How LEO Sligo supports helped Quickcrop sow the seeds of growth

How LEO Sligo supports helped Quickcrop sow the seeds of growth

 

Niall McAllister and Andrew Davidson are passionate about growing things – so it’s hardly surprising that through careful cultivation they’ve grown their Sligo-based online garden supplies company into a multi-million-euro business.

The two men met back in 2008 as their toddlers attended the same school. Passionate about growing their own produce they decided, a year later, to establish ‘Quickcrop’ noticing that people had lost touch with growing their own fruit and vegetables. Initially, they installed raised beds during the summer of 2009 at homes in Dublin but they knew if their new business venture was to succeed they’d have to be more ambitious and develop their idea.

The duo decided to ship raised-beds in their bags from Sligo to customers and provide them with everything they needed to garden from home; the soil, the seeds, the wood, the vital instructions, the lot. There was, of course, a high element of risk involved. While other companies were struggling Quickcrop was boldly venturing forward. “We found, quite quickly, that during the downturn people were exploring the idea of growing their own food. They wanted to reconnect with nature even if they were living in an urban setting. Some people were just spending a little to help them to do that while others were spending a lot more. It just seemed to hit a cord at the right time and was very accessible to people,” explains Niall.

A helping hand was so very important too. “Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Sligo gave us 50pc percent funding to put up Polytunnels in which to grow and soon we developed our online presence. “As both Andrew and I had spent years living in cities we knew what people needed to grow their own produce and we became a one-stop shop. By the end of year one we’d a turnover of €110,000,” explains Niall. But for Quickcrop.ie to work more investment and little initial return was an inevitability. “We didn’t take a penny from the business for the first two years. Everything was ploughed back into it and that’s why the help of LEO Sligo at that stage of our development was so important,” adds Niall.

As well as the initial grant for the Polytunnels, LEO Sligo assisted the fledgling company with developing its online presence, and with fitting out new office premises in the Ballymote Business Park. Support was also given to develop studio space where short Quickcrop video tutorials could be shot – they’ve already attracted over two million views online.

“I truly believe that without the support of LEO Sligo we’d be a year or two behind where we are at the moment in terms of progress and so we are eternally grateful for all their help from day one,” says Niall.

And what a journey it’s been. Once Andrew and Niall decided to export to the U.K, Europe and beyond the company’s business growth accelerated at pace. No other company was shipping raised beds. They took on employees and now have ten people working at their Ballymote base.

In 2016, Quickcrop - ‘The Veg Grower’s website’ - had a turnover of nearly €2million and each year its recorded growth of between 60 and 70 percent. Niall and Andrew hope to take on more employees as the business grows. “It’s really been fantastic,” explains Niall, adding “the success of the business means both Andrew and I can do what we set out to…to be successful in business, to employ some people but also to live in the North West of Ireland and enjoy life with our families. I came to Sligo 13 years ago, Andrew a year before that, to get out of the rat race and here we have the best of both worlds.”

So what next for the company?

“Well, partly because of Brexit, we’re looking at growing the business more across mainland Europe but also further afield - to America and beyond. Every day for example, we get enquiries from the U.S. about particular products and know that they would sell well if we focussed on marketing them more over there,” says Niall. He continues: “Also our business, to date, has been quite seasonal and we’re mainly busy between January and June. By looking for new markets in other parts of the world we’d hope to be busy all year around.” Hard work, decisiveness and cross-sector experience has helped QuickCrop to thrive but looking back Niall admits the assistance of Local Enterprise Office Sligo helped them to build at a vital stage.

“They got what we were trying to do from day one. That was so important for us, they could see what we could see and the potential that was there. The staff have always been so accommodating to us and our experience with LEO Sligo has been exceptional at every step along the way.”

 

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