Category Archives: Network

The Sweet Success Story of The Rolling Donut

The glaze of The Rolling Donut’s glory is attributable to the power of a strong brand narrative and the consistent delivery of a memorable donut experience to consumers. In 1978, Lisa Quinlan’s father, Michael, spotted a gap in the Irish donut market. He began his venture by travelling to “festivals, concerts and garden shows” selling hot-pressed ring donuts. The iconic ‘Rolling Donut’ kiosk on O’Connell Street soon followed. Over forty years later, Lisa has six additional stores across the country. Although business is booming, the CEO does not sugar-coat the path to success.

The entrepreneur describes the period between 2014 and 2017 as “Dublin’s donut wars”. The “highly photogenic qualities of donuts” combined with social media platforms such as Instagram & Twitter, contributed to Ireland’s donut trend leading to steep competition in the industry. The Rolling Donut’s competitive edge lies in Lisa’s drive to bring creative flavours and unique designs to the market. By investing in quality ingredients and innovative talent, Lisa has differentiated her brand in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When launching new ranges like vegan and sourdough donuts, The Rolling Donut showcases the family’s early roots in the donut industry. As it has since its origins, all donuts are made from scratch everyday using high quality ingredients. Fresh lemons are essential for The Rolling Donut lemon curd product while the chocolate ganache and caramel toppings and fillings are also made in-store. Although using fresh ingredients can “be challenging for the sheer quantity of donuts,” it is a unique selling point that resonates with the loyal customer base.

Lisa mentions how “the business is feeling the on-going effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” such as staffing shortages. However, the entrepreneur has managed to seek out opportunity by focusing on building an online presence as well as catering to delivery and collection options. This has been highly successful and the company has seen online orders “double since the pandemic”. Lisa has had to pivot and remain adaptable with the business model as the industry grows and the target market matures. This has encouraged The Rolling Donut to innovate and streamline new products, such as “DIY Donut Boxes”. Creating diverse themes varying from the DIY Unicorn Magic Box to the DIY Choco Caramel Box has strengthened the growth of a diversified range of target markets “from children to corporate clients”.

Describing the expansion of The Rolling Donut as the “hardest thing” she has ever done, Lisa advises young entrepreneurs “not to give up”. The most important lessons she has learned as an entrepreneur is to “always use a business plan and spend money where it counts in areas such as equipment”. Lisa advises young entrepreneurs to “not sweat the small stuff” as “things often have a natural way of working out”. Following the launch of Very Berry, a new business specialising in chocolate strawberries, Lisa remains motivated by her entrepreneurial passion to grow her enterprise, innovate products and, no doubt, the sweet taste of success.

Re-Envisioning The Beautiful Game

David Deneher, Omar Salem and Tim Farrelly co-founded ‘Field of Vision’, an innovative tech start-up with a powerful social impact agenda that is transforming the match experience for visually impaired and blind soccer fans. Computer Science and Business student at Trinity College and Chief Operations Officer at Field of Vision, David Deneher, discusses the technology behind the cutting-edge device as well as his philosophy for a successful start-up. 

Haptic Technology

As most football fans will agree, there is no better place to experience a game than at the stadium. From a goal scored in overtime to a nail-biting penalty shot, being right at the pulse of the action is incommensurate to following in-stadium commentary. With approximately 55,000 people in Ireland blind or visually impaired, Field of Vision spotted a niche need in the market for a device that could enable visually impaired football fans to be fully immersed into the match experience, leaving the technique of “tracing” a thing of the past.

How is Field of Vision leveraging artificial intelligence to redefine accessibility and inclusivity in sports? Cameras, computer vision technology and specialised algorithms connect to Field of Vision’s tablet-sized device to enable the user to feel the game in real time; from “the swerve of a kick to the power of a tackle”, Field of Vision is offering a more inclusive matchday experience than ever before.

Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, the speed at which Field of Vision developed its product underscores the digital acceleration that is presently taking place. Advances in technology, many centred on AI, marks the beginning of a “new era of connectivity for assistive technologies and the businesses behind them”. The effect will be “highly impactful” for improving accessibility for persons with impairments. As a “pandemic tech start-up,” Field of Vision’s “entire journey as a company” has been unique.  For David and his co-founders the flexibility of online college offered opportunities to innovate and find their way to the forefront of their industry. Currently the business is planning to expand their technology into sports such as GAA and rugby.

Success

According to David, critical to the success of a tech start-up is harnessing the power of mentorship programmes available to young entrepreneurs. Applying for “anything and everything” has had “positive surprises” for Field of Vision. David’s philosophy is that the “worst that can happen is a no”. Diving straight into the deep end took the team to Qatar Sports Tech, an accelerator program in Doha, UAE. Having recently partnered with Bohemians Football Club and winning first place at the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards 2021, Field of Vision’s appetite to grow shows no signs of abating.

From Graduation to Innovation – Interview with Trinity Start-Up Covid Interns

Trinity Global Business graduates Rob Muldowney and Paddy Ryder experienced the all too familiar story of having their graduation plans unexpectedly dismantled by the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Except, their story stands out – Rob and Paddy adapted and identified an opportunity to use global chaos to launch a successful business  – Covid Interns. With support from Trinity Business school the entrepreneurs hit the ground running. Here Rob tells us how.

What does Covid Interns do? “It offers an array of opportunities for third-level students to work with SMEs.” Rob and Paddy are uniquely positioned to understand the flexible employment needs of students. Their business offers three types of placements – “projects, part time roles and full time roles”. Rob provides the example of a student working part time in the hospitality business. Covid Interns can connect their third-level skills and learning to the admin side of the industry, for instance to run a social media platform. This provides the foundations to gain practical experience in their chosen field and helps build the CV. Covid Interns is epitomising the redefinition of business purpose captured by leading Oxford University Professor Colin Mayer at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, in terms of businesses now producing profitable solutions to the problems of people rather than profiting from the problems they create. To date, Covid interns has supported in excess of 180 businesses and placed over 200 candidates with experience from New York to Singapore from more than 40 leading universities including the University of Cambridge, Science Po and Imperial College London to name but a few.

With “first-hand knowledge of the anxiety and stress students face when sourcing internship opportunities”, their idea hatched from “the beast of a strategic management module assignment.” Rob and Paddy agreed that the pandemic was ripe with opportunity for innovation as the “SME market was hugely overlooked and underserved”. The outcome would provide a win-win scenario for students and SMEs as an industry that was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. While students bring fresh skills and talent to the table, SMEs provide practical experience and bespoke learning opportunities.

Envisioning the future of Covid Interns in a post pandemic world, Rob affirms that their business is here to say, albeit with the baptism of a new business name on the horizon. There “will always be a market for flexible opportunities” and gusto from students for seizing them.  Next, I asked Rob how can a student apply to Covid Interns.  It is as easy as going directly onto their website and completing the student friendly application form. You can also stay up to date with Covid Interns via their active social media domains – Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. With four strategic additions to the team Covid Interns is constantly growing, and with links to global platforms such as the Irish International Business Network it is only going to grow faster.

Entrepreneurship comes with a host of challenges, especially in a global pandemic. Rob identifies the biggest challenge facing students as “trying to start a business from the four walls of your  bedroom.” In absence of the possibility of “face to face interactions it can difficult to build relationships and collegiality with business teams.” Rob suggests three key strategic moves students pursuing an entrepreneurial position during the pandemic can make. Start with “identifying products and services that can stand the test of time”. The benefit of launching a start-up in a pandemic is that you can clearly spot gaps in the consumer market and successfully fill them. Next, Rob maintains that “ a feel good story” can act as a springboard to capture positive press and people’s imaginations, simultaneously helping to grow a loyal consumer base.  Lastly “although Covid can mess up plans” as the saying goes every cloud…

