“There is so much learning in your first year of business and it is the best on the ground training you will ever get”, says Stephen. He certainly took on board the learning and is now running a successful company in Portlaoise called Dúnmasc Genetics. The company work with farmers throughout the country to help them unlock the potential in their herds and make gains in terms of quality and productivity. They provide an AI service, Training, Fertility Management consultancy. Dúnmasc also have an online shop on their website selling AI consumables and equipment.
From an early age, Stephen had always wanted to do his own thing and set up his own business. He is convinced that this drive does not switch off and it kept him motivated. “I always liked the idea of starting out from nothing and building something you could be proud of”, Stephen says.
Stephen started his first business at the age of 17, which was another agri-based business that was sold over two years ago. When setting up he received help from his family and Local Enterprise Offices. He also got great support from AIB and the bank were always there for him when he needed them in terms of a loan or an overdraft. In setting up, like all small businesses, the company absorbed more money than it took in. All the company seemed to be dong was paying out money but eventually to his relief it flipped and the money started to come in.
Stephen sold his first business two years later and set up Dúnmasc Genetics. Having learned so much in his first business, he was more prepared for all the ups and downs of setting up a new business. Knowing what he knew did not deter him and he was not put off by the hard work involved in establishing a strong brand in the market place.
There were many challenges in his first year in business. There is always the problem of a consistent cash flow when starting out. Trying to get established was not easy as the agricultural sector can be challenging to get farmers to change their provider. Stephen had to move outside of his comfort zone and while it might have been difficult some of the time, he knew this was needed in order for him to succeed. He believes it was the drive to be the best that pushed him forward and kept him going.
Stephen attributes his success so far to not just one thing. He believes it is a combination of many things. Coming from a farming background, he understands his customer very well and has a lot of respect for them in so many different ways. What has kept him going over the years has always been more about personal achievement rather than financial success. Giving employment to people also motivates him to keep building and growing his business.
When asked about the entrepreneur that Stephen most admires, he had no hesitation in saying it had to be Joe Schmidt, the Irish Rugby Union Coach. “I know he is not an entrepreneur in the traditional sense, but what I admire most about him are his leadership qualities”, says Stephen. He also likes the way he is so calm under pressure. He admires his strategic thinking and how he always looks for ways to continually improve their performance. Stephen really likes this about him.
The best advice Stephen got was when he started out in business and he attended a sales training course. The trainer said that every day they need to ask themselves one question and that was ‘what did I do today to bring revenue into my business’. He took this advice on board and every day he does something, even if it is just a phone call or an email to an existing or prospective customer.
This year Stephen’s company is experiencing 50% growth. His IBYE participation has certainly contributed to this growth. He won the Best Established Business over 36-months award in the IBYE competition winning €20,000 prize money. “The prize money was great but there were even more gains for my business”, says Stephen.
The mentoring on my business plan was pivotal to my ongoing success as it really helped me focus on the right direction for my business. Stephen also got a lot from the Boot Camps as it gave him time out to look at his business and focus in on where it needs to go and more importantly, how it is going to get there.
He would highly recommend IBYE to any business. He says it is not all about the money as there are so many other benefits in terms of personal development. “Don’t be afraid of not winning”, Stephen says. “IBYE will provide you with opportunities to network with like-minded people and you will find the whole experience very productive for your business”.
Stephen is adamant that he would do nothing different if he was to start all over again. He believes you need to make the mistakes and in doing so, it just makes you stronger and more knowledgeable. Through these challenges, he believes you build up a resolve to pull through and it is this resolve that helps you to never give up and to always be persistent.
One of the proudest moments in his business was when a customer, who is key influencer in the agricultural sector in Ireland said to him; ‘whatever you are doing, coming from the outside looking in, it looks very impressive’. This was such an endorsement for all the hard work he has put in to establish a strong brand. If this key influencer sees his business in this way, he has to be doing something right.
The future is very bright for Dúnmasc Genetics. Stephen is looking at franchising opportunities to expand his brand. With his small team, there is only so much they can do to cover the whole country. They will provide the branding to the franchisee and full training on the Dúnmasc way of doing business.
If there were ONE piece of advice Stephen would give to someone starting out it would be; “the early days are definitely a rollercoaster, more dark days than bright ones. Keep yourself motivated and let your business grow organically, embrace any changes that may occur in your original plan and don’t be afraid to change direction as it may work out for the better”.