Donna Ahern talks to Pádraic Ó Griallais, founder, spokesperson and ambassador, Micil Distillery.
How would you describe your role?
I’m the company founder, spokesperson and ambassador. I wear a lot of hats at the moment as we’re still a small but growing company.
I’m involved with most aspects of the business from the ground up. I have a good relationship with all of our customers.
What was your first-ever job, and what did you learn from it?
From a young age I would have been helping out my grandfather on the farm.
I really enjoyed his company and I learned a huge amount from him over the years. Farming taught me about the importance of graft to achieve anything – farmers rarely have many days off. It taught me about resilience and resourcefulness as well as the importance of community.
You need to be able to figure things out yourself and you need to be able to solve problems quickly. I observed ‘meitheal’ while growing up – essentially it’s people coming together to help on harvest days (literally translated it’s a working party).
Neighbours would always help each other out on harvest days or fair days. I distinctly remember neighbours helping out when the turf was being gathered to be brought home. Upon reflection I realise that the comradery and sense of community was something very special.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
I love interacting with people. I am a people person. I don’t really like spending a lot of time in the office in front of the screen but it’s a necessary evil. My co-founder Ross always says that I’m doing my best work when I’m out talking to customers and consumers.
I get a huge sense of satisfaction when I see people posting online about our products and sharing them with friends and family. I know we’re doing something right when people keep coming back to our brand.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I see myself travelling to new markets around the world building our presence and sharing the story behind Micil. I expect Micil Distillery to be operating in Connemara at that point.
I think I’ll have a bit more work-life balance at that point. It’s very exciting at the moment with all of our new projects but it’s also demanding and hectic.
What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
I think people genuinely need to love the product they’re producing or the service they’re providing. Most people starting a business will encounter many challenges and will need to sacrifice a lot.
If you don’t love what you do you won’t have the staying power when it gets tough. You really need to ask yourself why you’re starting the business and if it’s a strong enough reason then you’ll have a better chance than those who don’t have that strong reason.
I also think you need to figure out your strengths and weaknesses and build a team accordingly. Get people who have a complimentary skillset and values to join your team. You probably won’t be able to do it all yourself.
What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?
I did work on a film production set before and the people there were wonderful but the job itself was painfully boring. I was a stand in extra which required a lot of idle standing around waiting to be called. I love being active and busy so this definitely didn’t suit me.
What do you think the government could do to help business in the current climate?
I think the government did a very good job overall of helping businesses throughout the COVID crisis. There have been some instances of course where more could have been done for the hospitality industry. Perhaps more funding could be made available for companies that want to build stronger e-commerce capabilities.
What three business people do you most admire, and why?
Pat McDonagh – he’s a former teacher, like myself, and he’s built his businesses from the ground up and despite his success he remains as humble as ever.
Patrick and John Collison – Founders of Stripe. who couldn’t admire two Irish guys that have created a truly global business at such a young age, I think it’s incredible what they have achieved at such a young age!
John Teeling is truly a maverick, he started the first independent Irish whiskey distillery when he founded Cooley Distillery in 1987. He arguably kick-started the renaissance of independently produced Irish Whiskey when it wasn’t such a hot category.
If you could bring back one product that is no longer available in Ireland, what would it be?
I lay awake at night thinking of ‘Secret’ Bars, they were a chocolate made by Rowntrees that none of my friends have ever heard of.
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up, and why?
HB ice cream - we used to have it after dinner every Sunday – generally with wafers!
Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?
Tommy Tiernan & Hector Ó hEochagáin, Marilyn Monroe, Graham Norton. And possibly Jose Cuervo, I think native Mexican spirits makers & Poitín makers would have displayed a lot of the same resourcefulness.
What is the best piece of advice somebody ever gave to you?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love the outdoors – swimming, walking or running. I love catching up with friends for food and a few drinks for a great night out. I like to travel to new and interesting countries (when it’s permitted). I also like to cook.
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
A lot less than I used to. I don’t check social media during the day while at work as it distracts me. I spend about one hour a day on it.
Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
With which fictional character do you most identify?
Imagine if James Bond came from the bog.
Most likely to say?
In the words of Micil, Sláinte Mhaith.
Least likely to say?
It can’t be done.
© 2021 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Donna Ahern. Click sign up to subscribe to Checkout.