Munster firm's eco-friendly product ‘straws’ attention

With the phasing out of single-use plastic straws an international issue, Brian O’Callaghan is leading the way in his Hospital-based firm

Knockainey man Brian O’Callaghan with a business all-star award he won in Croke Park

Knockainey man Brian O’Callaghan with a business all-star award he won in Croke Park

Tell us a little about Ecostraws:

Ecostraws aims to reduce the one million plastic straws used in Ireland every day by offering a full range of eco-friendly reusable and biodegradable disposable drinking straws and associated products to the domestic, retail, trade and corporate gift markets. Based in Hospital, we employ three people.

What does your role entail?

Myself, Anthony and Sarah are a small but hard-working team. We share all aspects of progressing the business from research and development to customer service. Although I try to concentrate on financials, logistics and exploring new revenue avenues, I love the dynamics of the fluid role. This week for example I was trying to organise shipment of a container of paper straws from China to Greece one minute, then selling a box of straws to my neighbour in Limerick Milk Market the next!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Adare, before moving to Hospital when we opened Scoby’s Bar in 2000, and then moved onto Knockainey in 2005. All brilliant communities in their own ways.

What is your educational background?

I went to Adare CBS, then St. Clement’s College before studying engineering at DIT Bolton St.

How did you get to where you are today? 

Anyone raised in Adare is encouraged into hospitality and I was no different, working in a number of bars and hotels, before opening Scoby’s Bar with my parents in Hospital in 2000. By 2015, I felt I needed a new challenge and began work in air traffic control. I am also currently working for Entry Point North in Shannon, which is the training division of the IAA, helping to train air traffic controllers. They have been very accommodating in allowing me the time to concentrate on EcoStraws. I have also been involved in a few other start-ups in between, with varying degrees of success.

Why did you decide to go into business?

I have always been naturally inquisitive, and love the entrepreneurial challenge. When a solution to a problem presents itself, along with opportunity, correct timing, and a good team, it is hard to ignore.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

We have just appointed a national distributor so we hope to see our products across the wider retail sector over the coming months. We would also love to help Limerick Council with its European Green Leaf 2020 application. Finally, we have identified three further markets and about 20 routes into those markets, so we will try to explore all those avenues over the next 12 months.

Who do you admire in business?

We have lots of successful business people to champion here in Limerick. I admire the likes of the Fitzgerald family, Ralph Parkes, Mark McConnell, Richard Maguire and Colm O’Brien, firstly because of their work ethic and determination to succeed, but also because they are so generous with their time. In my opinion, there is nothing more valuable than somebody’s time.

In business and life, are you guided by any particular motto?

I recently spoke at the Shannon College of Hotel Management, and at the UL entrepreneurship summit, and one of the messages I tried to encourage was to have a go, and try and make an impact in life. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than being alive but not living. You may fail, you may succeed, but have a go and enjoy the journey.

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

I have a season ticket for Limerick FC, and Celtic FC so like to get to their games as much as possible. I also volunteer regularly for Special Olympics Ireland and will join Team Ireland in Abu Dhabi for the World Games next month.

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