- Give a brief description of your company.
I work freelance advising startups and SMEs and also running training workshops. Clients are either trying to enter the Hungarian market or expanding out of Hungary or business leaders needing someone to listen and unpack business challenges.
- How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
Having lived here since 2000 when I started working on FDI greenfield developments, I gained a broad range of experience which naturally lends itself to a advisory role. The concept developed naturally, rather than by design. However, maintaining autonomy over my time became a key driver following the birth of my children and my desire to be as involved as possible at home.
- Give a brief account of your education background.
I graduated in Manufacturing Engineering and more recently completed an MBA at the Central European University. I also completed a coaching certificate to help mentor clients.
- Did you always know/ ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
I think I am still on my journey to becoming a full blown entrepreneur. It’s a desire still to be realised but despite a couple of failed attempts hasn’t damaged the ambition
- Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
My father was always self employed and had his own fabrication shop, so I think you naturally grow up appreciating the difficulties while seeking the autonomy.
- Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I think as an independent advisor the main skills or knowledge you need are experience and the ability to communicate and influence people. I always felt I was good at influencing and creating momentum for change.
- What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I started on factory floors while at university. After graduation I spent 3 years in Ireland working for Bausch&Lomb before taking the opportunity in Hungary to establish a manufacturing facility here. I spent the first 13 years here working on setting up new operations for various companies. I spent 4 of those years setting up a construction management office supporting developers and investors. My last major greenfield project ended in 2011 and following a full-time Dad sabbatical, I decided to move towards the startup world which I am still active in.
- How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
Its a low cost operation so funding was less critical. Networking and business development are the key success factors.
- Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
Hindsight is twenty twenty and there have been many missed opportunities which could have lended themselves to sourcing funds in Ireland for opportunities in this region. Hopefully the next opportunity will provide similar chances to work with investors at home.
- Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
As a freelancer, you are always chasing a stable cash flow. While the autonomy and work-life balance are positives, the lack of a corporate steady pay cheque brings its own challenges. As I said above, staying visible, being conscious of your reputation and networking are the keys to surviving in this domain.
- What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Positivity, creativity and the ability to communicate effectively.
- To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
Being in a market with plenty of opportunities and having a western perspective with local knowledge.
- What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
We Irish love to say, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. And when you are living abroad this takes on even more importance. You don’t have the security of well establish networks coming from family or school friends, so you have to build this up. As well as that, maintain links to home is important [for me] and this is why I personally have invested so much time and effort into the Irish Hungarian Business Circle, and later iCham/IIBN over the last 14 years. I think it helps if you are extrovert as you get energy from being around people. I also worked with a startup utilising Network Science technology a number of years ago which gives you a whole new perspective on the value of diverse networks in innovation and developing your mindset.
- Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
It’s definitely a trendy word these days with the growth of startups and the tech revolution which makes it cheaper and perhaps easier to launch a business. The fundamentals of growth are the same however, despite new tools being available to help attract customers. I think the biggest change is due to the younger generations wanting more control and purpose over their lives which they can’t necessary get when working for larger corporates. SMEs and small businesses account for the vast majority of most economies and has always been this way. So, perhaps things haven’t changed that much.
- Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new startups again?
Absolutely. I would like to have a portfolio of interests aimed at achieving a passive income in the future. For me personally, I prefer to work with a part
ner to balance the stress and workload. Finding the right partners is arguably the biggest challenge as its like a relationship.
- If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
If you can, make the move before you have a family. I personally feel that spending as much time with your children when they are young is important. Time goes so quick. And balancing business needs while the demands of young children, is not easy.
Why do you think Irish networks should explore the CEE region?
The CEE is a huge market with lots of growth opportunities. The level of skills is impressive and the cost base is still relatively low. Especially in technical and science domains, the talent is excellent.. Depending on where, its a 3 hour flight from Ireland which makes it accessible. It’s still a relatively new market for many Irish, yet there are Irish networks all over the region to be leveraged. Anyone who has visited Budapest, Prague or Warsaw or many of the other secondary cities will find vibrant, energetic people and growing economies. So my advice would be to come out, spent a weekend break, connect with the local networks and start exploring the potential.