Fiona Deegan, Kilkenny LEO
Born in Stradbally, Co Laois, Fiona Deegan has lived in Kilkenny for the past 20 years.
During that time, through her work with the Local Enterprise Office, she has worked with many businesses throughout the county, providing a range of supports to assist them to start-up and grow. She is passionate about Kilkenny and continues to innovate to come up with successful campaigns to sell Kilkenny as a destination to live, work, shop, eat and play.
Married to Martin, Fiona lives on a dairy farm just outside Castlecomer. She is a busy woman, rising at 6am every morning to feed and muck out the horses before heading for school drop-off and work. So I was honoured that she had the time to talk to me about her most recent Christmas campaign - #shopkilkenny - an initiative that I have been following and supporting since it was launched two years ago.
Here is a glimpse into Fiona’s world…
#shopkilkenny was your brainchild. It is true that you don’t buy anything outside Kilkenny?
It’s great to see the people of Kilkenny supporting local, especially since the pandemic hit. We started this initiative two years ago with Kilkenny Chamber and local retailers to remind people that where we direct our spending shapes the future of where we live. By shopping locally, we support our towns and villages and we keep local shopkeepers and service providers in business.
Yes it is true, everything I need, I can buy in Kilkenny. When we started the #shopkilkenny campaign two years ago, I made a conscious decision to shop locally. I enjoy shopping in the fantastic shops and boutiques throughout the city and I do the grocery shopping locally in Castlecomer, buying meat in Dick Dooley Butchers, fruit and vegetables in Cunningham’s Fruit & Veg and the rest of my groceries in Forde’s Eurospar. I also #shopkilkennyonline with the many businesses who have adopted ecommerce through the roll out of the Trading Online Voucher scheme with the Local Enterprise Office.
The signage coming in and out of Kilkenny city and county is a nice subliminal message to shoppers.
Yes, the signage is a reminder to people to shop locally and also to say thanks from all the retailers across the city and county for supporting them and in doing so, supporting jobs in our local communities.
What is the feedback like on the #shopkilkenny campaign from retailers?
The feedback is really positive from retailers and is just one of many supports which the Local Enterprise Office provide for the sector.
We are gaining huge traction through our #shopkilkenny social media platforms, running a number of competitions to highlight the campaign and also running a series of marketing campaigns through the local media. People are now really conscious of supporting local where possible.
I’ve had a word with Santa myself and everything on my families list this year is coming from Kilkenny. What are the top five factors that Kilkenny based shoppers said they consider most important when it comes to shopping locally?
The top five factors that Kilkenny based shoppers consider most important when it comes to shopping locally are:
Quality of Products - Of the people surveyed, 98 felt that ‘quality of products’ was either an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ factor in deciding to shop local
Convenience - From our survey respondents, 92% said ‘convenience’ was high on their agenda when choosing to shop local
Price - Of Kilkenny-based survey respondents, 91% rated ‘price’ as another significant factor when opting to shop local
Customer Service - A total of 90% of Kilkenny-based survey respondents also feel that ‘Customer Service’ is either an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ factor in deciding to buy locally rather than venturing further afield
Product Variety - Kilkenny Shoppers are also seeking ‘product variety’ with 90% rating it as either an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ factor when shopping local.
Fun question: who spends more on the partners at Christmas – men or women?
In a #shopkilkenny online survey, it was revealed that 35% of local males plan to spend most on their partner this Christmas, whilst just 12% of local females said the same. Lucky for some their significant other is planning some serious shopping! Fun facts aside, the matter of where we shop has significant implications for local businesses who are also hoping to be shown some love this Christmas!
Taste Kilkenny, Shop Kilkenny and Invest Kilkenny are all successful campaigns spearheaded by you and your team, however that’s not all you do in your department, tell us about the essential training and mentoring you provide.
This year has been particularly busy for the team at the Local Enterprise Office, with a range of Covid supports being delivered on behalf of Government for local businesses. Approximately 1,530 business owners and employees attended training programmes which went online during Covid; 136 participants attending Start Your Own Business courses; 747 students from 14 schools participated in the Student Enterprise Programme which fosters a spirit of entrepreneurship from an early age just before restrictions commenced; 1,067 entrepreneurs have been receiving one-to-one mentoring to assist them in relation to particular issues within their business ranging from business continuity to ICT; 462 entrepreneurs attending Business Advisory Sessions with staff to discuss starting or growing an existing business (including remotely from March 2020); 311 Covid-19 Business Continuity Voucher applications approved totalling €698,000 and 282 Trading Online Vouchers approved totalling €655,660 in order to assist businesses to implement e-commerce within their business.
The volume of interaction with business has been unprecedented and our core focus to year end and early 2021 will be on supporting businesses through Brexit, through Customs Training, Brexit mentor clinics and Brexit training.
The Trading Online Voucher Scheme was a massive hit.
The Local Enterprise Office run the Trading Online Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Department of Communications Climate Action and the Environment which is a financial incentive to micro enterprise (those employing up to 10) to develop or enhance their ability to trade online.
Under the scheme a qualifying business may apply for matched funding to a maximum value of €2,500 or 90% of eligible expenditure. Since its inception, 433 trading online vouchers have been approved in Kilkenny, 282 of those since March 2020. This scheme was really important to allow businesses to sell online during Covid and we promote these businesses through our #shopkilkenny social media platform.
Are people still interested in starting up a new business in a pandemic?
During downturns people seek to look at creating new businesses Our Start Your Own Business Programme, which introduces participants to all aspects they should consider when setting up their own business. The programme had 136 participants in 2020 - people who have identified opportunities, even through Covid.
Who have been the most influential people in your life?
My Mam and Dad were the greatest influence on me, instilling a strong work ethic, a community spirit and a love of the outdoor life, gardening and current affairs – their passing has left a huge void in my life.
Others who have had a strong influence on my career since moving to Kilkenny are Paddy Donnelly, the former County Manager who has provided huge support and encouragement to me since my first days in Kilkenny and Blaise Brosnan, Management Consultant with the Management Resource Institute who is always at the other end of the phone for guidance and mentoring.
Without doubt, you are one of the busiest women in Kilkenny. What’s downtime for Fiona Deegan?
I love showjumping and my daughter competes throughout the year. It is a super sport and also very sociable and we have made the best of friends in all corners of the country. We tend to be travelling most weekends with that, so that leaves very little time for anything else. When I am at home, I spend as much time as possible outside doing a spot of gardening.
#shopkilkenny campaign is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development