I've always had a distinct idea of what an entrepreneur looks like. He wears a suit, carries a briefcase and has a brass plaque with his name on it even though he works from home. But I've had to rethink this stereotype as I begin my own journey into entrepreneurship entirely briefcaseless.
In considering who the young entrepreneurs I admire are, I realised there is a quality that unites them, but it's not what they look like, it’s what they stand for. The great people of today, young or old, are the ones who replaced the words "recession" or "unemployed" with the words “doing something I love” or "opportunity".
They share a vision for a better Ireland that they’re translating into reality through positive action.
Looking at my generation rather broadly, it's easy to say we never aspired to change the world in the way our parents did - with banners and protests. But a kind consideration for our neighbour, our customer and our local community has arisen out of a decade that challenged our conception of what we thought the world was.
While the last wave of business founders had access to finance, our generation has access to a population that now sees the benefits of supporting local business, local community, creativity and the environment.
The Urban Farm being built on the on the Rooftop of The Chocolate Factory by Andrew Douglas and Paddy O’Kearney is one of these positive businesses. They’ve built a farm that demonstrates sustainable methods for growing food and keeping fowl, fish and bees within a city environment.
Pictured: Dublin's Urban Farm, rooftop farm currently under construction
And it's not just environmentally aware for it's own purposes. They're building facilities to provide workshops that teach responsible food production, energy-saving systems and community self-sufficiency. Andrew and Paddy’s intent is to catalyse social change, increase sustainability and improve city spaces. Their business is a model that could be replicated on rooftops across the country.
A feeling of cooperation seems to preside over competition amongst the people starting things here. There's an atmosphere of mutual support that is alluring and infectious. Enterprise is the party you want to be at. The cool kids didn't go to Canada or Dubai. They stayed here and they're working their ass off to do things that make this country a more interesting place to be.
The always lovely, style icon Blanaid Hennessey began her entrepreneurial journey as a fashion and interiors blogger who decided to sell vintage fashion pieces and set up shop in Kilkenny. What differentiates Blanaid from the self titled 'boutique bitches' of the celtic tiger era is an attitude of 'friendly fashion'.
Her biggest priority is the customer and ensuring they're happy and satisfied. You get that vibe from her straight away but it’s affected how her customers/fans treat each other too. It's not about being the trendiest, it's about everyone telling each other they look amazing and being sparkly together.
Blanaid goes so far as to let her facebook fans know when she's going on buying trips in case there's anything they want her to look out for. This customer focussed attitude has resulted in a loyal 14,000+ facebook fans on the Shutterbug page and 9,000+ on their online store Folkster.com's page. Blanaid’s empire is growing quickly but the customer care and culture has stayed the same.
The entrepreneurs I look up to are your neighbour, your cousin or your friend of a friend. They’re the people establishing business practices that benefit their life as well as the life of their fellow human. With priorities that I see as different to the businesses of yesteryear, they can capitalise on the inherent goodness of their business to make a sale instead of using fear to convince you that you need to buy.
Noble principles in place, along with a nationwide resolve to do things better this time, mean word of mouth marketing is taking their survival and turning it into success. It's an exciting time to venture down the road of entrepreneurship, I only hope I can live up to the precedents laid down by those I've been inspired by.