Eoghan was the very worthy winner of our COVID-19 Scottish SME Best Pivot Service Award.
What was your first job after leaving school/further education?
I studied Medicine at Queens’ University in Belfast. When I qualified (2001), I worked as a JHO (Junior Doctor) for a year in the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald (outside Belfast).
When did you start your business & what prompted you to do it?
The first iteration of the business started in 2016 to solve my own frustration (shared by most health professionals) with access to high-quality Continuing Professional Development. What I wanted was access to leading global experts, and my mediocre study budget would not cover the expenses required (often overseas travel, expensive conference fees etc). So, I decided to bring the learning to me (and other health professional in Scotland).
As well as studying Medicine, I was a passionate musician and singer, and in 2007 I took 4 years out to work as a professional singer-songwriter in London. During that time, I was familiar with running my own gigs and events, so I used that experience to start organising courses and conferences here in Scotland, with experts from Scotland and around the world.
And there was one course in particular that was so impactful, that I felt a duty to try and make it even more accessible. Face-to-face events are still limited to those that can afford the costs and time away from work and family. So, for the past 2 years we have been transitioning online and finding new ways to make world-expert courses and lectures more accessible, convenient, affordable and environmentally friendly for everyone, particularly in low- and middle-income countries
What did you find most challenging at the beginning?
I think I found the beginning the easiest period of the business. I was very naïve (in business) and was happy working hard and being adventurous without too many long-term aims or goals.
I like to work hard, and I find it hard to say no, so the business slowly outgrew my capacity and I’ve found it much harder recently converting it to a ‘formal business’ and bringing on the expertise and resources that I need. That has been much more challenging than ‘those early days’.
How did you fund your business?
I put quite a bit on credit cards, and got a loan from my Dad. I would later bring on a couple of experienced healthcare professionals as investors.
What would you do differently now looking back?
I think I would have an earlier focus on commercialising the business. I was focussed on the innovation, the creativity, and the altruistic side of the business, and much less so the messaging/branding, marketing, finances, etc.
It’s also been a very lonely road this past few years, so I think having a co-founder, particularly someone with the skills I didn’t have (business/commercialisation), would have made life a little easier!
What or who has helped you to grow your business the most?
My first business partner, Ged Williams. He’s a Nursing Professor from Australia and founded the World Federation of Critical Care Nurses. We met in Kenya when I was filming a conference that he was running there. He is passionate about enriching nursing education in low- and middle-income countries and had never tried online at the time we met. He bought into the business and we were able to use his global connections to start building a faculty of leading speakers and researchers from around the world. His money also allowed us to further develop the platform and content.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Definitely the current conversion from a ‘romantic vision for more equality in healthcare education’ into a formalized business. COVID-19 has certainly pivoted the market hugely in our favour, with growing opportunities, but simultaneously I’ve been working front-line and home-schooling three kids. It has certainly been a challenge to keep the business running and finding the extra time for business plans/investment meetings etc. But I still know how incredibly lucky I am.
What are the future plans for your business?
I think we have an opportunity to become one of the leading global providers of healthcare CPD. We have a unique product and vision, and we have early market advantage, so the focus now is on bringing in the resources to capitalise on the opportunity we now have. As well as growing our portfolio of lectures and courses, I believe the business could support global healthcare in a number of other exciting ways. But I’ll keep that secret for now!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to set up their own business?
It will take an enormous amount of work to succeed. So be prepared for that. And it will be a lonely journey at times.
Give a lot of time/thought to marketing and commercialisation. Listen to your market (and ask them lots of questions). Bring on-board, early, people with the skill’s you don’t have.
But, also be bold/brave, and listen to your gut. There were several times I was advised by people NOT to do something, which later transformed the business in unexpected ways.
Tell us something about you that isn’t commonly known.
In my music-days, Sir Tom Jones warmed up my crowd at a gig in Dublin.
Plus, Vanessa Kirby is one of Britains up-and-coming actresses. She played Princess Margaret on Netflix’s ‘The Crown’. Her first ever on-screen appearance was as a bride, dancing at her wedding to one of my songs – and I’m the wedding singer in the background.
And finally, why did you join WeDO?
I joined WeDO to be part of this incredible community of supportive and experienced business leaders willing to help the likes of me! It is already proving to be incredibly helpful for the business at this crucial time and we are so grateful to Belinda and Gordon (White) for their kind support at this tricky time.
If you’re interested in finding out more about WeDO Scotland membership, click HERE.