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DCU Centre for Family Business


With its roots in Galway, McDonagh’s is a seafood bar and restaurant that has grown since 1902 to become one of the best loved seafood restaurants in the West of Ireland. McDonagh’s has been frequently reviewed as ‘the best chips in Galway’ by tourists and locals on travel apps, and has made it onto the ‘top ten best fish and chip shops in Ireland’ list in various articles and reviews over the years. Colm, Liam, Pádraig and Thomás are the fourth generation of the family business. We spoke to Thomás McDonagh about the importance of family, and how the business has changed over the years. Read more here.

EPS Group

Interview with Patrick Buckley.

Cork based family business, EPS Group, provides a range of water and wastewater treatment and pumping products and solutions to domestic, commercial, industrial and water utility clients in Ireland and overseas. With almost five decades of industry experience, the group has grown organically and through numerous acquisitions across the Irish, UK and Middle-East markets. We spoke with MD, Mr. Patrick Buckley, who gave his insights on how the family influences this large dynamic organisation. Read more here


Interview with Rachel Doyle. 

Arboretum Home and Garden Heaven is a second generation family run business with two sites in Leighlinbridge, Carlow and Kilquade, Wicklow. Ireland’s first five star garden centre was founded by Executive Chairperson Rachel Doyle and is now managed by her sons, Barry Doyle, as CEO, and Fergal Doyle, as CCO. Emerging from humble beginnings (its first operations were based out of a home garage), Arboretum has evolved into a lifestyle experience with a garden centre, pet store, garden café, home & gift and furniture areas. We spoke to Rachel Doyle about the business founding, family involvement and succession. Read more here


Interview with Kevin and Rachel O'Connor.

Set up in 1953, Colourtrend is Ireland's leading decorative paint brand. The company manufactures decorative paints and industrial coatings which are supplied and sold across Ireland. Currently, there are two O'Connor family business members: Managing Director, Kevin O'Connor and his daughter, Business Development Manager, Rachel O'Connor. We spoke with both about their passion for the family business, the importance of professionalisation and managing next generation involvement. Read more here

W.S Darley & Co.

Interview with Paul and Audrey Darley.

Established in 1908, W.S Darley & Co. is a leading provider to Fire and Emergency Services worldwide. The company manufactures fire pumps and fire trucks and sells a range of specialised equipment. The compnay is entirely family owned with three generations of the Darley clan currently working in the business. The President and CEO of W.S Darley & Co., Paul Darley, and his daughter and Director of Vendor Relations, Audrey Darley, will speak at the upcoming annual CFB Conference on 1st March. Speaking with both, we gathered insights about the importance of strong family governance and how to maintain a mutually supportive, professional relationship between generations. Read more here

JJ O'Toole Ltd. 

Interview with Vicki O'Toole. 

JJ O’Toole Ltd. is a 102 year-old family business owned and managed by Ms. Vicki O’Toole. As Ireland’s leading packaging supplier, the company has clients throughout the country and abroad including Selfridges & Co., Newbridge Silverware, Brown Thomas, Avoca, Dunnes Stores and the Kilkenny Group. In the past 12 years, the family company has experienced tremendous challenges, but also incredible achievements. Speaking at the recent DCU CFB Women in Family Business event, Vicki O’Toole explains her journey from a stay at home mother to Managing Director of JJ O’Toole Ltd. Read more here

Donnelly Fresh Foods

Interview with Brian Doyle

Donnelly Fresh Foods is a third generation family owned company. In 1979, Anthony Donnelly and his son, Brian, set up Donnelly Fruit & Veg which began as a vegetable supplier to Superquinn. Over the following 36 years, the Donnelly group grew considerably and today includes three new businesses: Glan Arís, their crate wash and rental company; Wonderfoods, their food preparation division; and Donnelly Farms, their growing division. They employ 330 people and make an annual group turnover of between €80-100M. A strong management team led by a non-family managing director is in place across all four divisions. The group established its new board of directors in 2015, which holds a bimonthly meeting. The family remains actively involved through shareholding and management with Ciaran Donnelly as Group Managing Director. The CFB spoke with Brian Doyle, Group Chairman and MD of Glan Arís since 2004, about the family and non-family dynamic of the company. Read more here


