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01 December 2014

Are You at Home Alone and Full of Ideas?

Posted By: AIB Business
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If you’ve been thinking about setting up a business but find that being at home alone all day isn’t quite conducive to success, an incubation centre could be just what you need, says Susan HayesCulleton.

Some incubation centres give you “hot desks” – they are organised like an open plan workspace, and you get a desk, a filing cabinet and a phone; others give you an actual office and the key to it.

I set up my company on 9th September 2010. I was full of enthusiasm and had ambitious plans for growth, but reality soon caught up with me. As a fledgling start-up, my office was a room at home. I would look up from my desk and the only thing I could see out the window was a wall, that of the house on the other side of the street. It’s a fitting metaphor of where I was at the time – I could only see what was right in front of me in terms of business expansion, and there was no feeling of confidence that “The world is my oyster”. I was cooped up inside and felt mounting anxiety when I thought of all I wanted to do and achieve – but I couldn’t see a way forward. I didn’t even know what I needed.

That's when Dublin Chamber asked me to give a presentation on the realities and practicalities of starting up; in the course of researching my presentation, I looked at physical places and spaces to start up. Round about the same time I took a subscription to the Dublin City University library, just so that I could leave the house and have somewhere to go. It was a great place to focus, but it wasn’t exactly ideal to conduct business, since you have to be absolutely quiet. On the one hand I couldn’t make phone calls, and on the other hand I couldn’t just let all these client calls go to voicemail.

From the library I could see the Invent building (DCU's Innovation and Enterprise Centre, which includes business incubation facilities), and that’s when I got an idea. I sent them an email saying I would be giving this presentation, that I would like to profile them, and could I come over and talk to them. Over I went and, in the course of our conversation, I realised that I actually fit their target market quite well. I applied for office space and I have been at Invent since October 2010. Now that we are growing as a company, we can do so within the centre. We are very happy to be there.

Funnily enough, I always thought a commute was bad but in fact I’m enjoying the journey back and forth from home to the campus. Invent allows me to get to work not only in space, but in my head as well, and put myself in the right frame of mind. When you work from home, it’s very easy on a slow day to think “You know what, I’m going to take a break and wash up / do a bit of hoovering / make lunch” and feel like you’ve achieved something when in fact you have been procrastinating on actual business.

The second wonderful thing about Invent is the actual physical facilities, like parking space, broadband, a place to meet clients, a range of coffee shops, and a fantastically well-organised receptionist.

The package is great value for money and can scale up or down with your business, which is immensely helpful when you’re starting out. I also get staff access to the library and to the gym, and there are ten different places to eat or have coffee around campus. The campus itself is surrounded by parks and trees which, apart from being beautiful, provide you with lots of scope for a refreshing run in the morning or a change of environment to think or brainstorm. For me, the campus is ideally placed between the city and the airport – the two places I need to be most often.

But one of the best advantages of Invent is that you get access to the DCU community. In 2011, we received Enterprise Ireland feasibility funding, and I was able to give the innovation and research part of the contract to DCU Business School. I’m now looking at an Innovation voucher, and the knowledge provider that we have identified in DCU is perfect for our needs. We also get access to resident experts on law, accounting and finance, branding, intellectual property, etc. – this has been of immense value to my company throughout our business journey.

Being part of a community has had several beneficial results for us at HayesCulleton. If there’s something in the business community that we need to be aware of, it will be featured in an email or newsletter from Invent. That’s how I found out about the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme, PLATO, different enterprise events taking place at DCU, and several funding opportunities. Quality of business life is also great: the place comes alive at 11am and 1pm when people gather in the café for a coffee break or to get their lunch, and there are regular events like charity fundraisers. You can mingle and get to know people. There will come a time when our company expands and needs more physical space but, for now, Invent’s incubation centre fits our needs perfectly.

So if your home office is starting to feel claustrophobic, don’t just think about an incubation centre – go for it!

Written by: Susan HayesCulleton, Managing Director, Hayes Culleton  – International Financial Training

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