Q&A with Seamus Brady, Managing Director of Ecokem.
We recently met with Seamus Brady Managing Director of family owned Ecokem Ltd (pictured below) in Kilcullen Co.Kildare about his experience of availing of the online trading voucher. Seamus used the grant to be proactive and overhaul his website and develop e-commerce capability in line with increasing post recession demand for their wide range of hygiene and service products
Hi Seamus, tell us about Ecokem.
We are a family owned business based here in Kilcullen Co.Kildare. We currently employ 5 people and supply a wide range of chemicals, hygiene products, janitorial equipment, window cleaning equipment, catering disposables, napkins and serviettes. Ecokem’s customer base includes the hospitality sector, schools, industry, offices, hospitals & care homes as well as the general public. We cover a wide range of end users.
How is business going for Ecokem
The business is post recession mode and we are beginning to see positivity in the market. Things were tough over the last few years but there seems to be more positivity at the end user level which is good for us. It was a real slog to get new business from 2007 onwards but recently things are getting a bit easier as demand increases. However, we are in a very competitive industry so we have to continue working hard to strengthen our existing business relationships and to build new relationships.
We have also been helped by the upsurge in entrepreneurship in Ireland. New hotels, restaurants and businesses are popping up more and more and we are keen to ensure we are visible in the market.
How did you find out about the Online Trading Voucher
I noticed a post about the new voucher scheme on LinkedIn and felt that this is something we could link into. We had developed a basic brochure website as a base but really felt the funding offered could help us on our journey to developing a strong online presence. The staff at the LEO in Kildare were extremely helpful and supported me at all times through the process.
Outline the problem/challenge which you felt that the Online Trading Voucher would help you overcome.
Nowadays we feel that you need to have a good website to have credibility as a business no matter what sector you are in.
We hear constantly that internet selling is the future and identifying and creating a strategy to become a leader in the internet selling space is one of our challenges. In our industry there doesn’t seem to be a huge scope for selling online at present. When we looked around at competitors we noticed that it is not the industry norm. It is different to retailing in that it is mainly B2B but there is no reason why this won’t change in the future and when it does we want to be ready to maximise the potential customer base. It may be the case that in the future a head chef may use his smartphone in the kitchen to order the products he needs in a quick and easy manner.
We had very limited online presence prior to the online trading voucher. We had a basic website but there was lots of room for improvement. We have a challenge in figuring out exactly how to create strong lasting relationships with customers through the medium of an e-commerce website.
What happened as a result of availing of the voucher?
We utilised the online trading voucher to develop our e-commerce functionality from scratch. The 3 month completion timeline is quite tight but it served as an impetus for us to push the website to the front of our agenda and get it up and running quickly. As an SME owner time is a limited resource but with something as vital as a website it is good to put time aside whether it be in the evenings or whenever you can to work on it.
We found the IT developer through a connection at the North Kildare Chamber. We initially outlined what our requirements were and the developer was flexible in terms of when we had to work on the site. Our e-commerce website is now up and running about 3 weeks.
We can now process payments online for the ranges offered on. The payment gateway makes this a hassle free seamless procedure.
We are only in the early stages but have already had a sale to England on the back of the e-commerce update and also have had several inbound enquiries of the back of the website being available for potential customers to browse.
What are the next steps for building Ecokems online presence?
We have used the online trading scheme to build a solid foundation in terms of our revamped e-commerce capabilities. We now have to kick on from this start and develop an impactful marketing campaign to ensure our customers know about our products and that they can purchase them online. We will work with our IT developer on a monthly basis to update and make improvements to the site. We also have to keep up to date with the ever changing demands of social media. We are in the early stages of our social media journey, we will continue to keep up to date on how we can market ourselves effectively through this medium.
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