Interview with David Keeling

In 1926, the grandparents of the current Keeling siblings began growing rhubarb on their land in St. Margaret’s, Fingal, North County Dublin. Soon the family were producing apples, strawberries and tomatoes and exporting flower bulbs to the UK. Throughout the 1940’s, the business operated as a small farm producer, selling their products at the Dublin Fruit market. The second generation became involved and son, Joe Keeling, established Keelings wholesale in 1973. From growing own produce, Keelings transitioned to buying from growers, both nationally and globally, and selling to independent retailers and the services and catering industries. In the 1980’s, the farm expanded and Keelings became a fresh food supplier for national supermarkets including Dunnes Stores and Quinnsworth. Supermarket retail gradually overtook the wholesale side and their product range expanded. Keelings is an exemplar of rapid expansion; from its humble beginnings the company now boasts five divisions, imports from 42 countries, and operates in European, Asian and African markets. Read more here

Rockabill Seafood 

Interview with Bill and Alan Price

The Price family has been involved in the fishing industry for over 30 years. Bill Price became a fisherman, like his father, and bought a truck so he could purchase and sell fish. Later, he secured a boat: the first of fourteen trawlers owned by the company today. In 1983, Bill established Rockabill Seafood Ltd. and built the company’s processing plant in Balbriggan in 1998. The plant processes shellfish from live to frozen for retail own brand and company brand, “Taste of the Sea”. The founder’s son, Alan, has driven internationalisation in the company which is now almost 100% exports. The Rockabill Group has nine operations including three processing plants nationwide and a crab factory in England. The group is an exemplar of internationalisation, exporting to 24 countries, and selling to 200 suppliers globally. Read more here

Jenkinson Logistics

Interview with Gareth Jenkinson

In 1975, Neville Jenkinson established a ship liner agency in Dublin, marking the start of Jenkinson Logistics. Prior to this he worked for a large shipping company in England and used this industry knowledge and expertise to serve shipping lines from Ireland. From representing some shipping lines, the company grew and so did the services provided. A container depot was established and following this a feeder service which carried short-haul ship freight from Dublin’s small port to larger ports like Rotterdam. In 1999, the company acquired James P. Jones and Sons, a substantial air and road freight company; two areas that Jenkinson Logistics wanted to develop. Gareth Jenkinson, son of the founder, joined the business in the 1990’s. The company has expanded both geographically and via its range of services, now facilitating air and road freight, freight management, and warehousing. The company serves a large customer base from small Irish companies to MNCs and is based in Dublin, Cork, Shannon, and Belfast. Read more here


Interview with Tom Keogh

Dating back to before 1832, generations of the Keogh’s family have farmed the land in North County Dublin, producing crops, and selling them at the Dublin City markets. In the 1960’s, the current generation’s grandfather built glasshouses on the land and became known for tomato growing and producing. Second generation brothers, Peter and Tony Keogh, began growing cauliflower, sprouts, broccoli and potatoes and established Peter Keogh & Sons in 1975. The following year they built one of the first Irish cold stores for potatoes, allowing them to provide all-year supply to the market. The third generation, led by Tom Keogh, diversified the core business, and established the largely successful Keogh’s Crisps in 2011. The business grew from 12 employees and an entirely wholesale consumer base to suppliers of retail groups, Musgraves and BWG and exporter to 14 countries. Keogh’s maintain the family business’ tradition while adapting and innovating in line with market demand. Read more here