1 Continent, 1 Billion+ People, Endless Opportunities – Maeve Rafferty, International Development in Africa Specialist

Think about the t-shirt you are wearing. Who sew it? What are their working conditions like? Where they paid a fair wage? The rhetoric of a global village means the habits of consumers of the Global North have wide-ranging ramifications, stretching from the factory floor to the price of your t-shirt on the high-street. However, student decisions as ethical industry leaders of tomorrow can break ground in new markets while leaving a positive footprint. As global business interest in Africa flourishes, I recently interviewed Maeve Rafferty, a Trinity College Business, Economics and Social Studies alumnus with a passion for international development, innovation, and identifying opportunities for entrepreneurship in the emerging African markets. She spotlights Africa’s underestimated potential as a market for innovation, investment, and social entrepreneurship for enterprising students. Maeve also discusses the interaction between social entrepreneurship and positive societal development.

Market Opportunities
As an MSc in Africa and International Development at the University of Edinburgh candidate, Maeve has extensive insight and practical experience in understanding how globalisation interlocks with policy, practice, and business strategy. Acknowledging the market reluctances on part of buyers and suppliers in the West towards doing business with companies in Africa, Maeve highlights two reasons driving opportunities in these markets for forward looking student entrepreneurs. Firstly, delineating the economic shift that is under way in the continent Maeve draws
parallels with development challenges experienced in the 1960’s Asian markets which turned into a rapid growth period for the Four Asian Tigers- Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. Where is next? Maeve suggests “Africa, as it is far too big of a global player to ignore.” According to a recent United Nations Forecasts, the continent is expected to double its population by 2050, from 1 billion to nearly 2.4 billion inhabitants. The implications of this growth present high long-term rewards for entrepreneurs who unleash Africa’s strategic position and potential.

Trends indicate rising incomes across the continent presenting an “attractive market” for those who identify gaps in the consumer market and seize the opportunity before competitors do. Secondly, innovation is needed where there is a lack of infrastructure. According to Maeve “Africa presents underexploited potential for sustainable industrialisation and innovation.” A 2016 report by Afrobarometer indicated that only 63% of the African population has access to piped water, and half the population live in areas without paved roads. It is important to bridge the distorted historical perception gap of Africa as a disconnected continent, 93% of the population has access to mobile networks. This reflects a continent of innovators and digital adopters. Developing sustainable infrastructure is an important step towards increasing productivity and competitiveness.

Social Entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship can create value in societies while also assisting their development. This is particularly pertinent in “lower or middle income countries which have less employment provided by the public sector, making the private sector a crucial employer.” For example, 3% of Tanzania’s employment is in the public sector. The remaining 97% presents opportunities in the private sector for social entrepreneurs seeking to create benefits which can improve “living conditions, and ensure people can live a dignified and secure life”. The wider knock on effects of entrepreneurship enables society to benefit from “more expenditure and higher demand for consumer goods which increases the ability for to create the supply to meet consumer demands”.

What can students do to drive social entrepreneurship? From Maeve’s experience in the education sphere, she suggests that students are already empowered to know that “decoupling needs to occur”. We need to decouple the idea that in order to have “economic growth there also has to be negative ramifications for the environment
and wider society.” Maeve views students as “ethical industry leaders of tomorrow, if they acknowledge and work towards ensuring the organisations they lead are conscientious in how their decisions are made, they have the power to contribute to sustainable development or hinder it.” The challenge of the COVID-19 lockdown presents opportunities for students to “reflect on society’s needs and meet consumer demand.” Maeve sees the student generation as social innovators, intuitively possessing skills that organisations are now acquiring, she recommends “reaching out to these global players and applying those skills positively to have a powerful impact” not just locally, but globally.

“Be Brave, Be Bold and Take Risks” – Kate Simpson, President of the Irish Chamber of Commerce Singapore

‘Be brave, be bold and take risks’

Meet the Corporate Globetrotter, Kate Simpson, President of the Irish Chambers of Commerce Singapore speaks about the strategies students need to succeed in the global business playing field.

