TWO female founders have been honoured for striving to create positive social and environmental change in Cork through their start-ups.
Entrepreneurs Lisa Harrison, of Landscape, and Trish Daly, of Rustic Thistle Farm, were the winners at the recent first ever Kinsale Entrepreneur Awards.
Along with the 15 others, they have just completed the first Startup22 Kinsale Entrepreneurship Programme, which was designed and delivered by Future Kinsale and a range of business experts, working on a voluntary basis.
Landscape is a brand strategy and design agency helping non-profits focused on environmental change to create an impactful brand; and Rustic Thistle Farm aims to help people with mental health difficulties ease back into everyday life through the healing power of nature.
Trish and Lisa share their innovative ideas ….
Trish Daly, Rustic Thistle Farm
Watching as someone very close to her got caught ‘in the revolving door of the mental health system’ is what inspired Trish Daly’s Rustic Thistle Farm idea.
“The sad thing was that each time they entered hospital, they became a little bit less confident. Their medication was increased and it took much longer for them to function at their previous level. The more I watched, the more helpless I felt,” she said.
Her vision for Rustic Thistle Farm is an organic day care centre with polytunnels, laying hens and two pigmy goats where guests (she insists her clients will be called guests as she wants to treat them with the highest respect) will be given meaningful work, medication compliance, clinical counselling, wholesome food and the healing power of nature.
The centre will be located on a 1.3 acre property with views overlooking Cork harbour.
“The land is in Windsor Hill in Glounthaune and it was my parents’ home. They both died about 26 years ago and none of us wanted to sell the house or the grounds. It was left vacant for many years until we then decided to rent it,” she said.
Trish emigrated to Australia from Cork in 1987, and ran several businesses in Sydney.
“In 2018, I moved to Ireland to have a ‘look see’ and returned to Sydney in 2019 to sort out my apartment, etc. when Covid happened and Australia closed its borders so I was stuck there for two years – not that Australia is a bad place to be stuck but the closed borders helped me make up my mind to come home,” she said.
This year she has been studying Sustainable Horticulture and Permaculture at Kinsale College.
“One of the three ethics of permaculture is ‘care for people’ and I believe we have a duty of care to look after the marginalised,” she said. After her exams in May, she plans to head to Boston and work as a volunteer on Gould Farm as it’s close to what she plans for Rustic Thistle Farm. Then she’ll start getting the house fit for purpose, and in January 2023, she plans to self-fund a trial of her concept.
Guests, who can self-refer, will go through an interview process with their clinical director and see if they are a good fit.
“We will initially look at taking in five guests, this is because we want to make sure each gets the maximum out of the experience. We need to understand their unique needs and make sure we have the support staff in place,” she said.
Right now, it’s just Trish and her brother Charlie, but she’s hoping to employ a social worker who has an interest in horticulture.
“We will also have a support team in place to handle any crisis that may occur. We are also keen to get some volunteers to help with the day-to-day running of the centre. They will receive board and accommodation and it’s hoped they will work side-by-side with the guests.
“Family members are also encouraged to get involved as we are keen to work in partnership with the family.”
Trish has done a few business courses over the years but said the Startup22 Kinsale Entrepreneurship Programme was different.
“I now have such a clear business idea that I want people to hear about The Rustic Thistle Farm and this award has given me the platform to do that, which is the biggest prize.”
Lisa Harrison, Landscape
While Lisa Harrison was studying Permaculture at Kinsale College, the seeds for her new business were sown.
“During the course, we met and heard of so many amazing people doing really inspirational things to help with climate change, our broken food system, plastic waste, sustainable farming, sustainable living and people trying to create positive social change to better our world,” she said.
But Lisa, whose background is graphic design and branding, could see a real gap in how they got their story out.
“I wanted to help them communicate their message effectively to have a bigger impact. When I spoke to them about branding, there was a lot of misconception around it and a general lack of understanding about how it could help. Now, this is normal for most small businesses, but I noticed it wasn’t particularly approachable for non-profits and social enterprises.
“A lot of brand strategy is aimed towards businesses and marketing but fails to bring in what is needed for a non-profit to communicate their message clearly, and essentially spread the word about what they’re doing,” she said.
Her passion for the environment and her career motivated her to edit her own strategy to work for non-profits.
“This is the stuff I really care about,” she said.
Originally from Dublin, Lisa has lived in Cork for six years and in Kinsale for two.
“I guess my love for plants and nature comes from my dad,” said Lisa. “We watch nature programmes together and can talk for hours about plants and growing food. When I was a kid you could find me in the flower beds collecting worms for my mud castles!”
Landscape’s mission statement is: ‘to fast-track environmental and social change through impactful and disruptive design.’
Lisa has done a lot of research and put together a process that helps get non-profits to the place they want to be with their organisation She said the start-up course was the best one she’s done: “There’s a huge amount of resources in the course and so much support from the organisers and the mentors they’ve put together. I’ve gained so much from doing this course.”
She now plans to create a course to deliver in person and online that will help environmental and social impact organisations to understand the process of branding.
“Before, winning the prize wasn’t a big goal for me, I felt it would just be an added bonus, but once I won it gave me a lot of confidence to know that what I’m doing is the right path for me.
“I’ve been working hard for years and this helped to show me it will all be worth it,” she said
ABOUT FUTURE KINSALE
Future Kinsale is a non-profit, community-led membership organisation that is working to build a healthy, sustainable community.
Guided by a survey of 800 community members in 2018, the group is working in a number of areas. These are enterprise development, transport and infrastructure (including a campaign to bring a Greenway/Blueway to the region in cooperation with other local groups), culture and community; climate and sustainability and technology.
Startup22 will shortly be opening for new applications.