My Big Idea - Turning protein into gold at just 21
TEENAGERS around the country have been celebrating the fruits of their Leaving Cert in the past few weeks but Ciaran Greenwood (21) has done pretty well without it. The Limerick-born entrepreneur left Blackrock College before his final exams to trade gold online. He used the proceeds to launch his business V12 Shots, a protein drink sold in the UK.
"I have always been interested in trading, commodities and currencies. I decided the Leaving Cert wasn't for me and left to start an online trading operation, dealing in gold contracts. I did well and made good money out of it - enough to kick start my current business. It has been entirely self-funded - the company doesn't even have an overdraft facility.
"Alongside trading, I was also interested in the supplements industry. I took protein supplements while playing rugby at school and noticed these products taking off dramatically in the UK.
I saw a gap in the market for a convenience product. A lot of protein drinks and supplements have to be mixed and can only be taken once a day in a high dose. But the optimal way to consume protein is in small amounts throughout the day because your body can't store it in the same way it does fat.
"My shots do exactly that - provide small amounts, 60ml at a time, that don't have to be mixed and can be consumed multiple times every day. It's made from collagen protein rather than soy or whey, which are harder on the stomach.
"I started trading in August 2013 and now we are stocked by Ocado, a large British supermarket chain. I'm in talks with several others. The product is made in Ireland but we're not for sale on the Irish market yet. There is just less demand here. But it is firmly on the agenda within the next twelve months.
"I was recently approached by Europe's biggest protein manufacturer My Protein about launching a product together but turned it down because I want to grow the business on my own terms.
"Marketing is mainly done online, through social media channels and our website. The company also has a partnership with Wolves football club, a Championship (one rung down from the Premiership) football team in the UK. When I first set up the business I contacted lots of young athletes across a range of sports to get their feedback on the product. One was a Wolves player.
"He contacted their head of performance who really liked it, so that's where the partnership came from. The deal doesn't cost anything except that we provide their top team with free shots. The 30-man team go through about 250 a week.
"The biggest challenge so far has been my lack of experience. Everything I've done to date is the first time I've done it. I'm learning as I go.
"This is just the beginning. Trading and gambling are still a passion so I could see myself doing something in that field."