The CoLab community often comment of the generosity of Business Leaders in Donegal, they are always there to offer a helping hand to start-ups who are looking for advice, contacts or just a bit of encouragement. It’s one of the things that makes starting a business in Donegal such a positive experience for so many. We asked some of these Business Leaders what words of advice they would give to a start-up hoping to bring their business to the next level even in these challenging times. 

Barry Harper – Founder and CEO Nvolve Group   I hear quite often that one entrepreneur was “lucky” and that was the reason for their success.  Yes, you could call it luck, right place right time and all that but I don’t look at it that way, I think success comes from what I call POP – Perseverance, Opportunity, Preparation.  If you persevere and stick at your business when things are running against you, then more often than not, an opportunity will come your way and at that point you, your team and your business must be fully prepared to jump on it.  Small positive changes can ripple and create something much greater thereafter.   

Larissa Feeney – CEO Accountant Online 

‘The advice I would give to start ups who are aiming to take their business to the next level would be to be very clear about on the strategic direction of the company. If you know where you are going, it is a lot easier to figure out how to get there. Also seek support from those who have done what you want to do – find a mentor, build a support network. Building a business is tough and can be a lonely place, being surrounded by the right people will make success easier.’ 

Declan Gallagher – Gallagher’s Bakery and Promise Gluten Free. 

“My words of advice is to believe you can and strive to achieve, great things are possible if you have an attitude of “Yes we Can” in business.  Your success is down to what you believe is possible plus lots of hard work to get there” 


Donal Tierney – CEO, Aurivo Co-Op. 

Aurivo has grown from a local co-operative in the North West of Ireland into a global food business. My advice to any start-up would be to build a strong and diverse leadership team with a wide skillset that cultivates trust and motivation among employees and builds close relationships with your supplier members and customer base.  In Aurivo, our four values are core to how we operate: Trust, Team, Value and the Will-to-Win. Encourage your team to live your Co-op or Company values” 

Evelyn Mc Marketing    

Network on and offline, be open to every opportunity. Know your customer and what you are offering them and pay close attention to the gaps in your customers journey with you. Be prepared to ask for help and support when you need it and believe that you can do this, regardless of what comes your way. Get in touch if I can support you in any way. 



Libby Carton – Kinnegar Brewery 

Always be brutally honest with yourself. In analysing your business, don’t evade answers that you don’t like. Confront them and act on them. Communicate clearly and honestly, both internally and externally. Be prepared to fail. If you’re not prepared to take well-informed, calculated risks, progress will be difficult. Use common sense in constant large doses. Its importance will grow with the growth of your business. 


Annette Houston – FM Services

Take the opportunity when it presents itself and don’t be put off if it isn’t exactly how you imagined it would be – quite possibly it’ll be better. Don’t keep perfecting and procrastinating before you launch an idea, product or service – it’s not about perfect, it’s about progress. Learn how to interact, engage with and empower people. No matter how good you are, you won’t grow and scale a business alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for advise and accept help. Remember WHY you’re doing this. We all go though challenging times growing  and operating a business and you’ll need a really solid WHY to keep you going when things get tough. Find a mentor (My door is always open) Or a mastermind. Work as much on yourself and your mindset as you do on your business. Find a morning routine that works for you and your schedule. Set BIG goals.

Orla Ward, Business Development Manager, O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Limited

Covid-19 is changing business.  Strategies created last year will have been severely tested over the last 4 months and in some cases are unlikely to provide a roadmap for the coming months.  Agile businesses are seeing the benefits of staff working from home. Flexible working looks like it’s going to play a major part in the future world of work for employees and employers.  It is increasing the pool of candidates for business and it’s offering employees reduced commutes and the opportunity to live outside the main urban areas etc.  Meaningful engagement with your customer is more important than ever.  During the crisis people have turned to local businesses and businesses they can trust. Now is the time to ensure you are using the right social media channels to engage with customers and think about the type of content that will engage and motivate.  Being a digital-first brand has been a real advantage to some businesses during lockdown, others have successfully transformed their offerings to be able to bring their goods and services to the customer in an online format.  Further investment by businesses in a digital strategy looks like a wise move especially as more customers have embraced online for everything from staff training to conferences, personal fitness and entertainment. Much has changed in business and society, it’s time to re-focus and find out how your customer’s needs have changed and ensure you are delivering.

Ciaran Harvey – Senior Managing Director and Chief Information Officer Pramerica 

Growing up in a family business has meant that an entrepreneurial spirit has always been part of my DNA.   Even though my career has moved from a family owned business in Letterkenny to the world of financial services & technology, the core principles of success are still the same.   I have learned that the key to success is our talent & the culture that supports them.  Accept the realities of change and ambiguity and embrace the possibilities that they present.   For any business to thrive, it needs to be continually innovating and evolving. Today’s marketplace is fiercely competitive and stagnation is one of the biggest threats to any established organization. Nurturing a culture that encourages our talent to be bold, take inventive approaches to problems and consistently question the status quo goes a long way towards addressing this risk.