Despite the Covid pandemic, the ATU Mayo iHub in Castlebar has gone from strength to strength.
Since its opening in 2006, the hub has been the starting point for the establishment of new companies. After the pandemic began, it also offered a place for people who wanted to work remotely.
The hub includes a mix of dedicated offices, conference rooms, cabins and shared offices. They also run a number of support programs including New Frontiers and EMPOWER to support female entrepreneurship.
Last year, EMPOWER, aimed at women’s entrepreneurship, received its biggest applications with more than 250 applications for 34 places.
Maria Staunton, head of the ATU iHub in Mayo, said The Connaught Telegraph“The importance of a hub like iHub in helping start-ups and small businesses grow and scale cannot be underestimated. After all, SMEs make up 99% of all businesses in Ireland and play a huge role in our economy.
“The iHub, since its opening in 2006, has supported 286 full-time jobs and 82 part-time jobs. 76% of iHub customers are still in business after seven years. »
Maria added: “We would have been very busy from 2007-08. We picked up the pace and were almost 100 per cent busy from then on. But when the pandemic hit that changed because the people couldn’t enter the building We closed for two months but reopened with all procedures in place People had to enter at different times and we asked that only those who needed to enter enter.
“But since the restrictions eased, people are coming back. Things could change in terms of shared office. Our main focus before the pandemic was to rent office space for start-ups. When the pandemic hit, we had to convert many more shared office spaces.”
As more and more people use hubs for remote work, Maria thinks a change in style might be needed in the future.
“There are many more individuals and people working for companies looking for an office. We are trying to facilitate as best we can. We are waiting to see how it goes.”
Fergal Dunne, who works for inventory company Retail Stock Taking, has lived in Castlebar for about 25 years and is among the remote workers who operate out of the GMIT iHub. Before the term “remote work” became part of our daily lives, Fergal traveled almost 60,000 km per year, his work taking him all over the country.
It helped not only work, but family life. Fergal has three young children and helps Castlebar Rugby Club and Snugboro United Football Club.
The line of work means there is still a need to be onsite every day, but the company has now developed new technologies where much of their work can now be done remotely.
“Hospitality is mainly what we do in retail. The technology that they have on board, we can now connect to it. Travel is still involved, but not as much. The things that were in the works for many many years have become commonplace.”
Fergal called the GMIT iHub an excellent facility and made a special mention of the New Frontiers program, one of the support programs the hub runs.
Funded by Enterprise Ireland, this is Ireland’s national entrepreneur development program operating in the West of Ireland, which provides an optimized business start-up process for innovative people for large markets. Some notable start-ups include Foodie Save by Eoin Heverin from Castlebar, and CB Media by Cynthia Baloula.
Baloula, founder and managing director of CB Media and The Video Marketing Academy, works from the Gteic hub in Belmullet where she rents an office with her two-person team so they can work together.
She moved from Dublin to Belmullet two years ago during the first lockdown in 2020 with her partner (whose parents were from Belmullet), and their now two-year-old daughter and Baloula have revealed she can fully manage the remote business.
“We didn’t want to stay in town with the lockdown and decided to move west. It’s a huge difference but it’s lovely. The people are nice. It’s a quieter way of life but I really appreciate it. It’s good for my daughter too,” Cynthia said. “It’s a great opportunity (in the hub) to network with other business owners and other businesses so we don’t we did not feel isolated. It’s a great setup and makes it easier to run a business.”
“What we do is a coaching business. We coach business owners, sales and marketing teams on how to produce professional looking videos using just their phone and computer and how to promote their videos online to attract customers. It’s all done online. We have customers in the US, UK and Ireland.”
Cynthia thinks remote work is here to stay, one way or another. “I think it’s working very well. I think it’s here to stay, even if businesses aren’t 100% remote and using hybrid models. The possibilities and flexibility it gives us is just amazing. I can also spend more time with my daughter.” concludes Cynthia.