Laois Chamber CEO Caroline Hofman caught up with Laois Chamber member, David Walsh-Kemmis, Founder and Managing Director, Ballykilcavan Brewing Company located near Stradbally.
Tell us a bit about Ballykilcavan Brewing and what is different and compelling about what you offer?
We get asked that question a lot! The craft beer scene is very crowded, so it’s really important to be able to stand out.
Apart from the quality of the beers we make, we would say that the three most important things about us are our story, our ingredient provenance and our sustainability credentials.
The brewery is set on our 13th generation family farm just outside Stradbally, which gives us lots of stories to tell our customers.
All our beers are made with water and barley from the farm, and we make the only 100% Laois beer in the world every autumn with our own hops as well, and we’ve made sustainability a core part of the business.
We get audited every year on our energy, water and plastic reduction; we’re generating our own power from solar panels on the brewery roof; we are members of the All-Ireland pollinator plan and have wildflower and wild grass meadows around the brewery, and we’ve just come second overall in the sustainability category of the national DBI Awards.
When was Ballykilcavan Brewing established, and how has it grown since then?
My wife, Lisa, and I established the company in 2016. We brewed our first beers using equipment in a different brewery in 2017 and opened the on-farm brewery in December 2018.
Since then, we’ve grown our local sales, been taken on by a national distributor, started to export for the first time and renovated the 200 year old mill building beside the brewery to create our new visitor centre.
Can you highlight some recent key achievements/news at Ballykilcavan Brewing?
It’s been a busy few months here! We’re currently installing six new fermenters, which will nearly double the capacity of the brewery.
That’s mainly driven by export sales which are starting to come back strongly after the pandemic.
We’re also applying the finishing touches to the new visitor centre beside the brewery and we’ll be launching that at the end of March. Tourism and events are going to be a big part of the future of Ballykilcavan, so we’re really looking forward to being able to welcome people here again.
We were delighted to come second in the nationals DBI Awards for best sustainable business, because it’s something that’s really important to us.
We’ve also qualified for the finals of the national Small Firms Associations awards in two categories: Outstanding Small Business and Best Sustainable Business. Judging is at an event in the Aviva stadium in early March, and the winners will be announced in April.
For any business considering locating in Laois, what would you say are the best things about being located in Laois?
The location in Laois is a huge benefit to us. It’s easy to get our beers distributed to all parts of the country, and the tour operators we deal with find it very handy to be able to get into the county easily and then just pop off the motorway to come and visit us.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to live and work in Laois, the work life balance is also great – there’s so much to do and it’s all so close by.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?
For us, starting out a food business, we were always advised to make sure that the product was top-quality, but that there were an awful lot of other things that you have to get right as well to create a successful business.
We actually found that the distribution within Ireland was the hardest thing to work out, but we also had to think about our branding, marketing, finances, pricing and negotiation skills.
I run our social media accounts, which are really important for us, and we’re lucky to live on a farm with a lot of variety of content. We’re also blessed to have Penhouse Design just up the road who have created a great set of brand assets based on our griffin family crest.
Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time with Ballykilcavan Brewing?
The main reason we set up the business was to secure the future of the farm at Ballykilcavan, both for us and for future generations.
So far, we’ve achieved that by growing organically, and that’s going to be the strategy for the next five years as well.
For beer sales, there is huge scope for exports. Currently we’re just exporting to Northern Italy and to two regions in France, but there is a lot of untapped potential in other areas now that we have the extra brewing capacity.
On the tourism side, I would like Ballykilcavan to be recognised, nationally and internationally, as a high-quality destination for discerning travellers, and for us to be part of a package of places to go to in Co Laois.
What’s coming up?
Laois Jobs Fair
Hugely successful Laois Jobs Fair set to return once again next month. The event will follow on from the success of the inaugural 2020 event which attracted a crowd of 2,500 attendees through the doors of the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise.
This year’s event will take place again in the Midlands Park Hotel on Tuesday, April 12 from 12pm to 8pm with the tag line, ‘Get a New Laois of Life’.
Visit www.laoisjobsfair.ie to register if you are interested in attending the 2022 Laois Jobs Fair, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information if you are interested in exhibiting or supporting the 2022 Laois Jobs Fair.
