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Mary Casey

Where are you from and how did you get here?

Proud of my Limerick roots – born and educated here – I began my career working in the insurance industry for a number of years, in Dublin initially and subsequently Galway. It was in Galway that I made the switch to the education sector, spending a very enjoyable couple of years working in the James Hardiman Library at NUIG.  Love though brought with it a change of trajectory and a return home to Limerick where I married and joined LIT in the role of Development Officer, a role in which I was heavily exposed to LIT’s entrepreneur support programmes. With unique personal experience of the challenges of small business and entrepreneurship which I had developed through my involvement in the family business, when the opportunity arose to join LIT’s New Frontiers Programme as Programme Co-ordinator I jumped at the chance!

What is it about business and start-ups that so interests you?

Coming from a small business background, I understand the opportunities and challenges inherent in entrepreneurship, the huge effort behind getting what might look (at face value) like a simple product or service to engage consumers, and the passion, commitment, focus and resilience that it takes to bring new ideas from concept stage to a marketable commodity and onwards to become a commercial reality. I am fascinated by the ‘individual entrepreneur’, how they conceive their idea, identify a niche or market need, and the iterations of development that an idea will go through on its journey to the marketplace, so that sometimes the finished product bears little resemblance to the idea it started out as! In spite of progress and technological advancement, no matter what the product, service or idea, the fundamentals of business still apply, and what I find most interesting is the personalised journey of each entrepreneur as they navigate their path to success!

When did you become a New Frontiers PM and what inspired you to become one?

I joined the Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre’s team in 2015 in the dynamic role of New Frontiers Programme Co-Ordinator, having been previously indirectly involved as LIT’s Development Officer. I find the pioneering spirit of participant companies, the sense of comradery among them, their willingness to share their experiences and help each other nothing short of inspiring, and it is especially inspiring to meet entrepreneurs who have ‘done it’ come back and share the benefit of their wisdom and experiences. I knew immediately when the opportunity arose that I wanted to be on that team! I find it very rewarding to guide a new bunch of recruits through our NF programme each year while at the same time keeping in touch with our alumni, who are always at the ready and willing to help the new recruits, as we widen the New Frontiers family and Hartnett Centre community.

What do you feel are the qualities you bring to the role?

I’m the ‘glue’ that keeps the programme on track – getting the participants working together, the liaison between participants and LIT’s academics, research team and students as well as the wider startup community and industry experts. With my own experience of the small business environment, I can empathise with the challenges faced by NF participants – the difficulties in seeking and winning new business, the task of maintaining existing customers and the essential work involved in managing effective cash-flow. I can offer advice based on practical experience on why it is vital to assess and understand the market, develop what differentiates you from the competition, understand who your key partners are and why understanding the financials of costs vs revenue is fundamental and why all of these are important when developing a business model. I have an open-door policy and welcome participants to drop in and delve deeper, tease out issues or indeed realise the mini successes and wins to help them drive on!