Sunday 25 September 2016

My big idea: Printer ink gone again? This startup wants your business

Published 07/05/2015 | 02:30

Donal Ryan, Thomas Bullman
Donal Ryan, Thomas Bullman

Donal Ryan (38) is the co-founder, along with business partner Thomas Bullman, of online printer sales company Madinks. Launched late year, it recently won an Eircom Spider award and is changing the way Irish people shop for printers.

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"There are a couple of products and sectors which have totally fallen behind in terms of e-commerce, and printer equipment is one of them. Printer cartridges are one of the top three products bought online globally.

But the big Irish suppliers have very clunky websites, or are still selling via catalogues. We realised there was a big opportunity for an innovative company selling these products online.

Tom and I met in UCD, on a graduate programme in business and law. We both left behind comfortable jobs in multinationals to build our start-up; I was a projects manager for Johnson and Johnson and Tom worked for finance firm Legal and General.

The end result, Madinks, makes it easy and cost-effective for Irish people to buy printer cartridges. Delivery is cheap and our products come with a three year guarantee.

We spent about a year developing the website, building most of it ourselves. One of the most time-consuming parts was optimising the site for search engines. Because we don't sell in physical stores, our website is our shop floor.

It is so important that people can reach it easily. Being on page one of Google is like buying a shop on the busiest street in town, rather than on a little alley on the outskirts.

Search engine optimisation requires much more than just using the right keywords; we blog every day and are active on multiple social media platforms.

It has paid off - our site has just reached page one of Google when you search for terms relevant to what we do. We spend about three hours a day working on SEO.

We have between 300 and 400 visitors to the website every day and about 1,000 customers registered. That spans a wide variety of industries as well as individuals.

We don't have to sell directly even to big corporate clients; they are finding us online just by searching.

Though we have funded the business ourselves until now, we are starting to look at grants and other forms of finance. Government funding via Enterprise Ireland doesn't look like an option; it seems geared towards manufacturing and food businesses rather than e-commerce."

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