Cash-rich, time-poor? Killian will fix it
Killian Bewley Poynton tells Sean Gallagher how he has built a business organising innovative travel and events for the super-wealthy
If you ask most people what their ideal job or business would be, you will likely get answers that include opportunities to travel and be involved in fun and exciting activities and experiences. And this week's entrepreneur certainly scores high on these fronts.
Set up in 2005, Killian Bewley Poynton runs Greenbird Ltd. With offices in Dublin and in Cannes, France, the company organises high-end tailored travel and luxury events for those who might class themselves as being cash-rich, yet time-poor.
Hailing from the Bewley family, and with 10 staff and a turnover of almost €1m per year, Killian is well on the way to building his own successful business empire.
I met Killian in Howth Yacht Club. He had flown in from Cannes, where he now spends much of his time. He told me about his exciting lifestyle and the type of clients with whom he works. For many of us, whose idea of a good holiday involves a week in West Cork or Portugal, the world in which Killian's clients live is almost beyond our comprehension.
"Our private clients are typically high-net-worth individuals who don't have time to organise and plan their own vacations - so they ask us to do it for them," explains Killian. "For example, one client might call me and say, 'I want to spend a week in the Maldives with my wife or girlfriend - can you organise everything for me?'"
He has many private clients who contact him from all over the world, with most coming from Europe, the US, Russia and the Middle East. He also works with many corporate clients such as banks and financial institutions for whom he organises customised itineraries and exclusive excursions for their top executives or best customers.
Some of the most popular services offered by Killian and his team include private jet and yacht charters, organising private islands and exclusive property rentals, providing premium flight transfers and VIP assistance at airports as well as local travel assistants, chauffeurs, interpreters and guides. They also organise VIP access to events such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the Cannes Film Festival or racing at Ascot, as well as personalised shopping trips to New York Fashion Week or styling events in Paris. They look after every detail, and can also source unique gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, engagements and anniversaries.
"We organise luxury accommodation complete with butler service, gourmet experiences and fine wine - whatever the clients want. We'll even help them source exclusive local art works to add to their collection if that's what they want," explains Killian. "But it's not just about private jets or top rated luxurious hotel suites on the beach, it's also about originality, convenience and the high level of planning, personal service and attention to detail that goes into delivering an experience that is both special and memorable."
What have been some of the most interesting events he has organised?
"We recently organised a trip to Thailand for a wealthy family that included flying by private jet to Bangkok, chartering a private yacht so that they could go island hopping for a week, before being dropped off at the Six Senses resort on Koh Yao Noi for a massage and then on to stay - first-class - at a luxurious resort in Phuket.
"We organised a team of Malaysian chefs to travel with the family on the yacht because they like Malaysian food, arranged for them to go scuba diving, snorkelling and jet-skiing during the day, and then laid on private barbecues on the beach for them at night," explains Killian.
"To wrap up their break, we had them pay a visit to Langkawi Island where they got to explore the wildlife park, take a cable car and do a jungle walk," he adds with a smile. "It was great fun."
He once organised a birthday surprise for the wife of a wealthy Russian client where he rented a famous French stately home - the Château le Vicomte - for the weekend.
He sourced a white Maybach car the client requested, brought in a top Michelin chef to cook for the couple and even flew the woman's favourite band all the way from the Maldives to entertain the couple over dinner on a balcony that looked out over the château's beautifully manicured gardens.
After dinner, and because the event took place during France's famous Bastille Day celebrations, he arranged for a fireworks display. And as a finale to their trip, Killian had thousands of butterflies specially flown in which were released into the air on the couple's last night.
He also recently looked after the king of Saudi Arabia and his entourage when they stayed at the king's palace outside Cannes. This involved organising 100 chauffeurs and 40 cleaners to be available on a 24/7 basis for the week.
"We had to scour Europe to get these in time as we only had 30 days in which to get everything ready," explains Killian. "We even arranged for some of the local supermarkets to stay open around the clock, as well as constructing a purpose-built lift to take the king from the beach up to the palace above."
Killian grew up in Stillorgan, Dublin. A member of the famous Bewley family, his father owns Bewley's in nearby Blackrock where Killian worked part-time in his teenage years. But his main passion was golf - so much so that after school, he studied golf management at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he set up his own golf-course management company in Cannes, where he worked for the next 10 years. It was here he met his wife, Natasha. Originally from Russia, she now works with him in the business.
His well-to-do golf clients began asking him if he knew where they could get tickets for soccer matches that were already sold-out or if he could organise a private yacht for a week's sailing trip to the Indian Ocean.
"I realised I relished these challenges," he says. "Whereas many others might have struggled with such requests, I discovered that I had the ability to deliver on these and got great satisfaction out of finding solutions to diverse demands.
"Over time, it seemed that the right thing to do was set up a company specifically to organise events for people who had money but very little time to do these things themselves. So Greenbird was born - things grew from there."
It's a business that must require incredible attention to detail?
"It does," agrees Killian. "Natasha and I are a great combination in the company. I look after sales and she looks after operations and is really meticulous in planning every itinerary or event. And she never takes no for an answer when dealing with suppliers or service providers."
"It can be challenging to keep finding new and novel ideas for clients. But that's both the challenge and the fun in what we do. We always find a way to say yes to whatever our clients want. Sometime this can be incredibly hard, but it is also very rewarding and satisfying when you turn a new client into a repeat customer," he insists.
He recalls one challenge where he had to find a rare orchid as a present for the wife of one of his wealthy Russian clients. Not only did he source the orchid, he even managed to have it called after the man's wife by registering it with the International Registration Authority for Horticultural species.
With increasing numbers of clients now coming from the US and the Middle East, Killian has plans to open two new offices, one in New York and one in Dubai.
As his business grows, he remains conscious of the need to balance a desire to scale the business with the need to retain the focus on high-quality service and the personal touch required to create a new and enriching experience for each client.
As we say our goodbyes, Killian tells me he is off to arrange a 30-day trip to the US for a client that involves 11 different cities, chauffeur-driven cars, tour guides, shopping trips to top fashion outlets in each city as well as a different dinner reservation for each night. I tell him that I don't envy his task.
"Ah no, I love it. The more challenging it is, the better the satisfaction I get from sorting it out," he says with a smile.
Setting up and running a business is never without challenges. However, loving what you can make all the difference. It certainly has for Killian Bewley Poynton.
For further information: www.greenbirdcompany.com
Killian's advice for other businesses
1. Enthusiasm and determination
"Nothing comes easy in business. You have to start with a good idea, something people will pay for. Then you have to be willing to work really hard. You can never afford to cut corners. Being enthusiastic and determined and never giving up are essential traits for success."
2. Get the right people from the start
"All businesses rely on good staff and good service partners to be able to deliver for customers. Try to identify people who are service-oriented, who have the same commitment to quality and customer satisfaction that you have and build a long-term relationship with them."
3. Be original - don't copy others
"Originality and ingenuity sells. Be creative and don’t be afraid to find your own way of doing things. Sometimes being different can be the very thing that sets you apart from your competitors. While you can learn from others, focus on carving out your own unique style."
Sunday Indo Business