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Successful business moving with the times

‘The range of product offering has evolved and changed over time, with each generation bringing their own decisions and choices into the business’

Deep in the heart of Wicklow, yet only 30 minutes from Dublin, is a treasure of the Garden County – Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy.

Specialising in clothes from smart to casual, with accessories and gifts, it encompasses a variety of retail and business services under one roof – including its relaxing café/restaurant to chill out and enjoy this pleasant corner of the county. “We are second generation, and I am the second family member to run it,” explains Rebecca Harrison.

Fishers is a family business that began when the previous generation, who were sporting enthusiasts, discovered a gap in the market for well-made athletic gear. Having begun in 1980 under the stewardship its original owner/managers – Harrison’s parents plus aunts and uncles – she took the reins herself in 2010.

“While I’m the managing director, my sister, Charlotte Errity, and brother in law, Eoghan Errity, both work in the business too. They work part-time – Charlotte in payroll and finance and Eoghan manages the products on the website and our IT.”


The range of product offering has evolved over time, with each generation bringing their own decisions and choices

Harrison explains that while the sporting aspect was what originally established the business, it is now a much smaller part of our expanded offering.

“The range of product offering has evolved and changed over time, with each generation bringing their own decisions and choices into the business to suit the customers and their changing tastes down through the years.”

Happy to move forward with a “constant evolution” as the times demanded, Harrison readily agrees that the past two years of Covid has seen a number of necessary changes.

“We are a relatively young family business in comparison to many, but even in our 43-year history we have coped with a number of recessions, foot and mouth disease, flooding – all sorts of challenges where we’ve had to regularly regroup and examine better and more efficient ways to run the business and cater to our customers.”

The ability to draw upon the family experience was key to keeping the business afloat and thriving through the various downturns and difficult periods, she agrees: “It was tremendous to have that direct family experience and wisdom so close to hand to call upon during those challenging periods.

“Also, of course, so many of our staff have been with us for such a long time, which is another area of experience that has been incredibly beneficial to Fishers down the years. That combination of family and staff makes for a wonderful source of wisdom and mentorship as the businesses progresses through the years.”

The arrival of Covid-19 and the resulting closures of businesses all across the country forced Fishers to take stock of yet another challenge – but one quite unlike any other in the company’s history. “We were lucky in having invested considerably in our website before the pandemic hit, and the forced closure of the shop gave us time to redirect our resources to the online story.”

Harrison underlines the importance of an Enterprise Ireland grant, in addition to the government’s pandemic payments – both of which effectively helped keep Fishers and its staff intact through those many challenging months.

Our staff are like family and keeping us all together was a hugely satisfying outcome

“Our online sales improved 900 per cent –albeit from a very small base to start with – but helped hugely in keeping the business viable.”

Having managed to keep all the staff employed – apart from a handful who took the opportunity to retire – Harrison considers this one of the major successes of the past few years.

“Our staff are like family and keeping us all together was a hugely satisfying outcome, especially when so many other enterprises around the country didn’t experience such a happy outcome,” she says.

Today, Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy still retains that family ethos upon which it was built - but now driving forward as a fitter and leaner 2022 concern. Having come a long way from its 1979 founding by the three Hughes siblings and partners, it has grown from a small country-clothing outfitter to an 11,000sq ft hub of retail activity that includes a menswear shop, ladies boutique, gifts, homewares and children’s clothing department.

They have also brought in other complementary businesses; a hair salon, bed and bedding store, artists workshop/gallery, and an award-winning cafe. Run by Rebecca, Charlotte and Eoghan, the Fishers’ ethos continues to be built upon the core values of excellent personal customer service and a range of best quality products.

Eco-smart business perks up for global markets

Great ideas can happen at the most unexpected times – the trick is to see their potential value and act upon it.

Such was the case with Mailo Power, who sat at her kitchen table wanting to contribute a solution to the growing environmental crisis. Monkey Cups began with a sketch at that kitchen table, and has since gone on to become a growing commercial enterprise with ambitions to take it even beyond Ireland’s shores.

“At the time I wasn’t thinking of starting a business, but simply wanted to come up with a solution to this growing environmental crisis.”

With 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, Power saw the growth of Ireland’s coffee culture and the popularity of our daily caffeine ‘on the go’ as an opportunity to be exploited.

Keen to combine the growing coffee culture with a sustainable idea toward the growing green wave sweeping the country, Monkey Cups was established in 2018.

“It wasn’t our intention to set up a business, but I was very concerned about the amount of disposable cups we were going through in our hotel business. So I set about getting custom branded reusable cups for the hotel.”

Spurred on by support from Power’s family, friends and the Local Enterprise Office in Waterford, the Monkey Cups journey started in earnest.

“Our Local Enterprise Office could not have been more supportive when I discussed my idea with them. I got great advice about applying for a feasibility grant and was put in touch with some excellent mentors who were invaluable in advising me how to take Monkey Cups to the next level.”

A new concept in Irish designed barista standard reusable coffee containers, Monkey Cups are durable, versatile and environmentally friendly – all of which are helping to turn the tide on single-use plastic waste invading the environment.

Although there were hurdles along the way with prototype functionality testing, it eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise.

“My research led me to begin collaborating with a local injection mould company that subsequently enabled production to be moved to Waterford from China, which was an added benefit in being a boost to the local economy.”

Our research has helped us identify our customers and develop a sales strategy that suits our company's identity and business model

LEO Waterford put Monkey Cups forward for Showcase Ireland – a perfect platform for Mailo to launch her product to national and international buyers.

“The advantage of attending Showcase Ireland is you get really focused on getting your product ready for market. The mentoring we received from LEO Waterford prior to the show was so beneficial. We hit the ground running and were able to comfortably and confidently talk to people knowing what information decision-makers required in advance.”

The good idea that began at Power’s kitchen table in 2018 has proven even more durable than her wildest dreams, and she is  now looking to export markets for this sustainable addition to the international coffee market.

“Our research has helped us identify our customers and develop a sales strategy that suits our company’s identity and business model. Initially we are focusing on the Irish market, however, we have plans to eventually move into the UK and Sweden.”

For all family businesses out there, Power advises “work on your business, not in your business. Every minute spent on tasks that can be delegated is a minute spent not planning, strategising and building the best possible business.”

One of the most important aspects of a family business is having each person be responsible for a particular area

With many supports available, such as the Local Enterprise Office network, every business can call on vast reserves of experience and support: “If there is an area you are inexperienced in, ask for help. Find a mentor who is an expert in that field - their experience can save you time and money, both of which are often in short supply for start-ups.”

Business is very much part of Power’s family DNA, with various strands involved in retail and hospitality down the decades.

“One of the most important aspects of a family business is having each person be responsible for a particular area, and recognising their talents within that area. In many ways Covid has led us on a journey where we learned the importance of playing to our individual strengths to the overall benefit of the company.”