Topic: Business March 12, 2017
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Start-ups

Sealed with a fish

Enterprise Town Bank of Ireland


Alan Hegarty had a bait business…

In fact, he invented a new type of bait to place in nets to catch lobsters. His enterprise was going well for a while – he employed up to 13 people – then came the crash.

“I lost everything including the house until one day I had only €360 left in my account.”

Two boxes of fish from Castletownbere

Alan’s response to finding himself in tough circumstances was enterprising and imaginative.

“I was in Castletownbere, Co. Cork when I saw a fishing boat and wondered about buying two boxes of fish to sell.”

He bought the fish and brought it back to Wicklow town where he went from door to door selling it. “It was something I just had to do,” he explains.

Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town Wicklow

Photo: Naoise Culhane.

From four wheels to ‘The Fish Man’

Having been successful with this spur of the moment venture, building up 300 regular customers by pounding the streets of Wicklow, Alan started selling fish from a van which he parked on Wicklow’s South Quay beside the fishing boats. Soon the queues started to grow. From ‘fish on four wheels’, he moved to selling from fish from a seafood shop he called ‘The Fish Man’. But he didn’t stop there. Soon he and his wife, Liz, had expanded to the premises next door where he established a seafood restaurant, ‘The Lighthouse’.

Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town: Wicklow

In April 2016, Alan attended the business expo at Wicklow Enterprise Town held in Coláiste Cill Mhantáin to raise the profile of both ‘The Fish Man’ and ‘The Lighthouse’. The expo not only helped by providing an opportunity to network with other local businesses (Alan brought a few tasty samples of his wares along), it also led to sales. People from other Wicklow businesses he met at the expo started coming in to buy fish and he had eight bookings in the restaurant that night.

Enter the seal…

In 2012, a few days after opening, Alan noticed that a seal that he named Sammy kept popping up in the harbour just a few yards from the shop. No doubt attracted by the high quality seafood, Sammy’s curiosity and insatiable appetite drove him onto dry land and across the road to Alan’s shop. Alan, recognising a fellow entrepreneur when he saw him, rewarded Sammy with a few tasty treats. The next day, Sammy was back. He began turning up at regular times and shuffling across the road to the surprise of Wicklow town drivers and residents.

Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town

Alan Hegarty feeding Sammy (‘he prefers the salmon to the trout’) the Seal. Photo: Naoise Culhane.

Seal training for beginners

After getting advice from Seal Rescue Ireland, Alan began ‘home deliveries’ feeding Sammy in the water in the harbour three times a day (he prefers the salmon to the trout) at 9am, 1pm and 4pm and discouraging him from popping in to the shop to place his order. To train Sammy from venturing across the quayside road, Alan was advised to brandish a board towards him to direct him back to sea.

Videos make them media stars

Videos of Sammy being fed and making his way across the harbour road towards the fishmongers when the tide is high have made Sammy, Alan and Wicklow famous across the world on social media and on TV news broadcasts.

“He’s a lucky seal,” I say as Alan throws Sammy a few offcuts of fish.

“I’m a lucky Fishman,’ Alan corrects me.

Bank of Ireland Enterprise Town Wicklow

Photo: Naoise Culhane.

Find out more

Find more about Enterprise Towns here.

Find out more about Alan’s seafood shop The Fishman

Make a difference

Seal Rescue Ireland

Picture credit: Naoise Culhane.

All efforts were made to ensure that the information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. The content of this article do not constitute financial advice.

Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Topic: Business March 12, 2017
Author: Neil Cubley
Tags: Start-ups

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