On the eve of the National Women's Enterprise Day, Edenderry Business Woman Talks About The Importance of Having a Robust Mentorship in Business
This Wednesday 14th October, marks National Women’s Enterprise Day, a Local Enterprise Office initiative showcasing women-led businesses all over the country. I’m joined today by local businesswoman and CEO of First Aid Training Ireland, Madeleine McGrath-Hanlon.
Read Time 5 minutes
Barry: Madeleine, you're very welcome to tcube
Madeleine: Thank you
Barry: Firstly, tell me about you; where are you from and how people around the town would know of you
Madeleine: I'm originally from Athy in Kildare and after some years in working in Dublin I moved to Edenderry to rear my children. I have five boys, four of them in Oaklands and the eldest studying to become a doctor in Trinity College Dublin under the scholarship of JP McManus.
I'd say most people would know me from my involvement in getting a playground in the town. We, the committee, got things done and it was a big success.
Barry: Talk me through your career.
Madeleine: When I left school I went to work in the accounts department in Allied Security Products. Back in those days you got promoted on your own merits, and I became their accounts manager and then ended up running the sales department aswell.
I then became pregnant with my first son, left ASP and moved to Edenderry.
After the playground project, I was approached to organise a branch of the Red Cross, and from what I learnt in that organisation I could see a profession I could do.
I was good caring for people and I became a healthcare assistant working part-time in one of our local hospitals.
After qualifying as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in 2017 I thought, ‘hold on a minute, there’s a business here in teaching first aid, CPR, manual handling and any kind of safety training.' That’s when First Aid Training Ireland, or FATI as we’re affectionately known in some circles, was born.
Barry: How important has mentorship been to you?
Madeleine: I have received amazing support by local businessman, who gave me the belief to go for it and to do it for my own career instead of charities all of the time - so I did!
Particularly Fechin Daly, the founder of Bretland Construction, got in behind me because he could see something in what I wanted to do. He is a great businessman for this town because he wants to see business in the town grow with start-ups. Not only did he give me amazing encouragement, he also supported me by making introductions to his business network on my behalf. Fechin also let me use Bretland’s training room for quite some time running off courses for the public and for businesses. As I said, he really wants to see small businesses succeed.
Barry: What other business people in the town have given you encouragement?
Madeleine: Very! I think that because of the charity work I'd done around the town, I became known as a 'do-er' which probably influenced the likes of Patrick Larkin, Nick Foley and others from the Offaly Local Development office to help me. Eden Safety, who are in the same industry, have given me work which I greatly appreciate.
Noel Cribbin, Noel Burke and John Foley have all been a great support to me too.
Mentorship is very important. I’d encourage anyone who needs help to reach out to these people.
Barry: What were the challenges you faced in the early days?
Madeleine: So finance to get set up and to buy equipment. As a very small business the challenge is in getting grants; there's an awful lot of red tape; if you don't own a premises but how can you own a premises without getting up and going? So I used my savings to get equipment and my car on the road. I was confident that once I could get a few courses out there my name would follow by word of mouth and then recommendations just started flowing in.
Barry: Are you finding any other challenges like administration, things that you never thought would take so much of your time?
Madeleine: I suppose marketing is my toughest challenge. Getting enough of it. I'm probably not educated enough about where to go and how to go about it. I always seem to be too busy to start on the marketing or event to go in to get training on the marketing. I'd love able to afford a marketing person or even a sales person; definitely I know if I had a salesperson out there, yeah, I'd be flat out.
Barry: Because of that do you see peaks and troughs in your business pipeline like really busy one month and then suddenly, because you haven't done any marketing, you're a little quieter the next month?
Madeleine: No, not really. I’m flat out every month although COVID is putting postponements in the way - I guess that would be my peaks and troughs ok. I probably have enough work to create 3 or 4 jobs but haven't got to that point yet because of the marketing and that I am so busy.
Barry: But you provide training further afield than Edenderry so in the absence of consistent marketing, how do you go about reaching out to your market?
Madeleine: Aside from Facebook, word of mouth and a little newspaper advertising, I subcontracted out to CPL Training Institution and got some gigs in the likes of Tesco, Aldi, Deloitte and Touche which then got me out as a good instructor. People want training delivered correctly and they want value for their money.
Barry: Working for yourself is hard. Have you you ever felt like quitting?
Madeleine: No. Because I think this can go as big as I want it to go. I absolutely love my company and I love my job. I will never quit it.
Barry: Tell me about the times when things just drop into place and you think ‘yeah!’
Madeleine: The first time you deliver a course and you know that there could be 10 follow up courses if you deliver it correctly. From the moment you start on day one you know you need to make an impression, and then the course goes so well and the feedback is just so fantastic. It’s a buzz! And then the phone call a week later to say ‘Madeleine, we'd like you to come back and deliver another course’. Yes!
Barry: Of course, customers are your best source of recommendations.
Madeleine: Yes, and successful training means great contacts grow very, very quickly.
I find that I don't have many dissatisfied customers. Even if other people have let me down I go in and repair or give a full credit. Finding really good quality instructors can be a real challenge at times. I'm very surprised at some people who just want the money but not deliver. Bad feedback really upsets me.
But I do have very understanding customers who'll give second chances. I’ve found that anything I've had to repair, I've held on to the customer because of reputation.
Luckily, I now have amazing instructors that I can just let loose.
Barry: Where do you see First Aid Training Ireland going say over the next 5 years?
Madeleine: I really hope we'll be a registered institution with Solas and PHECC because it would open opportunities to a bigger market. That’s my goal.
I can also see us having a premises here in the town and becoming a training institution. COVID has stopped this at the moment but I can see it happening in the next 2 years
Barry: On COVID, even though there are people losing their jobs at the moment some will use it as an opportunity to start their own business. In light of the National Women Enterprise Day, what would you say to the women who are thinking about this?
Madeleine: It's very difficult to run a family at the same time as your new business, but go for it because you do need something for you. And because it also works well for your family; they love to see their mum succeed, they love to see their mum in great form and they love to see their mum hyper.
Find out more about First Aid Training Ireland
Find out more about National Women’s Enterprise Day
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