Mullan Lighting has come a long way from its humble beginnings in traditional pub and church lighting. Revenues are expected to reach over €5 million by the end of 2019 and the main reason for Mullan’s growth is that it exports 80% of what it manufactures.
Edel Treanor, Mullan Lighting, Marketing Director
Case Study: Mullan Lighting
Mullan Lighting’s Bright Idea
Monaghan-based Mullan Lighting has designed and manufactured bespoke solutions across the commercial, hospitality, retail and residential sectors, counting everyone from Caffe Nero and Costa Coffee to global multinationals Google and LinkedIn as clients.
Founded in 2009 by architect Mike Treanor, the company now employs 65 people in its manufacturing facility inside a former shoe mill in the heritage village of Mullan. It sells in more than 55 countries worldwide and expects to reach over €5 million in sales by the end of 2019. But it wasn’t plain sailing from the start.
“For the first couple of years, it was a lot of groundwork — Mike was on the road, knocking on doors — and very little return. We knew we had to start looking further afield,” explains Edel Treanor, Mullan’s marketing director, adding, “The economy in Ireland wasn’t great at the time and there weren’t that many projects happening — and for those projects that were happening, we were already getting the majority of the work but it wasn’t enough to sustain the business.”
That’s what prompted Mullan Lighting to become an Enterprise Ireland client in 2013 and their goal was three-fold: to double the company size in three to five years, to get the factory operating at full capacity, and to create long-term employment for local people. Achieving this would require stepping into new markets — and Enterprise Ireland’s support ensured that Mullan put its best foot forward.
Spotlight on France
“It’s much easier to talk to your neighbours than it is to talk to someone who’s in Dubai or Australia so we knew that if we targeted regions close to Ireland then we could be there quickly and we could respond to queries quickly,” Edel shares.
Working closely with Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre, Mullan identified France as the best Eurozone market to enter. Specifically, when the company developed a new children’s lighting range aimed at high-volume retailers, the MRC determined the market size for such products in France, highlighted key prospects to target and suggested trade fairs to attend.
As Edel says, focusing on France made sense: “Maison & Objet takes place in Paris and that’s one of the largest trade shows and markets for sourcing interior design, furniture and lighting products. Plus, Paris is seen as a design capital of the world,” she points out.
With the help of Enterprise Ireland’s Internationalisation Grant, Mullan began to dip into the French market help. The company attended Maison & Objet in 2013 to scope out their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and hone their own value proposition — and soon their bespoke lighting creations were lighting up hotels and restaurants all over France.
“It took us about two years to really be comfortable in the market,” Edel reveals, noting that Enterprise Ireland’s support has been instrumental throughout the process, from setting up meetings with agents when they first entered the market to putting them in touch with Irish businesses who were already well established in France.
“Those [established] businesses gave us feedback on our marketing materials, our company presence, our distribution plan — everything. As a new brand entering the market, that insight was invaluable.”
Edel Treanor, Mullan Lighting, Marketing Director
Expanding into France also meant a website refresh and Enterprise Ireland’s Business Process Improvement Grant helped Mullan to make their online presence more user-friendly and appealing to the market.
“We also realised that we needed someone on staff who could speak to the client in their language so in 2015 we hired our first full-time native French speaker to help develop the market for us,” Edel adds.
Mullan is on track to do around €800,000 in sales in France this year. To ensure the company hits that mark and continues its growth trajectory within the market, several clients — and one prospect — recently travelled to Mullan Village as part of an Enterprise Ireland inward buyer visit.
“We figured it would be really good to show them exactly what we do and how we do it,” Edel says, adding that the visit included a trip to Castle Leslie to see some of Mullan’s creations up close as well as to the iconic Cafe en Seine in Dublin, the company’s largest bespoke project of 2018. “No one recognised any of the lights because they’re not in our catalogue and it was great for the buyers to see the level of bespoke work that we can do.”
Needless to say, the trip was a success: Mullan has since received orders from each of the visiting buyers, even the prospect.
Next steps in Mullan’s growth journey
Mullan Lighting has come a long way from its humble beginnings in traditional pub and church lighting. Revenues are expected to reach over €5 million by the end of 2019 — a massive increase from its first-year turnover of €100,000 — and the main reason for Mullan’s growth is that it exports 80% of what it manufactures.
“Our business has absolutely been driven by international sales,” Edel says, noting that in addition to France, the UK, Germany, the Nordics and Iceland are Mullan’s other big markets.
“About 25% of our business goes to the UK, which is a significant amount, so we took part in Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit readiness programme and got advice from a consultant on what measures to put in place to mitigate the risk of what might happen if there is a hard Brexit.”
As Mullan is only 200 metres from the Ireland-UK border, part of that action plan included creating a UK company and setting up a base in Northern Ireland.
“If we can export to ourselves five miles up the road, hopefully we will inherit any customs delays instead of passing them on to our customers,” Edel explains, adding, “We’ve also identified hotspots where our UK clients are based and are considering opening another premises over there.”
Additionally, the company is hoping to further its presence in Germany and the Netherlands.
“We’re looking at markets that are nearby and have a lot of projects going on, with styles that are similar to what we can develop and manufacture,” Edel says. “The model and approach we’ve taken with France has really worked for us. We see that as something we can replicate in the German and Dutch markets with Enterprise Ireland’s help.”
Read more on the supports available to help your business diversify into new markets or speak to your Development Advisor today.