Sometimes, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time. In 2010, as the Irish economy was in the throes of a devastating recession, John Keohane and Paul Martin decided they’d set up an LED lighting company. With no outside finance and no real idea if they were on to a winner, they began providing lighting solutions to the industrial and commercial industry.
“Myself and Paul were starting to see LED emerging as a commercially viable lighting option. We felt that the shift in technology was presenting us with an opportunity to capture the industrial and commercial client base. The company began operating in the middle of a recession, and that actually worked for us as people were looking for ways to reduce their energy costs. We got in at a good time; we were actually one of the first LED companies to the market,” said John Keohane, CEO at Verde LED.
From the start, the aim for the Cork-based firm was to provide clients with a full turnkey solution. John and Paul set about designing, manufacturing, supplying, installing and project managing the highest quality LED lighting solutions for the industry – and they didn’t let a small thing like experience hold them back.
“I have a degree in finance but I’ve always had an interest in energy efficiency and renewables. From a finance perspective I could see the paybacks that lighting would give.
“Before setting up the company, we looked at wind and solar but they were all heavily reliant on grants and subsidies and the paybacks were much longer. With lighting, you’re looking at two to three year paybacks. Technology was getting more efficient and pricing was coming down. It was a no brainer of a proposition.”
The first couple of years were all about establishing a firm foothold. Once that was achieved, John and Paul decided it was time to cast the net a bit wider.
“We exhibited at Light + Building in Frankfurt in 2012, the biggest lighting fair in the world. It was a big punt for us – it cost about €50,000 to exhibit and that was huge money for us at the time.”
It was a gamble that paid off. The company picked up a couple of overseas distributors whom they are still doing business with today. “We were throwing our eggs into the one basket and hoping it would work; and it did. That started our expansion into overseas markets through a distribution network. Organically we started growing customers in other markets – for example, companies that we had in Ireland wanted us to follow them into the UK. That led us to other countries including Holland and China. Our primary focus is still on delivering turnkey solutions in Ireland and the UK.”
The company has been growing consistently year on year. “We felt that shift in technology was presenting us with an opportunity to capture the industrial and commercial client base.”
“This year we’re 35% up on last year. We’re taking on additional staff, we’re getting into bigger projects all the time and we’re also expanding into niche markets like sports lighting and cleanroom lighting.” The challenge is ensuring customers get a value-added service every time.
“Sometimes we can add more value in different sectors or we try to find the sectors that are under-served. Maybe they don’t have a particular product type or solution available to them. They’re the sectors that we try and target.”
In the commercial and industrial space, the Verde team focuses on a narrow range of products and solutions to ensure a successful job every time.
“It’s about focusing on a few different target markets and ensuring we’re coming up with the best solutions and services. We know that we’re not the only lighting company in the world, so we need to make sure that what we do, we do extremely well,” added John. “Repeat business depends on it and we’re happy to say we have a lot of customers coming back to us on a regular basis.”
What started out as just two people has now grown into a 23-strong company.
“Starting out in a recession was probably a great grounding for us as it gave us a strong sense of discipline and gave us the resources we needed to get through the tough times.”