Three Irish small business concepts that might succeed in the US

Women and girls knitting on the stairs of a small company are depicted in a fine art picture.


Written by Miriam Ellis, “Knitting the Islands”


Happy St. Patrick’s Day and good luck to all of my readers! I frequently observe that small, regional companies succeed because of a tremendous inspiration and a lucky coincidence that gets them noticed. I’d like to share a shamrock of three concepts with you today to help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in my native Ireland. Even if you don’t follow the specific business plan, remember the fundamental ideas, which I firmly believe may work in the US. I’ll also mention how a little inventive marketing might help luck along. Share this article with your team to generate ideas for new marketing initiatives or with anyone in your life who aspires to launch a small business.


discover the “grá”


Have you ever wondered what “I love you” means in Irish? “Tá grá agam duit” (taw graw ah-gum duts/ditch) is one method. When speaking English, it’s not unusual to hear Irish people express they have a “grá” for something. To me, the term “grá” implies both affection and a sense of longing. In American marketing jargon, “consumer demand” would be what we would describe when individuals have a “grá” for something like particularly nice bread, a trip to the beach, or a warm coat they saw in a store window. If you pay closely right now, you might begin to notice individuals in the US and other countries expressing a specific type of “grá” for a different way of life. Recently, a conversation like this one that was begun by author and founder Dave Gerhardt caught my attention on Twitter.


However, what I see in this tweet and the replies to it is that people are starting to grow weary of the one-dimensional confines of spending too much time in front of a screen. Software, of course, isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and the more we learn about the current state of AI chat, the less many analysts are convinced that it’s going to be a major disruptor at this point. The desire for a fulfilling local life and community “IRL” is a fantastic “grá” expression. Americans have a strong attachment to technology, but I find that more and more of my contemporaries are talking about living a “analog life,” wishing their children would become “luddites,” or considering how their families may fare in an off-the-grid environment. Simply said, many people want to be more content with their immediate surroundings.


Let’s take a closer look at these three aspirational ideals to determine whether you or your clients are feeling a “grá” pulling at you for any of them. This dynamic is actually designed specifically for small business entrepreneurs.


1. Consider life.


image from a website that sells roll-out wildflower seed mats to replace lawns.


Within recent memory, having a small, weed-free plot of lush lawn was a sign of dignity. To maintain tight control over the grass, you continuously mow it. You pulled up every dandelion, or worse, you used herbicides to poison your own nest. Believe that nothing ever improves? I hear you, however check out TheIrishGardener since the Irish are now carpeting the outdoors with native wildflower matts rather than laying out bundles of monocrop sod. People now demand flowers, bees, moths, butterflies, beetles, and more living things than can fit in one dimension. They are revitalizing vital ecosystems yard by yard. Smart wildflower seed vendors are now advertising their goods, such as seed bombs and matts, not only to homeowners but also as classroom projects, wedding favors, and other occasions.


In the US, it has become a common practice in marketing to scare our neighbors into buying something. When compared to the advertisements I hear on Irish media, which seem to be primarily focused on green energy, eating delectable foods, and enjoying the arts, our commercials are full of weapons, yelling, threats, panic, worry, and danger, it’s extremely strange how different they are.


Could your successful small business eschew marketing focused on shock and fright and instead place a premium on the joy and beauty of life? If you can match your business with the very strong desire for life to be abundant, varied, diversified, interesting, healthy, and fun, I believe you are moving away from the old lifeless lawns to the new thriving garden. After all, there is an old saying that says you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.


2. Think locally.


Real Irish seaweed can only be found on the nation’s coasts, as you might expect. One of the few companies,, has recognized the potential of a natural gift that many others could overlook. Elders have traditionally swore by seaweed as a very effective fertilizer because it can be used for fertilizing plants, bathing, and as food. A Californian business is investigating if it can capitalize on a similar demand in the US not far from where I reside. What was once primarily a snack that youngsters fondly recalled is now becoming into a serious green sector in Ireland.


Where do you dwell, what is neglected? Is it a product that is only available in your neighborhood? anything that people formerly cherished but now take for granted? It can be a local food source that is dwindling because no one is eating it anymore, or it might be a skilled craft like creating baskets in a particular manner, baking or brewing a regional specialty, knitting or sewing a traditional outfit, or making an old-fashioned medicine. Maybe it’s bringing back a custom that once served as the center of your town. Could your brilliant small company concept just be about reuniting neighbors with the unique qualities of their local area—a place that may have started to fade from our collective memory because screens are obscuring the view—instead of anything more complicated?


