Spotlight on innovation for Chamber awards

Innovation and perseverance in business will be to the fore at this year’s Kilkenny Chamber Business Awards, which will be announced at a black-tie event on November 24 in the Lyrath Estate Hotel.

Innovation and perseverance in business will be to the fore at this year’s Kilkenny Chamber Business Awards, which will be announced at a black-tie event on November 24 in the Lyrath Estate Hotel.

Chamber board members, the event’s sponsors and other invited guests gathered in City Hall on Friday afternoon to launch the awards, which this year will include categories such as an Innovation Award, a Diaspora Award, Craft Business of the Year and an Age-Friendly award.

The 22 categories will also recognise a Businessperson of the Year, Emerging New Business, Employer of the Year, Employee of the Year, Family Business, a Lifetime Achievement award and a President’s Award.

Chamber president Donie Butler thanked all of the awards’ sponsors, in particular title sponsors Glanbia, and vowed that the event would a night to remember. “In my experience, it not only matches and meets the best, but perhaps is out in front of a lot of them,” he said.

He also acknowledged the difficult business environment in which the Chamber itself has faced structural changes in recent months.

“It has been a time of big change for the Chamber. We have restructured (to become) a more fit-for purpose Chamber,” he said. “We have had to do that because of the economic circumstances that not just the Chamber but all businesses find themselves in.”

For businesses these days, it’s about survival, he said, and any advancement on that is a bonus.

But the key to survival could be summarised in one word, he said. Referring to a recent visit to Kilkenny by Taiwan’s ambassador, Mr Butler recalled that the diplomat was asked what it was that drives the four “Asian tiger” economies of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

His answer: “Innovation.”

“This is what we have to focus on,” Mr Butler said, noting that the Chamber was introducing an Innovation Award that will be handed out at this year’s awards night.

Of the Craft Business of the Year award, he said, “There are 120 craft businesses in Kilkenny and it is timely that we recognise them,” and he said the Diaspora Award would bring attention to “Kilkenny people who have set up businesses abroad and are employing people who have had no choice but to emigrate.

Due to serve as compere for the event is RTÉ’s John Murray, who launched the awards on Friday.

Mr Murray said he was looking forward to the occasion and noted that when he served as MC a few years ago it was Taxback.com that won the overall award – “and since then we have seen the success of that organisation. It is an example of business success in Kilkenny.”

He, too, said that innovation was vital for growing a business, and he paid tribute to businesspeople with the “determination, passion and zeal to succeed.”

Recalling his days hosting RTÉ Radio 1’s “The Business” back in 2005, he said: “The great thing about doing that was getting in contact with people who are risk takers ... people who endured sleepless nights and worked unbelievable hours to make their business succeed.”

“Fast-forward to today,” he said, “and the difficulties that businesses are experiencing – that is why an award scheme like this is so important. For a business to be alive and well is in itself an achievement.”

Deputy mayor John Coonan also wished the Chamber well for its awards night.

“If ever there was a time to recognise the achievements of business, now is the time,” he said. “It is very important that we recognise the achievements of businesses right across the board. The success of businesses in the city and county makes a success of that city and county.”