When he started selling imported silage film at the age of just 16, County Laois entrepreneur Noel Walsh already knew he wanted to be his own boss.
Noel, now 27, grew up on a mixed cattle and sheep farm that has become a dairy business in recent years.
The son of a silage contractor, he caught the entrepreneurial bug while in high school.
“I would have worked for my dad when I was younger and realized I wanted to go and do my own thing. I always felt like I would like to have a business,” he said.
“I started importing silage covers for the farmers to replace the tires on the pits. I got into business because of that. I didn’t know where I was to be honest. I was just buying things and reselling them and trying to grow from there,” Noel said. Agriland.
It was while studying for a degree in agricultural science at University College Dublin (UCD) that Noel, then 19, decided to take his business, Agvance, as a limited liability company.
The company initially focused on importing Himalayan rock salt first from the UK and later directly from Pakistan.
“When I first started selling salt it was amazing because people remembered when they were younger giving it to cattle. They were willing to try and see how they did. went really well for the guys,” Noel said.
The business venture saw the then-student named among the top three young entrepreneurs in the county by the local Laois Business Office (LEO) in 2015.
“Because I was young, I was not afraid. I was lucky because if I had started now I probably would have been too careful, you have to take those risks with business too.
“I would have worked hard when I was younger and accumulated money during the summers. The money I spent to import products belonged to me so I didn’t put myself in too much financial danger.
“But I lost money on different things. I imported plastic water canisters from Taiwan. I never considered customs and duties, so when I got them here, they cost a little more than I thought and didn’t sell as well as I thought.
“It didn’t bother me or bog me down, I just moved on. I think if you keep trying and persevering, you’ll get through this,” Noel explained.
Grow your Laois business
Last summer, the entrepreneur took over animalfarmacy.ie which supplies around 200 grooming products for cattle and sheep.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic caused agricultural shows to be canceled last year, Noel said it gave him breathing space to develop the niche business.
“We were lucky that there were some good sales and different things over the winter. So that got the products moving and gave me time to learn about the different products and how to use them.
“While I think if I had gone straight to the shows last year I probably would have gotten caught because I didn’t have the right products in stock. But I think we’re going to have a pretty busy summer. in front of us.
As a young entrepreneur, Noel believes in building a strong relationship with customers.
“Especially in agribusiness, everything revolves around customers. We try to focus on quality in order to establish a relationship of trust with our customers.
“If I come across a new product, I won’t put it on the market right away. I would be inclined to either give it to a few customers to try out or try it out ourselves at home and see how it goes.
Noel, who now sells over 700 agricultural products through his businesses, recently traveled to Pakistan to source new products and visit his salt suppliers in the Himalayan mountains.
He also visited a local dairy farm and saw wheat being harvested in a style similar to his grandfather’s day.
In 2021, the entrepreneur moved to new office and warehouse space in Laois to accommodate his growing business.
“We have to stay innovative. We focus much more on the natural and move away from antibiotics. That’s where we’re trying to put ourselves – our own line of more natural products, but they’re also delivering results for farmers.
“Last year, with all the different price increases, made it a lot more difficult. But I think we’ve learned a lot over the last three years to be able to deal with these issues. We’re pretty optimistic,” said the determined young businessman.