The AIB Start-up Academy in association with The Irish Times is getting exciting with all of the finalists announced, including a reader-chosen wild card company.
The winner and two runners-up receive a prize package of €250,000 to share which could change their lives and their businesses forever, with the overall winner receiving a €20,000 cash investment.
With all to play for, we chatted to one of the finalists, Brendan Madden of Brendan Joseph, a company that manufacture and sell luxury hand-woven scarves and neck ties.
Madden studied graphic design before switching to textiles at NCAD, and spoke about how the landscape of Ireland inspires his work.
“My grandad was blind and he used his hands to see. Grandad was actually a basket weaver, so it’s really interesting that that influence went full circle.”
“With weaving, it’s the way you interweave the threads that creates the pattern, so it’s a structure you put together as opposed to the design just being surface printed. It’s almost like braille, you can ‘read’ the stories I weave with your hands, sometimes even more so than with your eyes.”
Each piece from the collection is painstakingly hand-crafted, and Madden was excited but nervous to bring his business in front of the Start-up Academy judges.
“What has been incredible about the Academy is that I’ve learnt how to look at what I’m doing from new angles and use that the get the story across in a way that makes sense to someone who has a business background as opposed to a creative one.”
Madden has also learned a lot from the other finalists because of their varied career backgrounds, they all have something different to offer.
“It’s quite unique in that everyone at the table is an expert in their field – not just the facilitators but the finalists as well. At the end of the academy, I’m looking forward to showing the judges the passion and vision I have for Brendan Joseph with sharper clarity, and I think they’ll be able to see the difference the course has made for my business.”
(Madden takes inspiration from the environment around him – Sandymount Strand is pictured here.)
Madden hopes that Brendan Joseph will stand out because there’s an ‘heirloom factor’ with each of his pieces, that tells a special story about the place it was created.
“My product is the only one that is not a service or a consumable, it’s something you get to keep forever. Even though my work competes as a fashion accessory, it’s more than that, it’s wearable art.”
In terms of how he would use the money to grow Brendan Joseph, Madden would like to be able to bring a senior manager on board with strong sales and client management experience, to make the business end of the company even stronger.
(Another Brendan Joseph piece, inspired by the colours of the Grand Canal in Dublin.)
“The prize money would allow us to keep up the momentum we’ve built over the past year, and to scale up the business, launching my work internationally.”
Madden hopes that the artistry and attention to detail evident in his work will give Brendan Joseph the edge in the competition.
AIB are Backing Brave. To read more about the AIB Start-up Academy in association with the Irish Times, visit here.