Wrights of Howth 

Interview with Mark Wright

In 1904, Michael Wright established the family’s first fish and grocery shop in Malahide, Dublin, named M. Wright & Sons. Michael began smoking Irish salmon, a craft that has passed along the generations of Wrights. His son, Patrick Wright, continued this line of work when he opened a third M. Wright & Sons in Marino in 1930. This business was continued (now known as Wright’s of Marino) by his son, John while his other son, Michael, established Wrights of Howth in 1965. Michael set up the first main smokehouse in Howth. His son, Mark, now the fourth generation, expanded the business by entering the food and beverage sector, which accounts for 65% of the existing business’ operations. An entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family with Mark’s brother Michael running a string of establishments such as Findlater, Cáfe Bar Swords, and the Wright Venue under the Michael JF. Wright Hospitality Group. As managing director of Wrights of Howth group, Mark has led this diverse business portfolio that includes bars (e.g., The Galway Hooker), restaurants (e.g., The Seafood Bar), catering, retail (e.g., Wrights of Howth airport shop), wholesale and export of fish to approximately 50 international markets. Read more here

Stafford Lynch 

Interview with Eimear Lynch

Stafford Lynch Ltd. was established in 1974 by Matt Lynch and Ray Stafford, two former colleagues of a large Irish food company. The two men established a partnership that would become one of Ireland’s leading privately owned, multi-channel sales, marketing and distribution services provider. The company imports global brands such as Schwartz, Kleenex, and Wilkinson Sword, and distributes these, in addition to Irish brands (e.g., Linwoods and Sudocrem), to Ireland’s retail sector. The company’s distribution fleet ensures nationwide delivery and UK and European access. In 1990, the Lynch family acquired Stafford shareholding but kept the shared name of Stafford Lynch Ltd. The company’s main clientele are the retail and grocery sector which has undergone huge change in the last two decades. Following the recession and upheaval of this core industry, Stafford Lynch has remained competitive by continuously upgrading their business systems, identifying emerging consumer trends, and continually providing an efficient and cost-effective service to both their multinational and Irish brands. Read more here

Country Crest 

Interview with Michael Hoey

The Hoey family’s farming heritage dates back to the 1850’s in Lusk, North County Dublin. Fourth generation family members and brothers, Michael and Gabriel Hoey, established Country Crest in 1994. Their main operation was growing and packaging fresh potatoes for the retail sector. As potato consumption dropped the company diversified into onions, and invested €4 million in a state-of-the-art onion grading, packaging and primary storage facility in 2005. In answer to consumer needs, Country Crest began manufacturing and supplying vegetable accompaniments and prepared food and founded their company, Ballymaguire Foods, in 2008. The company is hands-on regarding sustainability and, in 2009, they procured an 80 metre on-site wind turbine that supplies the company with 70% of its energy needs. The Hoeys’ farm over 3,000 acres, while they oversee another 4,000 acres of crops for other farmers and run a bustling multi-division company that supplies to multiple retailers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK (Musgraves, Booker Group PLC and Food Services UK). Despite its expansive operations, the company ethos revolves around care-giving and environmental reciprocity; a powerful message that is supported by its owner-manager. Read more here

Dorans on the Pier 

Interview with Sean Doran

In 1930’s Wexford, Michael Doran bought a 30ft trawler called St. Mary, and so began the Doran family’s fishing lineage. From one trawler, he grew his fleet to 12 and in the 1960s moved his fishing activities to one of Ireland’s most renowned fishing ports—Howth. He established Lett Doran & Co. together with his uncle, Lawrence Lett, and later brought in a professional management team. In 1988, Michael passed away and with no succession plan or will in place, uncertainty arose regarding the future ownership and management of the company. The Doran family directed the company away from wholesale and towards the hospitality and retail sector, now supplying up to 70 restaurants. Lett Dorans was renamed Dorans on the Pier in 2003. The group employs approximately 100 people within their large portfolio of businesses: a fish shop, three restaurants, an online fresh fish delivery service, trawler consultancy, and ship chandlery. The company provides wholesale, retail and their own restaurants with fresh fish supplies caught by their own and other trawlers from Howth and across the country, as well as imports of exotic fish like swordfish, catfish and carp. Read more here

