Alumni profiles: Tipping point in a search for the dream
A letter from a stranger proved to be the catalyst for Kerryman Darragh Lynch, who had worked as an executive for huge conglomerates in mining, oil, and gas across the Middle East and South America for most of his adult life.
Darragh had grown accustomed to the big salary, the opportunities to travel across the world, and the high-end perks that came with his job. But after 21 years, the appeal of ‘stuff’ was wearing thin.
Darragh wanted more fulfilment in his career. As a starting point, he pursued an MBA at the University of Western Australia and started consulting. Darragh explains that the MBA would help him to “burst through my own glass ceiling. I had about 13 different projects that I was working on all at different stages.”
A friend from New Zealand was keen for Darragh to hear about a new invention his father-in-law, Andy DePetra, was working on. A born inventor, Andy was known to work on five or six things at a time. Darragh was halfway through his MBA, but this latest invention caught his attention.
Having been diagnosed with arthritis a few years before, Andy was inventing a kettle “that not only looked good but one that would ease the struggle and still enable him to maintain his independence.”
The early stages of creating a prototype for the Uccello Kettle began. It involved a month-long stay in China to find a suitable supplier for one part of the kettle. Other parts and raw materials were sourced in Germany and the UK. They also had to adhere to different regulations in each market.
“We had to get it from idea to prototype,” says Darragh. It was a steep learning curve, “because, when we did this, we were pretty new to it.”
The Uccello Kettle – a unique tipping kettle that moves around the body of water so you don’t have to lift or balance it – helps people with impaired mobility reclaim their independence. It was initially stocked in Australian shops by partnering with distributors with strong retail expertise and large national networks.
“It needs to be something that, if you win the lottery tomorrow, you would continue to be engaged with it.”
But it was a letter from one of the kettle’s early users, indicating how much the kettle had impacted her life, that changed everything for Darragh. The project, one of many at the time, became his main dream.
“I began to think that maybe this is the thing I was looking for. The kind of food for the soul I was seeking, something I can actually make an impact with. So, I started to dive into the whole industry of disability.”
Darragh put everything into Uccello Designs and, after much research, decided to launch in Europe. He moved back home to Ireland with his family. However, having spent so many years away, with few connections in Ireland or Europe, he felt he was starting from scratch.
“We knew what we were talking about when it came to the product. We knew the product inside out, but everything else had to be developed,” says Darragh. He sought out help and discovered Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme.
“We hadn’t established a real persona for the customer; the brand and future products had to be worked on. With the New Frontiers programme, we started to think about how we can build a relationship with our customers.”
The programme also helped him launch Uccello Designs in new markets. For Darragh, the guest speakers were game-changing. “We had speakers every second week. They were high calibre,” he says. One of those speakers is now the company’s CFO and they also work with a marketing expert introduced to Darragh on the programme.
Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme gave Darragh a sense of validation, opened up networking circles in Europe, and accelerated the growth of the business.
Last year, the turnover for Uccello Designs was over €1 million. They are continuing to expand the team in Ireland and across other markets in Europe, the USA, and Asia. Plans are also underway to manufacture a product range in Ireland.
The self-proclaimed introvert is now living his dream. For other potential entrepreneurs, he suggests going for it. “It needs to be something that, if you win the lottery tomorrow, you would continue to be engaged with it.”
See the kettle on the Uccello website.