Former CEO of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, Gráinne Dwyer, 29, partnered with her cousin and friend Fiona Dwyer in 2017 to start their own video production company, Stori Creative. Grainne talks to West Cork People about the highlights and challenges of running a business, lessons learned, and future ambitions for the company.
What did you aspire to be when you were younger?
I always knew I would probably doing something artistic, I loved art and music when I was younger. My friends and I used to write our own scripts, and design costume, for short stories which we used to record on my old Sony Hi8 Camcorder so I think it has gone full circle that I started a video production company.
Were your parents a big influence?
Yes, my parents always supported any career decision I made really, and have put up with the madness that goes with entrepreneurship!
What was your first job?
My first job was probably strawberry picking when I was 13…I am sure I lost profits for the company due to a few missing strawberries.
Where were you educated?
I went to University in Limerick, where I received a BA in Liberal Arts majoring in Geography and History. I also studied a semester studying renewable energies in Spain and a semester studying history and media in Melbourne, Australia. I then did a two year MA Postgraduate by Research and Thesis on rural community development.
How would you describe yourself?
Ambitious and a great networker – business is based on people buying from people.
How did you get where you are today?
By saying yes to nearly every opportunity presented to me – and surrounding myself with the best people.
How did you and Fiona come to set up this business together?
Fiona previously worked with US company Gilt Groupe where she was responsible for a roster of 200 clients that had a total value of over $100m dollars to the company, Fiona was also working for a firm in New York and had just moved back to Ireland – the timing was just right for us all to make the break and start the company together.
Tell me about your business..when and how it started, what it’s about, any support…main challenges to-date?
I was formally the CEO of the Ludgate Hub, and I had a great opportunity to work with some fantastic start-up companies, I got the bug and decided to move into the unpredictable realm of entrepreneurship and partner with Fiona to start our video production company www.storicreative.com. We produce cinematic style high production video content for national and international brands, we have produced documentary work in Europe and worked with international production companies from the US and UK here in Ireland. Our company would be non-existent if we did not get seed capital investment from our two tremendous investors and also hire supports from the Local Enterprise Office. These supports excelled our company to where it is now, a journey without these supports might have cost us about three extra years of a hard slog.
You work out of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen….how is this working out for you?
Yes, as the previous CEO I knew the benefits of co-working, you can collaborate with other companies and partner for projects where you might not have particular areas of expertise. The cross collaboration between members has been invaluable, not forgetting the 1000MB fibre connection to enable us to send our client files in seconds. A number of award winning directors and producers now call the Ludgate Hub home which is something invaluable to our company.
Will Brexit have an impact on your business? Have you prepared in any way to try to offset the impact of a no-deal Brexit on your business?
We are really unsure what impact it might have, on one hand Irish brands are doing a fantastic job on gaining traction in new markets, and they often need our video production to help them promote themselves in a market where they have no brand awareness in so it has benefitted us somewhat.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
I think the greatest accomplishment is that we retained our quality and vision of our company, our team is super talented and we work with clients we really want to work with. We have submitted our work to a number of film festivals this year –so hopefully we will get to showcase our work to people we admire in our industry. We are about to hire two new team members which will bring our company up to six.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I think meeting new businesses and enjoying the feedback from our clients that we made a difference to their business, one client reported a 12 per cent increase in sales based on the exposure our videos had on their product. The creative process can be really enjoyable, and we get to work with some fantastic talent around the country. It can be really rewarding to get organic referrals for our company which goes to show that our service is well respected amongst our clients.
What advice based on the lessons you’ve learned in business so far would you give to other young women who want to succeed in business?
My advice would be to find a mentor who has a high level position, you can’t be what you can’t see. I have had really valuable mentorship from women and men who are leaders in their field, it puts your own mindset at a different level.
Do you have a good work-life balance? How do you achieve this?
It could be better – but that comes with the joys of self employed life, VAT returns and admin of your own business tend to get done at late evenings or weekends. It is important to ensure my whole team gets a break as travelling with our production shoots can be tiring with 12-14 hour days.
When you do have time off, what do you enjoy doing?
Usually I try to take the weekends for myself, I like to head out to Sheep’s Head or up a mountain somewhere with my friends. In the summer you will find me in Lough Hyne most days braving the water.
Who/what are your inspirations?
I was appointed as a high level advisor for the European Innovation Council, the council is made up of 15 entrepreneurs and innovation leaders. It has been the most inspirational experience for me professionally to be in the same working council as executives from multi billion dollar companies, their wisdom and expertise is something you can’t buy and it has really given me drive to give focus to my own company and to hopefully replicate their success.
Future ambitions for the business?
In our first year of trading we have secured seed capital investment, and hired a team of four. We have worked with Oscar-winning Producers, with UK and US production teams, for a national US documentary series, for a music video for an artist with two Grammy awards, and a UK documentary series that won four international best documentary awards. We have secured contracts for national and international brands including: Fáilte Ireland, Supervalu, Carbery Group, Spearline, and a number of leading technology brands in the country.
The big ambition is to be one of the leading production houses in the country, ensuring we create the most compelling ‘magic slice’ of video for our clients. Our strong portfolio of work so far has attracted some of the best brands to work with us.
PHOTO ABOVE: Deividas Paulauskas, Fiona Dwyer, and Gráinne Dwyer of Stori Creative