Go­ing out on my own was a nat­u­ral step for my ca­reer

Chris­tine Boyle of Sen­ergy in­no­va­tions ex­plain show run­ning her own roof­ing com­pany helped her see a gap in the mar­ket for so­lar ther­mal pan­els

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - @lisa_j_s­myth

‘A good, solid plan is im­por­tant when talk­ing to in­vestors’

Leav­ing a well-es­tab­lished fam­ily busi­ness to start up your own com­pany might seem daunt­ing. But for Chris­tine Boyle it seemed like the nat­u­ral next step in her ca­reer and she set up Sen­ergy In­no­va­tions Lim­ited — a com­pany which sup­plies low cost so­lar ther­mal pan­els, mak­ing heat­ing more af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble.

“I ran my own com­mer­cial roof­ing com­pany, I had spent 17 years in the com­mer­cial roof­ing in­dus­try and that is where I saw a prob­lem with so­lar ther­mal pan­els,” said Chris­tine.

“Ar­chi­tects didn’t like them be­cause they ru­ined the aes­thet­ics of the build­ing, roof­ing in­stall­ers didn’t like them be­cause they felt they didn’t fit well with the in­tegrity of the roof­ing sys­tem.

“The prop­erty own­ers didn’t par­tic­u­larly like them be­cause they were high cost and they didn’t want to pay for them.

“At the same time, the ma­te­ri­als we were us­ing in the roof­ing in­dus­try were get­ting lighter, stronger and eas­ier to in­stall and I won­dered was there a way that we could in­cor­po­rate them into so­lar ther­mal pan­els.

“That’s where the spark for Sen­ergy came from.”

Chris­tine came up with the idea for plas­tic so­lar ther­mal pan­els, which are 50% less ex­pen­sive to man­u­fac­ture and in­stall than any oth­ers cur­rently on the mar­ket.

At the same time, Sen­ergy In­no­va­tion pan­els are en­hanced by ma­te­ri­als which cre­ate a bet­ter ther­mal per­for­mance and in­crease the me­chan­i­cal strength.

While Chris­tine had al­most two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in com­mer­cial roof­ing, she had never de­vel­oped a new prod­uct be­fore.

“I had no idea how to go about it, it was com­pletely new,” she said.

“I sup­pose it is all about get­ting out there and find­ing peo­ple to col­lab­o­rate with, who have the skills that you need.

“You have to get out there and have con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple and hope they like you and your prod­uct enough to work with you.”

And while the process has been a challenge, she has en­joyed pre­par­ing to bring the prod­uct to mar­ket.

Chris­tine has worked closely with Queen’s Univer­sity in Belfast and the Univer­sity of Ul­ster to en­sure she has pro­duced the high­est qual­ity prod­uct pos­si­ble.

At the same time, she has done a huge amount of re­search to iden­tify her tar­get mar­ket.

“They can be used by agri­cul­tural busi­nesses, hos­pi­tals or schools, but the more mar­ket re­search we did we re­alised there is a huge short­age of them glob­ally and homes will be built in the fu­ture that are en­ergy ef­fi­cient,” added Chris­tine (50).

“As a re­sult, we have been talk­ing to large con­struc­tion com­pa­nies to iden­tify pos­si­bil­i­ties there.”

The com­pany is look­ing to tar­get the global mar­ket, specif­i­cally coun­tries such as China, where there is al­ready a mar­ket for so­lar ther­mal pan­els.

How­ever, Chris­tine said Sen­ergy In­no­va­tion will be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide the tech­nol­ogy at a much cheaper price.

Build­ing busi­ness con­tacts is cru­cial to the success of the busi­ness.

To this end, Chris­tine is trav­el­ling to Lon­don this week to take part in a grand challenge gala din­ner and awards cer­e­mony be­ing hosted by the Con­struc­tion In­dus­try So­lu­tions (COINS) — mar­ket leader in en­ter­prise soft­ware for the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

Sen­ergy In­no­va­tion Lim­ited, which was set up in Novem­ber 2014, has been named as one of the fi­nal­ists and Chris­tine is look­ing for­ward to us­ing the event to net­work and pro­mote her prod­uct.

“Get­ting out there and meet­ing peo­ple and mak­ing con­tacts is ab­so­lutely cru­cial to success in busi­ness,” she said.

“It’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant when you are talk­ing about the early stages of a tech­nol­ogy.

“It’s all about get­ting peo­ple to be­lieve that what you are say­ing is right. We’re very ex­cited about the COINS event, op­por­tu­ni­ties like that don’t come up very of­ten and you never know what it will bring.

“We do hope that in­vest­ment will come off the back of it.

“Hav­ing a good, solid plan is also im­por­tant when it comes to talk­ing to in­vestors.”

Look­ing to the fu­ture, Chris­tine hopes the firm will be turn- ing over £20m within the next 10 years, so set­ting up the com­pany has been some­what of a gam­ble that has paid off.

“We had a fam­ily busi­ness in com­mer­cial roof­ing, but I orig­i­nally went to univer­sity and got an aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tion and worked in fi­nan­cial ser­vices,” said Chris­tine.

“When my dad was look­ing to re­tire, he saw I had some ex­per­tise and that’s when he asked me to come into the fam­ily busi­ness.

“I had been work­ing in that when I had the idea for the ther­mal so­lar pan­els and it got to the stage where I knew that if I wanted to take the prod­uct to a global stage that I would have to set up my own com­pany.

“That’s just the way it is, it would have been im­pos­si­ble to get in­vestors in a fam­ily busi­ness.

“At the same time, I had got to the stage in my own ca­reer that set­ting up my own com­pany was a new challenge, it seemed like the nat­u­ral next step.

“You can stay in busi­ness and keep man­ag­ing it, or you can look for new op­por­tu­ni­ties and I re­ally wanted to learn some­thing new.

“I never had a plan to set up my own busi­ness and I of­ten ask my­self why I am do­ing this.

“I think you have to be a cer­tain char­ac­ter and I think it takes three things to suc­ceed, per­se­ver­ance be­cause you have to keep go­ing when you come across an ob­sta­cle, pa­tience be­cause noth­ing is go­ing to hap­pen overnight, and part­ners be­cause you need help and sup­port along the way.”

Chris­tine Boyle, who started Sen­ergy In­no­va­tions Lim­ited

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