Friday 28 April 2017

My Big Idea: Entrepreneur who quit college to pursue his teen startup dream

Gearoid Spellman
Gearoid Spellman
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Gearoid Spellman (25) is the founder of Vitalrate, a Galway business selling wristbands and other promotional material.

"I founded the business aged 19, not long after doing my Leaving Cert.

I started a degree in business studies but realised pretty early on that it wasn't for me, that I was better off trying my own thing.

I looked at a couple of ideas and silicone wristbands, which were really popular at the time, seemed like an opportunity.

I started small, buying 100 silicone wristbands - the type that are commonly sold by charities - from a US supplier online, and approaching sports shops with them.

I got a great response and several orders and it went from there.

Sales have increased every year for the past six; I estimated I have sold over one million. My customers include everyone from gift shops to schools to Easter 1916 event groups. I secured a dedicated manufacturer in China in 2013.

I have added many other products to the business over the years. I sell a range of promotional products now, from lanyards to car fresheners and lapel pins. I also supply admission wristbands for events like festivals, which have to be quite secure.

I run the business almost entirely by myself, from tidying the office and packing orders to sales pitch to international companies. My next goal is to break into the UK market. This is a tough challenge and can take years to develop but I have received huge interest from UK buyers to the point that I now need UK sales agents to manage the customer base within the UK.

The biggest challenge came in year two. I tried a new product that did not work - 3D air fresheners - and was left with a lot of dead stock.

It put the business under a lot of strain for the next year and it was tricky to cover business loans from AIB and the credit union.

But I just kept going and took the business back to basics and got through it. My business loans are long paid off, I'm glad to say."

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