3. Focus on the basic pleasures of humans.


Even though ChatGPT, GA4, or what will happen next on or to Twitter may be taking up all of our SEO time right now, Padraic g Gallagher is up on the balcony of his restaurant cultivating authentic Irish potatoes for his Boxty House in Dublin. If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating boxty, it’s a delectable potato cake that is so adored in Ireland that it served as the model for a restaurant that was so successful that a second site could be added. Boxty is unpretentious. It is a dish that your mother would prepare for you using leftover food; it is a treasured childhood memory that makes your spirit feel warm.


Rereading Dave Gerhardt’s Twitter thread reveals that he is not wishing for a yacht, mansion, or pot of wealth. He only seeks the satisfaction that comes from “building in your community.” Most of us can be content with just enough, so think about what you may give that genuinely brings human contentment to the majority of people rather than developing a business idea around elite luxury. a common kitchen item that is no longer well-made? an artisanal walking stick? An inviting bookstore, a tour for tourists, your grandmother’s pecan pie, a wooden toy or doll, a strong gardening tool, a bayberry candle, or a local herbal tea?


More clients may find your proposal to be a welcome break from the low-quality, mass-produced, and extremely limited selections if it is simpler and of higher quality. America’s Vermont Country Store has had exceptional success assisting customers in relocating essential items they can no longer find. Examine their strategy.


marketing your small business idea in a creative way


What can you do to grab your audience’s attention? No matter how little your local business is, you must have a website and local business listings, as you have probably already surmised. Even if we might yearn for more time away from our screens, we have to admit that the internet makes it so much simpler to be discovered. Thirty years ago, I would have said the same thing about the phone book. So certainly, create the greatest website you can afford to, complete your Google Business Profile and other listings, and make every effort to learn as much as you can about managing your online reputation. Your ambitions will be easier to accomplish.


Having said that, the space available for inventive marketing outside of the web could fill the Book of Kells to the brim. Try these low-tech strategies if you’re just starting out small to spread the word about your new venture in your neighborhood:


To welcome you as a pop-up shop inside their establishment, perhaps during the busy Christmas season or the tourist season.


Meet with local store owners to see if your product could secure a permanent spot on their shelves if you create enough volume.


To obtain press, speak with local reporters and present them with the most succinct, interesting angle of your company.


In certain places, there are still physical bulletin boards for the community. Apply them.


Place a sign outside your home or inside your apartment’s window. No space? If there is an empty lot or a street corner with other signs displayed, request permission from the local authorities before posting a sign there. Prepare to persuade them of the advantages of your concept for the neighborhood.


Look into the rules in your area about flyer hanging.


Find out whether there is a chance for you to be featured in current print catalogs. Every year, 90 million Americans order something from a catalog, and despite the Internet’s pervasiveness in our lives, catalog buying has been on the rise.


Create or join a local business association to facilitate cross-selling, networking, and idea generation.


Plan an event in a neighborhood park with other microbusiness owners to introduce your company to the community and showcase your products.


Get cited for supporting neighborhood teams, events, and people online and off.


To reach 82.5% of US adults, see if your community still has a local radio station. If so, try to appear on it as a guest or with an advertisement.


If you reside in a tourist-friendly location, get in touch with the nearby visitors’ center to learn how to be mentioned in their publications.


Promote your business in the mailers and bulletins of the churches and schools in your area.


Participate if your work has anything to do with a festival that is related to food, music, art, culture, or your neighborhood.


“A wren must collect it, however little it may be.”


Irish postage stamp with a local wren bird.


This well-known Irish saying serves as my concluding statement today because it seems appropriate given the current state of affairs in America, where the myth of unending growth and the risks of an unbridled demand for luxury have done nothing good for the economy or the environment that our entire population must live in. Every small business owner and local business marketer may readily connect to the Irish proverb “Cé gur beag dol, caithfidh sé a sholáthar,” which reminds us that even the smallest wren must work hard to support itself.


A more sustainable method to start a business may be to ask how little you actually need to be pleased, rather than how much you want. New business trends in Ireland are helping me to see this double meaning. Every SEO knows it’s best practice to ask clients to describe success before a project starts so that everyone can understand when a goal has been accomplished. Success for the majority of small business owners who don’t aspire to run large corporations will typically mean being able to pay their employees enough so that they may live modestly but well. This awareness is important right now, in my opinion, because the majority of customers are looking for the same thing: to have just enough.


The preservation of traditional crafts that last on both sides of the water, whether it be through thrifting in Ireland or America, re-storing in Drogheda or Simi Valley, eating locally and organically at Moyleabbey Farm in Kildare or Waxwing Farm in Washington, or eating at either location, is indicative of a search for a simpler, better life. There is no way to overstate how much local economies and the environment benefit from this strategy, which is why 57% of Americans say they buy small to support their community. I’d suggest luck might be on your side if you’ve decided 2023 is the year to embrace the new/old ways by founding or promoting small enterprises.

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