'When you are a challenger brand, you need to establish a distinctive brand identity...'
'I always liked the shorthand version of George Bernard Shaw's maxim: 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't teach, consult.'
"In 2012, after 23 years as a chartered accountant who consulted and advised all my professional life, I decided to take the plunge and set up Pinergy - a retail business selling electricity. There have been a few significant learnings along the way.
"Fundraising is difficult at any time - but setting out to do it in the middle of Ireland's biggest recession was very tough and time-consuming.
"We learned quickly not to rely on the banking sector. In fact, I was told at one stage by an Irish bank that it would be easier to support us if we weren't growing! Instead, we have a lot of individual investments in the form of equity and loan notes. These investors say they have backed us because we had identified a market segment with real potential and because we had a strong commitment to innovation.
"When you are a challenger brand, up against the might of large competitors, some of them decades old, you need to establish a distinctive brand identity that sets you apart. We saw first-hand the value of a strong brand ambassador.
"Paul O'Connell has been with us from the start. He's not just a shareholder, he passionately believes in the company, our ambition and the great staff we have. When you don't have big advertising budgets, a brand ambassador is worth multiples of his weight in gold.
"When you're starting a new business, you also have to make sure there is a distinct gap in the market you can fill. For us it was prepaid electricity. And the recession created an initial demand from consumers struggling with bills.
"Opportunities to innovate will often present themselves in the most traditional industries. The electricity market was and still is crying out for customer-centred innovation. Every brand has to be based on a basic and unique truth that you 100pc believe in. In our case it's use less, pay less.
"Helping your customer use less of your product is not an intuitive route to business success. But we have learned that by helping customers use less electricity, we can grow our customer base and continue to grow our company."
Sunday Indo Business