Grappling with virtual networking, applying for internships and preparing for dream job interviews in an increasingly competitive environment, students and graduates alike can feel overwhelmed by the pressure of the hunt. I recently interviewed Ms. Kate Simpson, to discuss a range of issues pertinent to students, including insights from her journey to corporate success, her thoughts on how students can utilise their professional connections and prospects, as well as the importance of achieving gender equality and greater diversity in the corporate world.

Kate graduated from University College Dublin in 2008 with a Bachelor of Commerce in International Commerce with Italian. Attributing her adventurous nature to her Erasmus year spent in Università Boconni, Milan, Kate went on to achieve a CEMS (Community of European Management School) Master’s degree from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in International Management and HEC Paris.

Graduating at the onset of the global financial crisis, Kate faced a challenging employment climate where “jobs were few on the ground”, exacerbated by a fragile economy similar to the pandora’s box 2020 has unleashed on “Covid graduates”. Before the pandemic shook the world and rocked the global economy, students expected to graduate into a landscape of fruitful employment opportunities and promising prospects. The hiring field has drastically changed.  However, as the world gains understanding into emerging economic trends, Kate remains optimistic for the prospects 2021 will offer graduates.

Drawn to Singapore as a fast paced city and global financial hub, Kate and her husband relocated there in 2014 from Paris. With an Irish diaspora of approximately five thousand people, Kate describes how the Irish community has been supporting each other on a commercial as well as a personal level throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an investment banker at J.P. Morgan Singapore, Kate’s role focuses on new markets and product access of derivative products in the Asia-Pacific region. Kate became the President of the Irish Chambers of Commerce Singapore in September 2020 having served as Vice President since 2017. The organisation aims to create networks and connections of business leaders and, support Irish companies and professionals seeking exposure and launching into the South East Asia region. From a practical perspective, companies that would have traditionally visited Singapore to scope out a market or business opportunity are currently unable to do so given travel restrictions. This is where the Irish Chamber of Commerce Singapore steps in to be the sounding board for prospective companies who wish to expand their business East. 

The Global Irish – Insights for Students Planning to Emigrate

Kate invited me to join the Chambers of Commerce first virtual event, “An Evening with An Taoiseach” which she hosted. The event was truly international with opening words from the Irish Ambassador to Singapore His Excellency Pat Bourne, alongside ambassadors representing APAC countries and guests from every corner of the globe. Discussion revolved around the gateway the Irish Diaspora Strategy 2020-2025 offers to expand cultural innovation as well as foster dynamic commercial relationships for Irish entrepreneurs and businesses abroad.

Expanding the cohort of the Irish diaspora, driving growth, and promoting international networks, the strategy is ground breaking for both students and graduates. Embracing a vision that reflects the flexibility and adaptability of the Irish abroad, students planning ventures overseas can be assured that they will be supported by the Emerald isle.

Key to Success

Persistence, drive and vision are key components to success. I asked Kate what she did differently to excel in the corporate sector. Kate pin points her success to “remaining humble and hungry combined with a little luck”. She advises students not to be “deterred by rejection in the context of a job or internship interview since a greater opportunity is always around the corner”.

The job market in 2021 is going to be more competitive than ever before so positioning is key. Going into an interview “up to speed on the latest news pertaining to that company, being ready with meaningful questions and sending a follow up note after the interview will help you stand out”. Trusting your gut feeling, taking opportunities as they come, and maintaining a “say yes” frame of mind are inroads to success. 

Integral to success is the ability to network effectively. According to Kate the best place for students to start is “joining a University society that reflects a keen interest and passion”. This provides you with the opportunity to meet friends outside of your course and also adds another “feather to your hat” when interviewing for roles.

Diversity and Inclusion

How does the financial services sector fare when it comes to gender equality? According to a 2019 Deloitte report the proportion of women in leadership roles within financial services firms stands at 21.9%. In order to stop the permeation of gender related roadblocks in the financial industry some firms have taken strides to empower, encourage and energize women to progress in the corporate sector.