Tully Nurseries 

Interview with Martin Tully

Established in 1979 by Martin and Joan Tully, Tully Nurseries & Plant Centre is one of Ireland’s premier suppliers of plants. The founder, Martin Tully was a student of the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, and worked for Fingal County Council, Dublin, prior to setting up as a landscape contractor in 1973. Finding it difficult to source plants and trees all year round, Martin noticed an opportunity to set up a plant nursery. He began growing plants on a half-acre site for cash-and-carry wholesale. The lack of Irish demand for plants led Martin to export to the UK. Their customer base grew to include Landscape Contractors, Landscape Architects, Garden Designers, DIY chains, Garden Centres, Supermarkets and private homeowners. The business has expanded, with today’s site now 25 acres and producing over 1 million plants per annum. Tully Nurseries import and export plants to and from the continent and beyond. Recently, the company embarked on a new product development programme, which led to successful plant varieties including the award-winning Hebe Rhubarb & Custard. As the founding generation releases control, a highly qualified management team is in place to ensure sustained business growth. Read more here

Grand Hotel Malahide

Interview with Al Ryan

Matthew and Maureen Ryan entered the hospitality trade in 1960 when they opened a large tavern in Kildare. In 1974, the couple made the decision to buy the Grand Hotel Malahide—a 180 year old hotel with a succession of prominent owners. The hotel had only 36 rooms and 12 staff and required significant managerial and infrastructural investment. In 1989, the business expanded when the family purchased Marine Hotel Sutton, located ten kilometres from the original hotel.  Over two decades, the Ryan family has overseen the redevelopment of the Grand Hotel Malahide, which has undergone more than seven refurbishment projects and extensions costing an estimated €35m; such projects include a conference centre, 150 additional bedrooms, a new reception area, Ryan’s Bar, a Business Meeting Centre and the Coast restaurant overlooking Malahide Marina. At the opening of the newly refurbished hotel in 2007, former-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern stated: “It is great to see a family-operated business such as this grow and prosper along with the surrounding area.” The Ryan family have revived the building, transforming it into a four-star rated hotel with 203 bedrooms and 180 employees. Read more here

Donnelly Fruit & Veg

Interview with Ciaran Donnelly

Donnelly Fruit and Veg was founded in 1979 by Anthony Donnelly and his son, Brian. The father and son team began supplying a few vegetable lines to Superquinn, the country’s largest supermarket at the time. Donnelly Fruit and Veg began a longstanding partnership with Superquinn, supplying their entire fruit and vegetable range. In 2001, Donnelly moved to FoodCentral in St.Margaret’s, Fingal, and began supplying other nationwide retailers including Aldi and BWG (e.g., Spar, Eurospar, Mace, Londis) in addition to Musgrave’s Supervalu. In this time, Anthony passed away and Brian became Managing Director of the company. He established Glan Aris, a crate wash and rental company for supply to both Donnelly Fruit and Veg and other food produce suppliers. In 2004, they established Wonderfoods, the food preparation division which supplies Donnelly branded fresh prepared vegetables, bag salads and roasting trays to retailers. In 2012, the company began farming crops, becoming both producer and supplier of Donnelly branded produce as well as private label goods. Now, the third-generation Donnelly brothers, Ciaran and Ronan, aim to direct this large business portfolio towards further growth and success. Read more here

JH McLoughlin Oil Balbriggan 

Interview with Bernadette McLoughlin

The McLoughlin family’s venture into oil distribution began in 1937 when John H. McLoughlin set up operations in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. The business gradually expanded and in 1952 they purchased an oil depot in Drogheda followed by a forecourt and garage in Balbriggan in 1953. Following the founder’s passing in 1954 the eldest son, Joe, became managing director of the business, with the assistance of his brothers Dessie and John. The family moved away from their agricultural roots and focused on the domestic heating market which has remained their core operation up to the present day. On Joe’s passing in 1986, John and Dessie led the continued expansion and diversification of J.H. McLoughlin Ltd. The company was de-merged into two separate entities in 1995 with John continuing the Newbridge branch and Dessie overseeing J.H. McLoughlin Balbriggan Ltd. In the Newbridge branch, the family have diversified their core business of oil supply to include a range of household, car and pet products. Now in its third generation, the McLoughlin family use their rich experience and knowledge of the oil industry coupled with their committed workforce to ensure business survival. Read more here

Dungarvan Transport Ltd. 

