By Stuart Holly
FITTING a year into a 450-word article is one of the easier tasks I’ve asked myself to carry out in the last year.
Challenging none-the-less (here I am wasting words already), as anyone who starts a business will tell you there’s at least a chapter in it.
Some time in the spring of 2017 I finally listened to the voice in my head telling me to set up a media company. There was trepidation – I was comfortable in my role as news reporter at The Clare People – but
once I decided, there was no turning back.
The Clare Echo had many monikers through conversations with my wife, family, friends and colleagues… The Clare Tribune, Telegraph, Post, Standard, Gazette, Guardian, Journal, Observer, Clare Today, The Clare Examiner. All were observed and examined and I settled on Echo as I liked it more every time I heard it back (I’ve developed a love of puns since my time working for the Irish Daily Star).
What I found out quickly was that the name mattered little. The people I surrounded myself with mattered. They would be the ones responsible to help drive The Clare Echo into the future. My first employee, graphic designer Ciara McEntee (who nobody has put in more hours than) is hugely responsible for our newspaper design from its inception, including the logo. Unfortunately Ciara says farewell to us next month, one of the many challenges we’ve faced.
The first big surprises all landed on my lap on the week we first went to print.
Storm Ophelia came on the Monday. I sat in our empty offices on O’Connell Street for the day as the wind kept nearly every employee in the county behind closed doors. It also put us behind schedule
which led to surprise number two, when we missed our print deadline. The unforgiving world of newspaper print quickly dawned on me as I was told that our first ever paper wouldn’t be hitting shelves until Thursday evening, eight hours behind
schedule. It hasn’t happened since. Then, when 12,000 papers arrived in my garage (our original distribution depot) I got a huge shock on seeing a faded front page
picture. I then had to learn very quickly about processing photos for newsprint.
But good surprises have outweighed the unwanted surprises. The goodwill from local businesses when we started out was heartening; putting their trust in a new publication to carry their message to customers and believing in our vision – or
in some cases just giving us a chance. The reaction from readers was another delight.
Even in week one, when a man named Tommy called the office to tell me that he wouldn’t be picking up the paper again due to the lack of GAA coverage and the inclusion of a report on girls rugby. That gave me such a buzz, that Tommy picked up our paper and cared enough to call.
Since then, he’ll be glad to know, we’ve added Martin Daly as a GAA analyst.
These days, thankfully less people are calling to complain and more often than you would believe, they call into the office or phone just to say thanks. They also call asking us to cover their events and we do as much as possible with camera in tow to cover the likes of agricultural shows, regattas, school and charity events. We’ve partnered great local organisations such as the Run Clare Series, Club Clare, Ennis Tidy Towns, and Ennis Chamber.
Going back to mid-spring when there was no turning back. I believed I had the drive and skillset to produce what is now The Clare Echo and I was prepared to put in the research. But most importantly I had a passion for the vision I held. I’m
not one for advice because in my opinion everything must be learnt through experience, but the best advice I could give is; follow your goal only if you’re prepared to make that passion your life.
Finally, a sincere thank you to everyone reading this column from the bottom of my heart.