurs want to change the world in their own little way and control their destiny.
Where did it all begin for Zatori?
We started with TheCostumeShop.ie. At the time I was a professional DJ and there was a huge Halloween event I was playing at. I had been talking with a friend about trying to find a company to partner with to encourage the punters to buy costumes from – but there wasn’t anywhere in Ireland. So jokingly, I said I should start my own. Within four weeks, I had a basic e-commerce shop up and running and we were making sales. After Halloween I was relieved the rush was over, only to get a call from the National Concert Hall a week later asking if we were going to be advertising Christmas costumes, with an attached list of the items they needed. So then I realised it had potential.
Zatori, your holding company, has a number of business brands. How do you divide your time between each different brand?
A lot of my work is project based. If we are launching a new brand or targeting a new area, there is a lot of time required to build that company. We try to build a great team around us, then empower and delegate. We utilise existing systems such as intelligent fulfilment warehousing so that when starting a new brand, we are never really starting from scratch.
“I think entrepreneurs want to change the world in their own little way and control their destiny.”
What are your growth plans?
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time working in Zatori’s advisory and consultancy division, where we’ve been working in the background with some very successful brands. We are completely oversubscribed, so for us to take on a new client we’ve really got to love what they do. Then, the way I see it, we get to do the fun stuff.
What are the busiest times of the year?
TheCostumeShop.ie is still one of our biggest brands and Halloween is an incredibly busy period. We are based in a quiet part of Portlaoise for our warehouse but we will ship to over 56 different countries and the volume of orders we process in a short period of time is quite challenging.
“An entrepreneur never switches off from work. It’s a 24/7 game and if you’re switching off then someone else is working through the night to take your customers.”
How do you switch off from work?
I love spending time with my wife and newborn baby, Ted. But let’s be honest, an entrepreneur never switches off from work. It’s a 24/7 game and if you’re switching off then someone else is working through the night to take your customers.
What job would you hate to have?
Some years ago I was asked to give a speech to a committee in the EU parliament. I had been asked to make some advisory suggestions on changes to e-commerce legislation and cross-border trade systems. Being a tech entrepreneur I came armed with a solution, rather than just a problem statement and remarked that it could all be rolled out in about three months. I was told it would take ten years and those old institutions would lobby against making cross-border trades. I could never work at a pace that slow, it would drive me nuts. So now we focus on selling into the U.S. instead, it’s less hassle.