As co-chair of JP Morgan’s Women on the Move Initiative Kate is committed towards ensuring both men and women receive equal opportunities and career advice. Kate hosts a range of events for women to advance in the business world ranging from “coaching, presentation and technical skills and financial education with a role on financial independence”. Her motto is “you can’t be what you can’t see,” it is imperative for a firm to have both gender diversity in a management team as well as cultural diversity where everyone can voice their opinions openly.  

Graduate careers are affected by a firms commitment to gender equality and diversity in more ways than one. A diverse company will attract the most talented graduates and often “forms a priority for millennials selecting a job”. Kate views company culture as crucial in “promoting and valuing diverse teams,” it is well known that a diverse workforce leads to smarter, stronger and innovative decisions, “contributing positively to financial performance”. Diversity makes sense both socially and commercially. Graduates are central players in accelerating positive change by forcing companies to refocus and rethink their inclusion and diversity policies. Embrace the opportunity to “ask about your perspective firm’s diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives”.

Making a Positive First Impression in the Corporate World

A flawless application, a distinct LinkedIn profile and a bulletproof CV undoubtedly  plagues the conversation of students as the season of internship applications approaches. Reminiscing on her first-hand experience as a marketing intern at the New York Stock Exchange Euronext’s European headquarters in Paris, Kate elucidates how this sowed the seeds to securing a full time contract with the company for six years. Kate prospered in an environment where she was “thrown in the deep end” and faced the challenge of conducting business through French head on. Describing the cultural difference alongside the initiative linguistic challenges, Kate embraced the experience as a “firm believer in what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger”. One of the key lessons from Kate’s experience in Paris was to be empathetic when people are studying or working in a second language.

Those fortunate enough to secure an internship often mention how a coffee meet up with a senior member of a firm sets the tone of the much anticipated agenda. I asked Kate her opinion on how students can develop a relationship beyond a “one-off coffee”- here’s what you can do. According to Kate “first impressions count”. It is important to make a lasting impact on a prospective employer. Kate advises to “think big and beyond the scope of your internship.” Finding common ground is essential, it is human nature to connect through shared passions and experiences. Asking “questions about the long term strategy of the company, challenges ahead and always sending a thank you note can go a long way in ensuring [a partner] remembers you and demonstrates a genuine appreciation for their time and advice”.

Students working as interns or graduates entering the corporate world aim to portray an image that is confident, intelligible and driven. To reflect these traits Kate recommends to start by “removing these words from your vocabulary”. The first word is “sorry” – a series of studies found that women apologise more than men. Over apologising can have a negative effect on your career by “undercutting professionalism” and “diminishing credibility”. Next, eliminate the words “just” , “like” and “think,” using phrases such as “I just want to ask” or “I think” implies a “degree of doubt” and has the potential to create a “weak impression of yourself where there need not be”. You can replace these words with “I suggest,” which reflects confidence and authority. Establishing credibility and professionalism from the outset of your career is an invaluable asset.

“Be brave, be bold and take risks” is the advice Kate advocates to aspiring business leaders reading this article. Living in the “digital age anything is possible,” Kate encourages students to connect with a strong sponsor to share ideas and confide in – a process which can be an invaluable “two-way learning curve”.  There is a large difference between a mentor and a sponsor, you need both according to Kate. A sponsor will be someone who has clout and vouches for you when you are not in the room, while a mentor can provide guidance and support through their career path.

Simultaneously, Kate points to the trend of employers researching candidates to screen CVs, being social media savvy is more important than ever, as future employers can obtain their “first digital impression” of employment candidates with just one click. She advises to be cautious with what you post online as it will be picked up as part of the initial CV screening process.  Post graduating, keep connected with your local alumni association,  this also provides an opportunity to give back to the current student base in the form of speaking at career meetings or mentorship. Kate maintains that Ireland has an incredible education system that allows us to work globally. 

Message from Kate –

If you are reading this and are based in Singapore or are considering a move, please feel free to reach out to the Irish Chamber of Commerce Singapore to help you hit the ground running – https://www.irishchamber.com.sg/

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