22 Jan 2022

Leading Limerick's next business generation to New Frontiers

Leading Limerick' next business generation to New Frontiers

Mary Casey is co-ordinator of the New Frontiers programme

Mary Casey is co-ordinator of the New Frontiers programme, which operates from Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre

Tell us about the Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre

The Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre is LIT’s Moylish on-campus incubator.  The Centre opened in 2007 and serves innovative and growth driven startup businesses and high-potential start-ups in the Mid-West. It was funded in part by Enterprise Ireland together with LIT and interestingly is named after Limerick man John Hartnett, an LIT graduate and founder of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) and SVG Partners, a VC based in Silicon Valley.

Tell us a little about the New Frontiers programme.

New Frontiers is the leading national entrepreneur development programme for innovative, early stage start-ups that is funded by Enterprise Ireland. The mission of New Frontiers is to create regional and economic prosperity, by effectively supporting highly ambitious entrepreneurs who are capable of creating sustainable new growth businesses and jobs. If an entrepreneur has an innovative business idea and are planning to establish and run their own company, the New Frontiers Programme could provide them with help and support to accelerate their business development and importantly supporting their development as an entrepreneur and leader of their own organisation.

Are you accepting applications at the moment?

We are currently accepting applications to ‘phase two’ of the programme at the Limerick Institute of Technology.  It is expected that participants on this will have already validated and tested their business concept. We run a phase one programme to help entrepreneurs to test the potential of their ideas, but you do not need to have completed phase one in LIT (as a programme) in order to apply for Phase two.

What does your role entail?

My role as the programme co-ordinator is to work with the team, which includes our entrepreneur in residence, Dick Meany, the Limerick Institute of Technology RDI team, the LIT EI New Frontiers Panel (which includes investors, LEO, EI, UL, LIT and our EIR) and our panel of trainers and mentors to reflect and redesign the programme each year based on the group’s needs and then to ensure the efficient roll out of the programme and support the entrepreneurs day to day on their journey through one to one meetings, weekly meetups, tailored events and helping them to build great connections. My focus is also on recruitment and planning.  We want all start-ups to be aware of the programme and let them know the supports that are available for them starting a new business.  A number of information sessions have already taken place and we will have another on Monday, August 13.

Who should apply for New Frontiers?

If you have an innovative idea and a compelling value proposition for your customers that has commercial potential with a clear opportunity that the business could scale in terms of market and in terms of job creation, then you should come and talk to us and apply for Phase two.  You don’t need to have all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted as we will help you through that but with stiff competition each year for places on the programme we encourage you to talk to us, so you can put your best foot forward in the application – to communication the vision for your business, have SMART goals in place & a plan in place to succeed. That might all change when you start but that is ok – we need to see that you have commitment and are taking the right steps forward. To get the most out of the programme participants will need to fully participate, work with their peers, trainers, mentors and have an open / growth mindset. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in O’Connell Avenue – a Limerick girl through and through! I spent time working and living in other parts of Ireland but eventually made my way back.  You couldn’t find a nicer place and more wonderful people – there really is no place like home.

What is your educational background?

I stayed close to home for my education An Mhodh Scoil, Coláiste FCJ, Mary Immaculate – the nearest primary, secondary and college to home!  Prior to this job, I worked in the insurance sector,, where I qualified as an ACII with Chartered Insurance of Ireland. Working in the research, development and innovation faculty of LIT one is continually learning by attending workshops and working hands on with the clients and the mentoring team. The experience has been incredibly educational.

How did you get to where you are today?

I started my career in the Insurance industry. I then moved to the public sector and worked in NUI Galway’s James Hardiman Library.  Love though brought with it a change of trajectory and a return home to Limerick where I married and started working for the Limerick Institute of Technology as the development officer.  Being heavily involved with the family businesses I understood business, having taken business ideas from conception through to implementation I applied for the New Frontiers programme co-ordinator’s Role when my predecessor retired.  I have grown considerably in this role and its hugely satisfying to be able to help aspiring entrepreneurs to test their ideas and go from startup to be in a position to scale. 

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

The goal is to help each of our New Frontiers participant achieve theirs by providing the best possible programme and supports within the Hartnett Centre.

 We will be expanding our Lunch & Learn series for Participants, Clients, Alumni and indeed local businesses and entrepreneurs who are interested in attending.

We are also always growing our partner network, our global connections to support the entrepreneurs we work with. We want to help the MidWest region to grow from its indigenous startup companies and to help all organisations embrace innovation and work on developing their core entrepreneur, innovator and leadership skillset.

Who do you admire in business?

I admire everyone that starts a business, there are many famously successful, creative business leaders that I could say, but the reality is that there is nothing easy about starting a business, providing jobs and supporting the economy whether it’s the local shop, the farmer or a company that’s going global.  Business owners are amongst the most under appreciated and deserve far more recognition than they get. Thankfully today for those starting innovative companies there is a number of supports offered by the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland including New Frontiers.  

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

“I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” It’s an old saying that Dale Carnegie kept on his mirror!

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

I spend much time as possible having fun and adventures with my daughter, husband and family.

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