Join Local Enterprise Office Laois in cheering on the various Student Enterprise teams across Laois as they prepare for the upcoming County Finals on 29th March. We wish them all the best of luck. Learn more at https://studententerprise.ie
Local Enterprise Office Laois are offering free Digital Marketing training for your, your small business team or your interns.
Check out their wide range of digital marketing sessions and topics for Laois businesses in March and April. Find more course information and book your place at https://bit.ly/LaoisBizTraining
Laois Chamber Networking Event
Join Laois Chamber at their next Networking Event on Thursday 31st March from 8.30am to 9.30am in The Maldron Hotel, Portlaoise. Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board will give a presentation on “Boosting your Business by Upskilling your Employees”.
E-mail email@example.com to register.
Laois Chamber members helping with the Ukraine Crisis
Staff at Laois-based IT firm Ortus Technology completed a virtual cycle from their head office in Abbeyleix to Kyiv – a distance of 3,117km – to raise vital funds for UNICEF and the Ukraine appeal.
UNICEF is working across Eastern Ukraine to scale up life-saving programmes for children. This includes transporting safe water to conflict-affected areas, prepositioning health, hygiene and emergency education supplies as close as possible to communities near the line of contact.
To make a donation, please log on to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ortus-raceforukraine
Meanwhile, Ger Hyland of Hyland Transport has organised a Ukrainian Relief Appeal in conjunction with Rosenallis, Clonaslee, Mountmellick, Ballyfin, Kilcavan, O’Moores Camogie and Sarsfields Ladies Football clubs plus Mountmellick Macra Na Feirme.
Ger will be arranging the transportation in conjunction with B&G International transport to Poland and Romania with some of his own drivers offering to go directly with the loads.
On Saturday, 19th March, from 10am to 4pm, they are asking people to bring donations to Hyland Transport in Rosenallis (R32 E264).
Portlaoise is uniting to fill three huge trucks that will be driven by Mark, Aaron and Cathal Martley of Martley’s Transport directly to help Ukraine refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
Martley’s Transport have put out a town wide appeal to help fill 100 pallets with goods that they will drive across Europe leaving on 17th March, St Patrick’s Day.
Please telephone 057 8620888. Martley’s are looking for donations of goods and supplies.
International Women’s Day
Midlands Regional Enterprise Plan
The Midlands Regional Enterprise Plan to 2024 was recently launched by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Learn more here.
Congratulations to Laois Chamber members, Maldron Hotel Portlaoise and The Heritage, finalists in the 2021 Hotel & Catering Review Gold Medal Awards.
The Maldron Portlaoise is a finalist in Ireland’s 3 Star Hotel category, and The Heritage is a finalist in three categories -Ireland’s 4 star Hotel Spa Experience, Ireland’s Afternoon Tea Hotel, and Ireland’s 4 Star Hotel.
New jobs are on the way to Laois after County Councillors agreed to sell a portion of land at Portlaoise Enterpise Park to a Limerick company. 3.42 hectares, designated as Plot C, at the business park in Togher is going to Kirby Group Engineering for €1,060,200.
It is hoped that 50 jobs can be created here by 2024 when all is operational.
Two Laois businesses took part in Showcase in the RDS last week, Ireland’s renowned creative trade expo that includes 300 exhibitors and attracts over 4,000 visitors from Ireland and overseas.
Yvonne Bolger Jewellery, which is based in Emo, and Vale Ceramics from Barrowhouse showcased their products to buyers from home and abroad.
Built Heritage Investment Scheme
€96,000 has been allocated to Laois County Council for 12 projects under the Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2022.
Two further schemes in the 2022 Tourism Business Continuity Programme are now open for applications.
The Attractions and Activity Tourism Operators Business Continuity Scheme will support Visitor Attractions, Outdoor Tourism Activity Providers, Tourism Golf Courses, Tourism Boat Tour Operators and Tourism Destination Experience Organisers.
The Tourism Accommodation Providers Business Continuity Scheme will support Tourism Accommodation Providers Registered or Approved under Fáilte Ireland’s National Quality Assurance Framework.
For more information on eligibility criteria and to apply, visit www.failteireland.ie
Rules of Origin
Watch this Rules of Origin Webinar with Enterprise Ireland on demand, and learn how rules of origin affect your business when trading to, from or through the UK.