Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Enterprise Town a 'fantastic opportunity'

A very solid attendance from Kilcullen's business and social community heard last night that the planned Enterprise Town Expo will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase what Kilcullen has to offer in both enterprise and community, writes Brian Byrne.

The launch and information event in the Town Hall was opened by Jo McMahon, Manager of Bank of Ireland Kilcullen, who took the attendance through the format of the Expo, planned for the weekend of 22/23 April. It will be held in the new Scoil Bhride Assembly Hall.

Jo McMahon outlined the range of events currently supported by BofI, including National Enterprise Week, the Catherine Judge Memorial Award bursary for third level music study, the Junk Kouture competition in which a Kilcullen team has already reached the final for this year, and the Give Together charitable initiative.

But the main topic was about the Enterprise Town, which has proved to be a major success in towns around the country where it has already been rolled out. She urged all those present to get behind the Kilcullen event, and a video of how the recent one in Mountrath gave a taste of what was possible.

Trish Ryan, Manager of BofI Thurles detailed how a similar event had worked there, with over 150 stands by local businesses and community groups showcasing what the town has to offer. She gave examples of how some of those businesses became aware of each other for the first time, and began cooperation with each others’ enterprises. “It’s a golden opportunity for everyone, so please spread the word to anyone you know in business or club activities to get involved.”

On behalf of the Kilcullen Enterprise Town Committee, Scoil Bhride Principal Anne Flanagan said such events were also very important in motivating students and challenging them to ‘think creatively outside the conventional box’. “It is important that they are encouraged by teachers, parents and the wider community to develop ideas, to refine and modify them and adjust to market forces and demands.”

Anne noted a number of achievements in Mini Businesses and competitions like the Young Scientists, which illustrate ‘ideas that amaze us’ and which are often ahead of recent IT and other technological advancements. “We must encourage, affirm, motivate and provide every opportunity for them to learn and experience what’s involved in being an entrepreneur,” she said. “Young people learn from experience, by doing, by seeing, by absorbing the culture, atmosphere, and values of the community wherein they live.”

She concluded with a note on the ‘thriving and vibrant’ community of Kilcullen where she has worked for 30 years. “If we could bottle and sell the community spirit that’s here, we could make a fortune.” She urged the business community, which supports the schools so well, to take part in this opportunity to showcase the community. “Let’s keep this town moving and developing and progressing, and let’s be the tide that lifts all boats here.”

Julie Kennedy, the BofI Regional Programme Manager for the SE Region, said it was very important for the business community of Kilcullen to support the event. “No matter what Jo and her committee will do, it won’t work without every one of you getting behind it,” she said. “We call it a Business and Community Expo because the community is invited in to see just what local businesses are in the town. It also works as a business to business network. There will also be a business panel, and the magic there is that there will be so much to learn on the occasion on the challenges you face, and how to overcome them.”

Julie also highlighted the importance of the Community and Sport Expo section of the weekend, which will also include the schools, and the overall mix will showcase what’s great about Kilcullen.

John Buckley from Kilcullen Lions spoke of the opportunities and challenges of running the kind of small businesses that make up more than nine in ten of the enterprises in this country.

He said the small business community within Kilcullen is a fantastic asset to the community, but small businesses need to be nurtured. The Enterprise Town Expos will help with this, he said, to make possible a showcase for small local businesses, and find areas for cooperation, including marketing. “These might not be totally apparent just now,” he noted, “but with a little creativity we can make those opportunities.”

John said the Expo is only 'tip of the iceberg', and can be used to build a foundation on which to continue on with relationships that may be forged during the event. “Other small towns around Ireland have achieved this already, either through this Bank of Ireland initiative, or on their own.”

He suggested that the businesses in Kilcullen get together under an association of their own, such as has happened in Sallins. “They set up their own website so they can market their businesses together, and also share legal and business information.”

The event concluded with refreshments in the Heritage Centre during which the kind of networking which knits local businesses together was very solidly got under way.

All the photos are here.