We meet National Enterprise Award winner, Mark Clendennen of Applied Concepts in Offaly, to hear how he became the country’s only manufacturer of blasting machinery and is now exporting Irish-made industrial equipment around the world from his base in the Midlands.
Mark Clendennen set up Applied Concepts in Kinnitty near Birr County Offaly in 2010 and employs ten people locally. Having initially sub-contracted manufacturing to China, Mark decided to move manufacturing in-house. Today, Applied Concepts’ blasting machines, cabinets and personal protective equipment are exported around the world; from Athlone in Westmeath to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
With distributors in place across Finland, Belgium, Estonia, Spain, Denmark and Chile and new products currently in research and development, the future is bright for this National Enterprise Award-winning company.
Facts at A Glance
Local Enterprise Office Supports
7 full time
Manufacturing and exporting abrasive blasting machines for construction and renovation projects.
Mentoring, Training Courses, Feasibility Study Grants and Business Expansion Grants
Kinnitty, County Offaly
Applied Concepts isn’t your first business success – how old were you when you started your very first business?
I was 12 when I started my first business and it involved selling go-karts plans and parts, to those wishing to build their own motorized go-kart. That’s when I first came across abrasive blasting machines when I was researching production techniques.
What can you tell us about those early days, when you were starting Applied Concepts?
I carried out the Initial Market Research in 2009 and then started the business in 2010. Initially, it was extremely difficult launching a new brand of machines. Potential customers were anxious that if they purchased a machine from us that we would not be around 12 months later, to provide them with a back up service and parts. Today, we hold spare parts to the value of €250,000.
What was the high point/low point in those early days, when you were still a start-up?
High Point – Being able to create jobs for local people.
Low Point – Obtaining finance from Bank.
What was your big ‘break-through’ moment?
When the business started, we initially manufactured blasting machines in China. However, this proved extremely challenging due to quality and lead time issues.
We carried out a feasibility study and a decision was made to move the manufacturing to Ireland. This was a big break-through moment for the business, as it immediately opened up many new markets as we now had an Irish manufactured product.
You started your business at the height of the recession, so what kind of impact did that have on sales?
The recession had a positive impact on our sales as many of customers purchased a blasting machine to refurbish old machinery. Agricultural contractors, for example, could not obtain finance for a new piece of machinery so therefore they purchased a blasting machine to refurbish their existing machinery.
Applied Concepts Ltd is also benefitting from the recovery, as we are witnessing an increase in sales.
How has your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) supported your business?
The Local Enterprise Office Offaly has assisted our business in lots of ways, such as:
Mentoring – they have provided us with mentors in areas such as accountancy, marketing, and manufacturing.
Feasibility Study Grants – we have received financial assistance towards research and development projects.
Business Expansion Grants – we have received financial assistance towards to purchasing of key capital equipment.
What’s next on the business agenda?
We will be launching a new style of air compressor, which we have been designing and developing for the past 12 months. New product development is a key focus within the company.
We will also be appointing an additional five overseas distributors throughout 2017. We already have distributors in Chile, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Belgium, Finland and in Ireland.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d have for someone starting a business in Ireland today?
Listen to your customers - treat all customers equally, whether they are spending €10 or €10,000 with you.
You were the national winner of the National Enterprise Awards in 2016, so what difference has that made?
It’s been a fantastic honor to win the National Enterprise Awards; it has helped us to gain trust faster from potential overseas customers.
For example, when we receive an inquiry from a potential overseas customer, we can encourage them to google our business and they will find many press articles regarding Applied Concepts Ltd, winning the overall National Enterprise Award. This helps inspire great confidence and trust.
For any companies entering the National Enterprise Awards in the future, what advice would you give to them?
Keep presentations to the point, have a beginning, a middle and an end. Discuss your future plans for the business and how you are going to achieve them.
Mark’s ‘Top Tips’ for success
- Top Tips around attracting new customers and keeping existing ones loyal…
Do the basics right and build a relationship with your customers. Communicate with your customer database monthly, via Newsletter with industry information and special offers.
- Top Tips around keeping on top of costs and cash flow
Cash flow projections should be completed on a weekly basis no matter how big or small a business is. Accept credit card as a form of payment, if possible.
In the business, we introduced “Steps to A Better Performing Business”. This records any suggestions by any members of the team, which may help to lead to a reduction in costs.
- Top Tips around getting the best out of your team
Give credit where credit is due.
Put key metrics in place - reward team members when they exceed targets.
Invest in your team, with training courses for example.
Our thanks to Mark for taking part and if you’d like to find out more about Applied Concepts and their products, please visit www.appliedpi.com