Value is the only show in Town

26th October 2010

Three successful entrepreneurs came to DIT to take part in the Be Inspired. Be an entrepreneur speaker series and to talk about providing value to customers in difficult times.  A capacity crowd in Gleeson Theatre on the Kevin Street campus welcomed Bobby Kerr, who is CEO of Insomnia, Irelands leading coffee company and also one of the Dragons on RTE programme ?Dragons Den?.   An innovator, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Kerr needed very little prompting from interviewer Conall O?Morán, to tell the audience his impressive story of building a successful business.

Also present to share their experiences were Jonathan Ruane, MD of Eventovate and Garret Coady, MD BlueBridge Technologies, both of whom are graduates of the DIT Hothouse Venture programme and are now building their businesses.


Bobby Kerr, CEO of Insomnia presents at the Be Inspired

Although a Kilkenny man, Bobby Kerr felt quite at home back in DIT as it was here he launched his culinary career as a graduate of Catering Management. With many aspiring chefs and hotel management students in the audience, Bobby spoke about his long and interesting career in the hotel and catering world, working up to where he is today, running multiple businesses and investing in people.


l-r: Conall O? Móráin, Sunday Business Show on TodayFm, Jonathan Ruane, MD of Eventovate and Garret Coady, MD BlueBridge Technologies, Bobby Kerr Insomnia, Ruth Kearney Marketing Officer DIT Hothouse, Greg Swift CEO DCEB and Tom Flanagan Head of Commercialisation DIT.

Earning his stripes

Kerr worked with the top hotel and catering companies in the country including Jury's Hotels and the Campbell/ Bewley catering group where he oversaw 30 cafes and a bakery with a turnover of €40 million. He earned his stripes by working long hours and he travelled the world, from the North Sea oilrigs where he worked as a chef, to Canada where he co-ordinated the catering for 1 million people at the Pope's visit, back in 1985.

Going it alone

Always looking for new ideas and new ways of doing things, after 13 years with the Campbell/Bewley group Kerr finally decided to go out on his own. He opened his first Insomnia coffee shop on Dawson Street, followed by another on Grafton Street.  Now, through expansion and takeover, Insomnia has 56 Coffee Shops. He is proud to be the first 100% Fairtrade and organic company in Ireland and is committed to giving a fair price for the coffee bean as he continues to grow what is now Ireland?s leading coffee brand. The company has a turnover of €12 million with a staff of 200 selling over 5 million cups of coffee annually.  Asked how he stays in business and continues to beat off stiff competition, he listed the very practical points he believes are critical to success in any business;

  1. Know where your costs are.
  2. Be careful about advisor costs.
  3. Only recruit when you physically can?t do it yourself.
  4. Sign all cheques and query every invoice.
  5. Examine your sales daily.
  6. Do weekly gross profit reports.
  7. Check the bank at least once a day.
  8. Keep Head Office costs to a minimum.
  9. Reinvest in your business whenever you can.

He also emphasised the importance of enjoying what you do, surrounding yourself with positive people and enlisting the help of a mentor. But, he said the number one life lesson for everyone to bear in mind, is the importance of your health and family.


Speakers on stage.

Conall O? Móráin, presenter of the Sunday Business Show on TodayFm chaired the session and interviewed two DIT Hothouse Venture Programme graduates, Jonathan Ruane, MD of Eventovate and Garret Coady, MD BlueBridge Technologies.

Inspiring words

There were also inspiring words from the two other participants who have both established and now run successful companies and who were there to motivate students to get out there and do it for themselves.  Both are graduates of the DIT Hothouse Venture Programme. 

Jonathan Ruane is MD of Eventovate, a Ballina-based software company which won the Bright Ideas Challenge and is going from strength to strength. The company enables hotels to offer additional added value services to customers booking events and conferencing, while also enabling them to improve the management, booking and delivery of events and conferences to their hotel.

Garret Coady, is founder and MD of BlueBridge Technologies, a product design and innovation company that works internationally with organisations and entrepreneurs to bridge the gap between early stage concepts and commercially viable products.  Garret explained how BlueBridge has strong collaborative links which academic institutions in Ireland as well as in Germany, U.K. and the US and has developed considerable experience in progressing products through the regulatory process and product launch stages.


Full house at Gleeson Theatre, DIT Kevin Street.


Bobby Kerr with Be Inspired volunteers Sarah Lawlor and Dara Fitzpatrick (Event management, DIT Cathal Brugha)

Watch the full Be Inspired video series here

Sponsored by: Dublin City Enterprise Board
Dublin City Enterprise Board is a state funded agency that helps start-up and micro businesses in Dublin city with enterprise information, advice, training, mentoring, networking and in some cases financial assistance.

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