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
‘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