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Featured Business: Murray’s Recycled Plastic
Name: Sheila Murray, Director, Murray’s Recycled Plastic Ltd, a family-run business that manufactures and delivers a variety of outdoor products made from recycled plastic materials.
Since: 1998 (landscaping business established)
Sometimes the needs of one client can unearth a whole new business opportunity, which is how John and Sheila Murray’s landscaping business transformed into Murray’s Recycled Plastic.
The husband and wife team realised through their landscaping business, which they established in 1998, that people were looking for low-maintenance durable products.
In 2001, for the first time, they sourced plastic boards instead of wood for raised flower beds.
These plastic boards, made from 100% recycled packaging materials, spawned a brand new business with a nationwide customer base for the Murrays. As well as making a wide range of products from the imported plastic boards at their County Mayo workshop, they offer custom-made and bespoke products to customers.
Essentially, these products can be used in the same way as timber, with the added bonus of being long-lasting, durable and hugely versatile.
A nurse by profession, Sheila job shares – working part-time between nursing and the business. She was responsible for a lot of research into the product when developing the business. It’s very much a family business, with both their son and daughter working in the company, as well as one other employee, hired in 2012.
Interview with Sheila Murray
What was the inspiration for setting up your business?
We were a landscaping company and a lot of our customers were looking for a maintenance-free product. Through that, my husband John came upon the product and it ticked a lot of boxes for our customers.
What have been the highlights to date?
One of the major things that we did is we got some of our boards approved by the Department of Agriculture and Food.
Another major highlight is working with customers. A lot of our designs came from working with customers.
The other major thing is working with family members – and our son didn’t have to emigrate.
How did you initially fund your business?
Initially we were a landscaping company, so our costs were very low. A lot of our costs were labour costs. When we started doing the recycled products, we got some support from AIB. When we started to buy the product, we paid for it upfront so we got a further reduction in the cost.
Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses?
In 2008 we were selling 18 pallets a month of our tongue and groove boards; in 2009 we sold maybe 30 pallets. We basically diversified into a wider product range – we started making gates at that stage; we started using the tongue and groove boards and other things, as well as fencing and raised beds. In 2008, as we were growing, we were meeting more people; our customer base was broadening. A lot of our sales come from word of mouth. We do a lot of bespoke products for people who want something specific.
What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?
The major thing is working closely with the client – getting the feedback from the client, getting the customer satisfaction.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
When you’re in business, you have to be very organised. We have a start time and a finish time.
Our children aren’t children anymore, they are young adults. Now, during the day, you can delegate more responsibilities to people; you get a lot more work done during the day and that’s their responsibility as well – getting the job done, and what’s not done is left for the next day.
Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?
Before we started the business, I never thought of myself as a business person really. When we started the business, we were completely and utterly surrounded by business people and each and every one of them, no matter what level they’re at, they’re very inspirational. We always listen to people. We did some networking – at the AIB and Enterprise Board courses and meetings you always meet people who have businesses and you always learn a lot from them.
What tools do you utilise that benefit your customers or that make running your business easier or more profitable?
We have our own website. I send text messages to people – if we have something coming up – and use email.
Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?
We meet a lot of our customers face to face and through attending shows; we go to the Ploughing Championships, the Tullamore Show and the Bonniconlon Show . Because it’s new recycled plastic, a lot of people don’t realise what it is – they think it’s silage wrap, but it’s actually Coke bottles and milk cartons. It looks so much like wood and then, when they see it and see the benefit of it and feel the weight of it, we get a huge amount of feedback and we listen to it carefully.
What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?
One of the biggest challenges is you must be very, very organised.
Obviously, we are in a recession now and it’s all about cost; the cost of the product. Our recycled product has been weather-tested for 40 years and it hasn’t degenerated. It costs more than your timber fencing, but after three years you’re actually making money on your recycled plastic product and that’s a major point to get across. People see the value in it now, as we’ve been in business a long time.
What do you think the biggest challenge to businesses in Ireland is at the moment?
The biggest is cashflow. I think we are getting more competitive. People, including ourselves, have looked at ways to cut down and save money for the customer on price. I think people are getting more value for money, and the Irish customer is more aware of buying locally and creating jobs.
What part of running a business comes to you naturally?
I would be very creative myself; I love making things. At the moment, I run the office; I look after the pricing of everything, make sure everything is delivered on time. I take all the calls from the customers; I know what they need and what has to go out. The major thing is working as part of a team. You have to delegate responsibility and trust that person to get it done.
What has been the best reward in running your own business?
I think it’s customer satisfaction – when you have a job well done, the customer’s happy and there’s a smile on their face. Our customers are lifetime customers; if they have an idea, because we’re a small business, it’s very easy to talk to them about that.
What was the main catalyst for growth?
The main catalyst was the product. The product itself is very unique. Normally, if a customer needs something, we would be willing to make it for them; obviously, we are always looking for new product lines.
How did you scale/grow your business?
We advertise in the local Mayo Advertiser; last year we did a six-month banner with them. We meet our customers through the different shows, such as the Ploughing Championships, the Tullamore Show and the Bonniconlon Show, so basically you meet people directly. It’s very important to be at these shows.
How do you get ideas to further your business?
It’s all customer-led really; listening to what the customer is looking for. We also work with a lot of companies. If someone comes up with a new idea, we work with that. We watch and listen to trends.
What motivates you to stay running a business?
We love working for ourselves; my husband has never worked for anyone else. When you’re running your own business, you really want it to be the best. Meeting satisfied clients (we sell a lot of our product from word of mouth) and developing new products.
What’s your vision for the future?
There will always be new challenges. We like a challenge; when you’re in business you’re always being challenged. Our vision really is to grow the business, maybe take on more staff.
What obstacles to growth have you faced in the past?
Our major obstacle at the moment is the cost of diesel. The cost of the delivery of goods is absolutely crippling.
Do you have a mentor; do you find this has positively impacted on your success?
Yes we do. We usually get a mentor in at the beginning of every year, if at all possible. It’s absolutely vital; they cut to the chase, they tell you exactly what’s going wrong and what’s going right. It really makes you focus. There are loads of things that you actually miss if you don’t get a mentor. It’s absolutely vital that you get a mentor in, or someone that will look at your business, and that you’re not afraid to take the bad news as well as the good news. It really is absolutely fantastic.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
The major bit of advice, and I’ve given it to a lot of young businesses, is to get paid for your product upfront. The less credit that you give and get, the better for yourself. You can buy your product upfront and get it at a reduced price and vice versa.
What’s your favourite motivational business quote?
I got a calendar once and there were two quotes on it. One was imagination: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” The other one was vision: “Every man has the opportunity of his own future.”
What would be your advice to businesses starting out?
No matter what you look back on in life, all problems are solvable if you work as a team; someone will have a solution if you throw it out to them.
What, if anything, would you do differently?
We have learnt many hard lessons. I wouldn’t do anything differently, because if you learn you really won’t make those mistakes again. It’s through the lessons that we’re stronger and better. If you knew what was ahead of you, you’d never have done it better. You have to go through these things to be who you are really.
Phone: +353 94 902 2639 / +353 87 244 8622
Interviewed by: Web Content Partners
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