Ber Collins | Women in Business

To coincide with International Women’s Day, The Clare Echo spoke with some of Clare’s top female entrepreneurs. We learn about the biggest challenges they have faced in business as well as their favourite moments of being a business owner.

In Part One of our Women in Business feature, we spoke to Karen O’Connor of The Country Store, Emer O’Reilly of EBS, Ber Collins of Crystal Clear, Sarah Gould of Riverside Beauty and Gretta McMahon of Grettals Petals.

Karen O’Connor, The Country Store

Karen O'Connor

Tell us about your business:
A locally owned and operated retail store with a Bakery Deli and café with outdoor dining area

What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?

Local, fresh, quality, friendly, convenient

What are your most popular products or services?

Our baked goods are freshly made on site and our hot & cold deli is popular all day with locals and passing trade

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

I have loved the last 3.5 years growing and expanding the business and love meeting all the visitors to the store and café. It is great to be able to make decisions easily and make things happen to improve the business and services to the local community

What or who inspired you to start your business?

I always wanted to run my own business as my parents had done before me. I spent many years working hard for others and when I heard that the Country store was for sale I knew immediately that this was the opportunity for me.

What makes your products/services special?

All made fresh in store daily. We have local staff and we do our best to support Irish and local suppliers.

What is your biggest fear?

It is not really a fear but more of a challenge – as we are growing the business, we need to recruit staff and this has been a challenge. I also suppose another pandemic or when the war in Europe starts affecting supplies and the costs to run a business increasing could damage the ability to keep a business profitable.,

What motivates you on a daily basis?

Watching the business grow and being able to employ local people that all helps the local economy

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

You would have thought it would have been the pandemic, but this was actually kind to us as people stayed local and the business was able to continue to trade. However the greatest challenge recently has been the increased costs on raw materials and energy costs. It is much more expensive now to operate the business and I am always trying to improve the facilities in the business but increased costs of materials & labour makes it expensive. The business has so much potential and it will be a challenge to achieve all my goals.

Do you think there are any issues for women in the workplace?

I am sure there is in some industries but I am lucky as I have not had a negative experience throughout my career.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Plan it out carefully and get good advice; I was grateful I had great advice from friends and family that gave me the confidence to make that step

How do you relax?
I like to spend time with my friends and family; they keep me sane! We have lovely walks in the area so it is a great way to get some head space.

People may be surprised to know…

I have worked hard since I left school at 16 I did not do my leaving or Junior cert but loved working since that age and it has given me the experience so not all about collage and study.

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

I have had lots of moments…..when I opened the first day it was both exciting and stressful and I can still recall it. When I can see the business grow due to changes I have made in the business…this motivates me to keep going

For more information about The Country Store, visit their Facebook page or call (061) 473 977

Emer O’Reilly, EBS

Emer O'Reilly

Tell us about your business:
EBS Ennis, based in Abbey Street Car Park is a leading provider of home mortgages in Clare.

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

I feel a strong sense of responsibility to the communities we serve and I enjoy helping customers to get the best out of their mortgage journey.

What inspired you to start your business?

I took over the EBS in Ennis from my father in 2008 having worked alongside him since 2002. I trained as a secondary school teacher but opted for banking after working for EBS for a few summers in Dublin. My husband and I took over the Limerick branch in 2013 so we’re all in. It’s a family affair now.
What makes your products/services special?

EBS are mortgage masters. We are simply the best in the business. Locally we are best known for our expertise in the area of build loans and renovations and we recently launched our Green mortgage with our lowest ever fixed rate of 2.1% for homes with an energy rating of B3 or higher. Our suite of mortgage products ensures that we have something for everyone.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Easy. I opened my business here on the Monday morning after the banking guarantee was signed in October 2008. There wasn’t a mortgage to be had. With four great people, we worked tirelessly to restructure mortgages for people in real trouble and gave good advice when it was needed. It was hard going. We are a team of seven in Ennis now and we never forget those times.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Believe that you can and you will. Stay focussed on what you want to achieve and just go for it. Picking the right location is key and after that then, keep talking to people and making connections. There’s a time in every business when you have to decide to employ another person but you wonder can the business afford it. Go for it. You have to be brave to grow.

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

County Clare has many great female role models. I admire those who have been brave and who have achieved in their field. Senator Roisin Garvey, the first green and the first woman elected to Clare County Council from North Clare is doing great work in the areas of climate education and community activism. My good friend Anne Sheehan who I grew up with, is General Manager of Microsoft Ireland. She was always going to be a great leader. I knew that when she was 10!

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

Opening the second office in 2013 was a good day. I enjoy working with my husband John Cleary. He operates the Limerick office and I am in Ennis. The competition is healthy….. most of the time.

For more information about EBS home loans, please visit ebs.ie, email ennis@mail.ebs.ie or call 065 68 99600.

Ber Collins, Crystal Clear

Ber Collins

Tell us about your business:

Our tagline “Say Goodbye to Bottled Water” says it all. We collaborate with schools, colleges, SME’s, and Multi-nationals to help them reduce waste from single use plastic bottles through the installation of mains fed water dispensers.

What five words would you choose to describe your business?

Client-driven, communicative, flexible, and friendly

Most popular products:

Our contactless Versa Bottle Filler is very popular with schools and colleges and our Blupura units are popular with hotels and restaurants

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

I really enjoy watching the business grow because of the work we put in. I love the interaction with customers and the feedback when they are happy with the work we have done for them. I am delighted with the freedom it has given me to have a nice work/life balance.