Interview with Tómas Horgan

Tomás Horgan is Managing Director of Waterford’s largest transport business, Dungarvan Transport Ltd., which is second generation family owned and run. The business has grown steadily over the last thirty years in terms of turnover and employment, and now specialises in three areas—wood transport, agri products, and pharmaceuticals. Tomás and his brother, Gerard, are both company directors and sole shareholders of the business. The brothers have a dedicated and long-serving team that includes three non-family managers, drivers and engineers.Tomás Horgan talks about the benefits of family and non-family management and the means of retaining top talent in his family business….read full interview here

Bennett Hospitality

Interview with Mike and Jack Bennett

The story of Bennett Hospitality, and of its owner and founder Mr Michael R. Bennett, is a story of vision, connection, and the transformational power of entrepreneurship. Mike was born in Charleston, South Carolina, a city that has only in recent decades reclaimed the vibrancy that had been taken from it when it became the first flashpoint of the American Civil War. Following an era where wealth, property, and power were retained within an aristocratic few, Charleston – and in particular men like Mike Bennett – is working to shed the image of a city dominated by a cluster of well-inherited families. Now, as one of the most culturally rich and aesthetically appealing cities in the American South, and boasting one of the country’s most thriving tourist sectors, it is well on its way.Mike, and his son Jack, speak to us about the past, present, and future of their family full interview here

Teeling Whiskey Company

Interview with Jack Teeling

Jack Teeling is the Founder and Managing Director of Teeling Whiskey Company (TWC), an independent family business set up in 2012. As former Managing Director of Cooley Distillery (the company founded by his father, John Teeling), Jack has extensive knowledge and experience of the Irish whiskey industry. Jack is joined by his younger brother, Stephen Teeling (Sales and Marketing Director) and Alex Chasko (CTO) in growing TWC both in Ireland and abroad. Since the company’s founding, TWC has received over 40 awards for its whiskies. Based in Dublin city, the TWC distillery and visitor centre should start distilling operations at the end of this month and open its doors to visitors in May 2015. The CFB spoke with Jack Teeling about the importance of family in the business….read full interview here

Matthews Coach Hire Ltd. 

Interview with Noel Matthews

Noel Matthews is the Managing Director of second generation family business, Matthews Coach Hire. Noel succeeded his father Paddy who founded the business when he bought his first bus in 1995. Today, the company operates a full fleet that provide direct commuter services along the M1 corridor, private and corporate hire, concert and event travel and coach tours, including their recently launched Taste of Ireland Tour Series. Noel’s parents Paddy and Mary Matthews are company owners, and Noel’s brothers, foster sister, sister-in-law and cousin are employed in the business. As Matthews Coach Hire prepares to enter its third generation, special focus has been placed on succession planning and professionalising, as Noel Matthews explains….read full interview here

Botany Weaving

Interview with Jonathan Hackett

Jonathan Hackett is the second generation member and Managing Director of Botany Weaving. Established in 1934, this familyowned business provides seat fabrics, carpet and curtain fabrics to the aviation industry. The company works with over 120 of the world’s leading airlines, including Air Canada, Air France and British Airways. A customer of AIB Business Banking, Botany Weaving has grown to employ 150 people in its three Irish plants with sales this year of €29 million. Speaking with the CFB, Jonathan Hackett gives an insight into the family communications dynamic of his firm. Read full interview here

 The Flanagan Group

Interviews with Brian, Barry and Tara Flanagan

Brian, Barry and Tara Flanagan make up the second generation of the family owned Flanagan Group. In 1973, parents, Joe and Marie founded the group in Kildare town where they bought, refurbished and rebranded a local pub, now known as Silken Thomas. From there, the group expanded and now includes Lock 13 Gastropub, Sallins; restaurant, Chapter 16; guesthouse, Lord Edward; nightclub, Tigerlily; Silken Thomas and an Anglo Norman tower, the last from the original 13th Century Kildare Castle. The group employs over 100 staff. Both generations are involved in the business (Joe is chairman of the group) with Brian, Barry and Tara actively involved in day to day operations. The CFB spoke with the three siblings about being next generation and making their unique mark on a thriving family business group.  Read full  interview here.