How clash of ash in Dragons' lair yielded cash results
Hurling enthusiast Daithi O'Regan turned his passion into a web-based enterprise aiming to score abroad
ORIGINALLY from Broadford, Co Clare, I now live in Duagh, Co Kerry, where I set up handcrafthurleys.com last year. On returning from London, where I worked as a surveying engineer for 10 years, I worked in a family business in Tralee. Following this I was employed in Kostal, a major multi-national, until last year when they gave compulsory redundancy to a large number of the workforce.
Growing up in a family of five boys and two girls, with my father and mother both mad hurling people, we all played hurling. Attending St Flannan's College in Ennis, my love for hurling grew even more. I began playing hurling for Kerry in 1990. I had a few good years with the team before stopping at the age of 24, due to injury. Following this I began to coach hurling. Over the years this has continued with my setting up an online strength and conditioning course with Setanta College last year. This involves workshops once a month in Thurles, Co Tipperary. At home in Duagh in 2003 I got underage hurling started. On finishing work last year I set up a junior hurling team.
Hurling in Kerry? They think I am mad back in Co Clare. In Kerry and Duagh people's lives revolve around football. In order to get any help along the way, I had to learn to fight my corner when it came to hurling.
Running a hurling club from under-6 to junior level, I immediately encountered two problems. Firstly, it was hard to contact hurley makers. They can't juggle everything.
Secondly, since every player needed a different style of hurley it was not enough to source all the hurleys from the one hurley maker. This is where handcrafthurleys.com comes in.
Handcrafthurleys, an internet one-stop-shop source for hurleys, will succeed because it fills a niche.
There were 400,000 hurleys sold last year to 200,000 hurlers and camogie players. Thirty per cent of these were foreign hurleys.
There are over 100 hurleymakers in Ireland. Their hurleys are highly appreciated because, unlike factory-made hurleys, they can be customised to suit the particular needs of the user.
Every hurleymaker justifiably shows great pride in his hurley. Many will with enthusiasm list the prominent county hurlers that come to them for hurleys. The problem, however, is that it is hard to get your hands on such hurleys.
I met with The Irish Guild of Ash Hurleymakers last Monday in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, where the GAA was founded. They promote Irish hurleymakers and have a quality standard. There are over 400 people employed in the hurley industry in Ireland. If Handcrafthurleys can promote, market and sell Irish-made hurleys and stop people from buying foreign-made hurleys, I will then say it is a success.
We also produce gift hurleys, which can feature family crests, old teams, winning teams, famous players' names, and dates to mark special occasions. These picture hurleys are designed and finished to the highest standard by Phil Archibold. Handcrafthurleys is an eco-friendly business, in that we can use the second and third cuts on the tree for our picture hurleys. You can also upload your photograph to the internet.
Dragons' Den was a like a major business meeting with both sides looking for a good deal. I was very focused and had great faith in my business plan. I just went for it and had a bit of craic! My presentation lasted 60 minutes. Issues like Irish jobs, planting trees, our culture and heritage and our picture hurleys for the tourist industry were all discussed with the Dragons.
I was ready to take issue with Sarah Newman, on her involvement with DJ Carey's brother, who is making hurleys in eastern Europe. So when Sarah asked the production crew to cut filming, I was in shock. She announced that neither she nor DJ had anything to do with foreign-made hurleys any longer. She wanted to promote Irish hurleys and sell worldwide.
I was never going to give away half my business. I thought grand, Sarah won't move on equity, but then I was shocked again when Sarah came down to 15 per cent after a bit of time and questions answered.
Since the Dragons' Den appearance handcrafthurleys.com is in partnership with www.locallotto.ie to set up club shops. I have met most of the GAA licence holders, which guarantees Irish produced products and this side of the business will launch in two months' time. We have teamed up with Setanta College for SAQ Equipment and providing strength and conditioning coaches for clubs countrywide and running weekend breaks. We hope to bring home GAA teams from abroad for these weekend breaks. The aim is to bring teams home for training camps. Sarah will bring her www.needahotel.com business ideas into this side of the business.
I will be setting up a DJ Carey school of hurling in Duagh for everybody in the region to get hurling up to a better standard in Kerry. We also set up a website, www.duaghhurling.com
I got great help from my cousin Damien O'Regan with the website and Phil with the picture hurleys along with the hurleymakers that had faith in me. It is teamwork that will make handcrafthurleys.com an international success and help create Irish jobs.
My brother Fergal, European Ombudsman for Law in Brussels has, along with Sean Kelly MEP, given great advice to the business.
Handcrafthurleys.com will have a stand at the entrepreneur show in the RDS on April 23 to 24.