What or who inspired you to start your business?

My husband and I have always had entrepreneurial spirits. We had a vision for a particular type of business and the opportunity came along to buy Crystal Clear in 2017. We grabbed it with both hands and have grown it to triple what it was when we bought it.

What is your biggest fear?

I let go of fear a long time ago. As I have a 100% success rate of surviving everything that has happened me so far my mantra, for a long time back, has been “I’ll handle it” and I know I have the ability to handle anything that comes my way.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Leaving a permanent, pensionable job 15 years ago because of illness after just buying a house at the height of the Celtic tiger. Great motivation to kickstart a new career.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Write down every memory you can of a time you were successful at something. No matter how small it is. Keep adding to the list. Dwell on every little success. Focus on the flow of money coming into the business and have gratitude for the money to pay your bills. A positive mindset is very important.

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of New Zealand). She understands the power of empathy and kindness.

What place inspires and why?

I’ve been going to Kilkee since I was 4 days old. Sitting on what we all call “Essie’s seat” on the Cliff Walk (my grandmother loved to sit there) I feel totally at peace.

People may be surprised to know…

That I am also a trainer in Holistic Therapies.

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

Winning Network Ireland Businesswoman of the year 2021

For more information about Crystal Clear Springs please visit www.watercooler.ie or call 0872561239

Sarah Gould, Riverside Beauty

Sarah Gould Riverside Hair and Beauty

Tell us about your business:
I own a custom built hair and beauty salon in Cree, catering for all hair and beauty needs.  Established 9 years ago and thrived since day 1, looking forward to celebrating 10 years in business in October 2022.

What 5 words would you choose to describe your business?

Successful, Innovative, Energetic, Passionate, Ambitious

What are your most popular products or services?

Wedding hair and make up, and all things nails. Most popular products are on skincare such as dermalogica and image and on hair products from alfaparf to Kevin Murphy.

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

I’m just so proud of how far I’ve come, starting out on my own and now having a fabulous team of 9 dedicated girls in a small west Clare village.

What or who inspired you to start your business?

My parents, who have always been self employed and driven in their careers.

What makes your products/services special?

The friendly welcome when you arrive into the salon and the passion the girls have in delivering a professional service always

Do you think there are any issues for women in the workplace?

I find that in various environments that women who try to work full time whilst try to maintain a family home, struggle with the work life balance and financial costs with childcare and supports and lack of facilities and more needs to be done to encourage women to get out into the workforce.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Go for it, but make sure you have a good therapist , ha ha !! No seriously if you put you heart into it, you will get the rewards just make sure you weigh up your pros and cons

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

Adi Roche for all she has done for Chernobyl and humanitarian rights.

How do you relax?
Beach walks with my 2 dogs Teddy and Poppy

People may be surprised to know…

I won the Rose of Clare in 2004 and I’ve also been to Africa on voluntary work which absolutely loved

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

Winning my very first “Team of the Year” award in Cork in 2018 with just a team of 4 staff at the time, and also for 2 years running in 21 and 22 an all star business award.

What are your future plans and what do you want to accomplish in business?

Lots coming to riverside hair and beauty in the next 12 months, we have new services coming very soon but I can’t reveal as yet but exciting times ahead.

For more information about Riverside hair and beauty, please visit www.rsbeautyshop.ie or call 0659059735

Gretta McMahon, Grettals Petals

Gretta McMahon

Tell us about your business:
We are very lucky to have the ability to brighten up peoples days by bringing them beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers. In December this year, Grettals Petals will be 10 years Blooming in Business, Here for you.

What are your most popular products or services?

Without a doubt, our Seasonal Hand tied bouquet is always a winner.

What do you enjoy most about owning a business?

Having the freedom to fulfil my dreams, no day is the same, I absolutely love my job.

What or who inspired you to start your business?

My mother, Mary Carey, as a child I was growing up in a farmhouse B&B with Pony Stud, in Bunratty. She was so enterprising. Was a wonderful role model, thank you Mom xxx

What makes your products/services special?

We pride ourselves on our long lasting flowers, presentation with pretty finishing touches which make us stand out.

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear would be losing the ability to use my hands, which rules out most dangerous pastimes!

What motivates you on a daily basis?

Looking forward to meeting people every day and hearing their lovely stories, and their reasons for ordering flowers, for their family. Friends and colleagues.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?

Moving my first shop from Skycourt shopping centre to Brú na Sionna. Even though it was practically just across the road, this was an enormous challenge to me.

What tip would you give women who are starting a business?

Believe in your dreams… believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Give it a good try. You’ll have to work very hard. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

What other female leaders do you admire and why?

Rita Gleeson, had the very successful Gleeson Jewellery shop in Skycourt shopping centre Shannon, for nearly 3 decades, and always gave me wonderful advice and encouragement when I was setting up my business. Thank you Rita.

What place inspires you and why? 

Illaunamanagh cemetery in Shannon.  Despite its beautiful location, I’m grateful for every day I have on this earth to spend with my family and enjoy this short life we have on earth, and continue to work with flowers which I absolutely love.

People may be surprised to know…

I love listening to Murder and Crime podcasts!

What has been your favourite moment as a business owner?

My first €15 sale on 7th December 2012, I’m so grateful, tears came to my eyes so many times since.

For more information about Grettals Petals, please visit www.grettalspetals.com or call 0851119993

Fb: Grettals Petals Instagram: grettals_petals

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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