Irish Rural Regeneration Won’t Happen Without Risk Taking

casksarrivalrackhouse

As Rural As It Gets….

I left Ireland 20 years ago to go to University abroad and I did not return until last year when I set up this business. I did a crowdfunding campaign, converted a cowshed here on site into an office, I launched a Mentorship program, subsequently took on one of our Mentorees as a part time employee and have plunged a lot of our working capital into the local economy. I built a rackhouse and am now maturing whiskey on site.  I’m bringing on two graduates shortly as brand ambassadors and I’m converting a 16th century barn onsite into a tourist attraction which will create a future 2 jobs. In addition I’m applying for planning permission for a bottling line on-site creating additional part time work right here in County Clare.  I could have set my office up in London where my husband lives and where I commute to and from via the wonderful Shannon Airport. If I did  many things would be different and if I am honest a LOT  easier.

I set this business up here in a rural Townland on the West Coast of Ireland. I did it because I believe in this place, in this community and I love it here deep down. From a business perspective though I despair at what I have moved home to. Whilst I treasure the pace of life, the culture, the people and the phenomenal sense of community here I fear all of it is in peril. This part of Ireland has been utterly neglected by the Government since I left 20 years ago, as far as I can ascertain. Our once thriving local market town is dying on its feet with close to NO commercial or cultural investment by public bodies, the local community are keeping it going through sheer force of will and hard work. There are no proper transport links in the surrounding rural areas meaning those who wish to go for a pint in the evening no longer do and are in danger of becoming isolated.  It seems to me that Public services are mismanaged with little accountability and liable to close at the drop of a hat as our local Childcare facility did quite suddenly a few months without an explanation…..

But Sweet Mother of Moses,  the Broadband situation is unfathomable. I’ve travelled all over the world and in particular some poverty stricken villages and bits of jungle in South East Asia, I’ve had better internet connections in rural Filipino villages  than I do here in my office on the farm where my business is based. I’m calling bullshit on that. The reason our broadband is bad and that  it is totally fine in Dublin is because rural Ireland has been ignored.  We have less than 3rd world Wifi here, its a nonsense.

co-working

The Townhall the Unused Upstairs Portion of Which will Someday be a Co-working space 

I was happy to hear that as part of the Irish Governments rural regeneration program a co-working facility was announced in my local town of Kilrush. For me this is great news, it means I can hold meetings in a nearby easily accessible town. I can put some of my desk based employees there sometimes  and not have to cram them into our tiny converted cowshed. It should take about 2 months to make this happen. The upstairs of the Local Town Hall has been identified as the space, it would be great.  A co-working area needs a WIFI connection a printer, some desks and plugs, that is all. I created one in a cowshed, I know what it takes. I understand however that in fact it may take some time, like a LOT of time……Co-working  has just started to spread here in Ireland and you’ll see lots of facilities up in Dublin and in Galway, Cork etc. Its a new idea here and a new idea which is unproven means the idea could fail, someone would get blamed and that would be a RISK…

That level of (minuscule) risk is not acceptable to some it seems and therefore this project must now drag on forever until potentially it gets shelved when there is an election or some such.

I have no doubt committees will be formed and meetings will be held to discuss all of this in addition to fire safety, radon pollution issues, (HA!)  health and safety in the shared kitchen, if its even possible to have one SAFELY!!! and insurance. The thinking is that here in Rural Ireland exists a Claims Culture.  I lived in the USA and people over there sue Starbucks if hot coffee spills on them THAT is a claims culture. Before you worry about the  a claims culture, you need to assess the RISK of a bunch of entrepreneurs working in a co-working area.  Unless a strain of Ebola is let loose in the space on purpose as a government experiment, I won’t be making a claim for any injury sustained in a 3rd party co-working space, neither will any other business person. Also think of the benefit weighed against the risk. I would love nothing more than to meet like minded County Clare entrepreneurs for a  chat about potential collaborations in a space like this. It would fuel growth and potentially create additional jobs and export opportunities. I’m already doing this without this space, but this would make it a lot more efficient.

Progress does not happen without risk. Rural Ireland needs progress or it is going to die. Communities are going to become cut off and wither without transport solutions, businesses like mine will base their employees elsewhere due to lack of services and facilities. Entrepreneurs  won’t even CONSIDER basing themselves here without decent Broadband. The heart of this country lies in rural Ireland, it always has, this is what the world looks to when they think of this country. We need to preserve it. As an entrepreneur I am going to continue to do my part broadband or no…..Although there are days like today when I was trying and FAILING to SKYPE a potential customer in Sweden that I seriously consider leaving….

My ask is for our public bodies to have courage take the Risk on moving things forward we need that bravery to ensure Rural Ireland’s future. This Rural Regeneration program is a great initiative. Let’s Not Mess It Up….BE BRAVE.