Inner City Enterprise

Irish innovative businesses during the Covid-19 Pandemic

SMEs and social enterprises
SMEs and social enterprises
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Hi Entrepreneurs and welcome to the first ICE blog post. We decided to join the world of blogging to give us an opportunity to share some insights from our experience, to talk about some of the issues that affect Solopreneurs, SMEs and social enterprises, and to celebrate the successes of the people who rise to the challenges of Enterprise.  SMEs account for 99.8% of active enterprises and 65% of employees and are therefore the main source of jobs in the Irish economy (Seanad Public Consultation Committee Report 2019)

The Small business sector played a very important role in pulling the economy out of the labour market crisis in 2012, …and it will play a very important role in pulling the economy out of the COVID-19 employment crisis (ISME Report 2020). ICE have spent the last nine years, since our relaunch in 2012, supporting 1200 new small businesses to start up. To support and grow the third Sector of Social Business we set up the Dublin City Social enterprise grant awards with Dublin City Council, and we also started a free entrepreneurship programme aimed at young adults.

For our first blog post we decided to share some of the amazing, innovative and problem-solving Irish enterprises, that have had to adapt, pivot or redesign how they operate and offer their products or services during the Covid 19 pandemic. Their resilience is inspiring and helps us to see how it is possible to continue during extremely difficult times. We also highlight some of the larger enterprises who have taken time to really contribute to supporting our frontline health services in combatting this global crisis. 

Manna Aero

When the plan to use drones to pilot food deliveries into UCD campus was disrupted due to Covid-19, Ireland’s Manna Aero started repurposing its drones and started testing out an entirely different concept. In March 2020, when the first Lockdown went into place, the drone company began delivering medication and critical supplies to isolated elderly people. In Moneygall, where the system was first tested, locals ran a dedicated phone line rather than a mobile app so vulnerable residents could order bread and milk and have their prescription medicines brought to their door. Manna Aero is averaging 2000 flights per week, with drones flying under a UV light before delivery to destroy any viruses. The drones fly at a speed of over 80kph and they can deliver within a 2km radius in less than 3 minutes. Manna Aero’s ultimate goal is to replace road-based delivery, greatly improving the customer experience, but also reducing deaths and injuries caused by road-based deliveries.

Moville Clothing

Moville Clothing is another Irish company that went the route of repurposing their services, going from making courtroom attire and clerical wear to producing hospital uniforms and scrubs to meet the needs brought about by Covid 19. This small family-run clothing business in north Donegal which specialised in clerical shirts and legal attire completely turned production over to making high quality cotton-blend scrubs for front-line healthcare workers.

The Moville team now supplies not only local hospitals but also private surgery nurses around the country. The company reduced the manufacturing price as low as possible to a non-for-profit base, to help workers who have to supply their own scrubs. The issue spurred Donegal designer Edel McBride to come on board and start #pledgescrubs – an all-island campaign where people can gift a set of scrubs from the company to a frontline healthcare worker. The campaign has raised more than €85,000 and received support from almost 1500 donors.

Irish Distillers and Mervue Laboratories

Irish Distillers, producer of the Jameson and Powers whiskey, stepped up to the Covid 19 challenge, to help the HSE cope with the unprecedented demand for hand sanitising gel. They partnered with Mervue Laboratories, to provide large scale quantities of this vital alcohol-based gel. The two companies together were a perfect match of a local Irish company and multinational based in Cork. They worked together to create the necessary products and had the supply chain available, to manufacture and deliver large quantities of sanitizer to healthcare professionals working in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Irish Distillers provided the alcohol free of charge, while Mervue Laboratories only recovered the costs for their work. This collaboration between Mervue Labs and Irish Distillers provided more than 1 million free bottles of hand sanitiser to frontline workers.

SMEs and social enterprisesSMEs and social enterprises


We have all sadly become very familiar with the number of people taken into hospitals due to this pandemic. This disease has caused a huge strain on medical teams and ICU units have become overwhelmed, with the availability of ventilators being one of the biggest concerns. Irish company Combilift has pivoted some of its production line to support efforts towards the battle against Covid-19. This manufacturer based in Monaghan and well known for its range of space-saving forklifts,, has applied expertise in engineering and software design to develop the Combi-ventilate.

This innovative  splitter device  turns one ventilator into multiple ventilation stations, providing lifesaving support to  a number of seriously ill people at one time. The Combi-Ventilate uses standard pipes and fittings for easy assembly and its individual patient filters prevent cross contamination. Each patient has a dedicated screen which allows medical professionals to individually monitor their vital information. Any issues that occur are detected and will only trigger that specific patient’s alarm. The Combi-ventilate is a testament to Combilifts innovation and adaptability and shows how Combilift has grown from a start up in Monaghan in 1998, to be the largest manufacturer of multi-directional forklifts across the globe.  

Ballymakenny Farm

With the advent of Covid-19, and the closure of the restaurant market for their heritage potatoes, Ballymakenny Farm was forced to rethink and adapt its business model. Every season Ballymakenny Farm provides different varieties of heirloom/speciality potatoes. Their wonderful Violetta Potatoes have been on the best menus in the country, used in the best kitchens and praised by the best chefs.

SMEs and social enterprises

Quick-thinking owner Maria Flynn set up a drive-thru Spud shack on their farm. She also set up a ‘Potatoes by Post’ service to courier their produce to anywhere in Ireland.  Their brilliant new drive -through service is completely contactless, with customers invited to drive up to the spud shack on the Farm where they can pick up some spuds without having to even leave their vehicles. By not staying the same, and making small pivotal changes, the team at Ballymakenny Farm has proven their skill at adaptability and showcased the ingenuity and resilience of Irish small business owners.

Hidden Howth Experiences

Daniel & Mark of Hidden Howth Experiences  are two incredible Irish tour guides, who adapted their business through the pandemic to launch a unique set of online experiences of Ireland. This is not your standard historical experience.  It is fully interactive, with loads of great views, chat, quizzes, Irish music, culture & Irish craic. Using 360 HD videos Daniel & Mark recreate their best selling in person experience for your virtual adventure. They include their puppies Missy & Bella in their adventures, and you can follow the whole gang on a journey through time, creating magic through insights, stories, and the myths & legends you have come to associate with the emerald isle. This experience is great for corporate teams, families, solo adventurers, and all sorts of parties and events, to enjoy from home.

We have seen in recent years that there have been many changes in the workplace. While it still recognises that qualifications and credentials are important, the development of soft skills—skills that are more social than technical—are a crucial part of fostering a dynamic workforce and are always in high demand. Resilience and problem solving are often cited by the biggest companies in the world as skills they most desire in their new hires.  I think the examples here show that often the best examples of resilience and problem solving come from entrepreneurs and the businesses that they fight to hold on to.

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