Eleanor McEvoy will make you want to start buying your electricity from her company within five minutes of meeting her.
The Derry based business woman carries with her a strong ability to sell and some sway when it comes to hitting the market with successful products. Before launching Budget Energy the Limerick born entrepreneur built and sold two other businesses, Pembroke Distributors, a food distribution and vending company which she sold in 2001, and Phonecard Warehouse, sold in 2006 with a net turnover of €50 million.
Speaking from the Budget Energy headquarters in Springtown Industrial Estate she has no doubt that her current venture, an independent electricity provider, can have equal success. Buy from her company, Eleanor says, and the only change in the way you receive your power is that your bill will be cheaper.
Creating employment for almost 40 people in the city to date, by the end of the month, Budget Energy will have acquired 40,000 customers.
On the back of those figures, tomorrow evening Eleanor will feature on an RTE TV series profiling the finalists in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year competition. She says the entire experience has been a huge learning curve, including a visit to America where finalists met some of the biggest business brains in the world.
Eleanor says she’s excited about the competition but that each of the entrepreneurs has a wealth of experience.
“The competition is fierce and the standard is very high because the EY competition is so well run and well respected. Regardless of what happens, the experience and information I’ve picked up from the process has been astounding.”
Eleanor launched Budget Energy in Derry in 2010 and since the company went live in 2011, the customer base has grown to an impressive 40,000 users. However according to the Derry business woman, that figure is nowhere near what the company is hoping to achieve.
“Electricity is so important to everyone and everyone fears a power cut. That’s the reason why people are reluctant to change from the provider they’ve been using for years. A huge part of our job at Budget Energy is about educating people, People have said that they’re afraid if they switch to us that we won’t have the same ability to cope with a power cut because we’re an independent company. What people don’t realise is that the infrastructure is the same. So if you have a power cut, regardless of where you live, who you get your electricity from, it’s a third party who deals with any power cuts, how you get your energy, how problems are dealt with, all of that remains undisturbed. The only thing which changes is the price. We sell cheaper electricity, that’s what we do.”
Eleanor like to keep things simple. Her business priorities, she says, are simple.
“It’s about price, service, service and service.”
She prides herself on the fact that all of Budget Energy’s staff are trained in all aspects of the service, and that customers hear a local voice when they make a call.
“We really mean what we say when it comes to customer service and that’s why I think Derry is such a great base for doing business from. Our customers are speaking to a local person, in a local office when they call and the best advertising we can have is word of mouth, when people report back about the good service.”
Asked how she manages to provide the same electricity at a cheaper price, Eleanor says the answer is simple.
“We keep our costs low. It’s as simple as that. You won’t see us on the jerseys of football teams and we don’t run massive marketing campaigns and all of that is so that we can offer the customer the lowest possible price. We want our customers to trust us. A business relationship is like any other. Without trust, there’s nothing.”
She believes there’s much more to be achieved for her company and while she initially came here as a result of her marriage to Derry man George McEvoy, the award winning entrepreneur says she intends to build on the business’s success by keeping jobs in the city.
“There’s so much to be achieved and we have a really educated workforce here. The only negative is the infrastructure surrounding the city and the roads from Derry to Belfast and Derry to Dublin. When I first moved here there was an option of taking a flight from Derry to Dublin but now that no longer exists. I think a better link roads is vital for the success of all businessses throughout the North but it would certainly make a huge difference to us.”
In a climate where new businesses are finding it tough to get started and established businesses are struggling. Eleanor says she’s been sticking to the same business advice she’s always used. “You have to plan your work and work your plan,” that’s always something that’s stayed with me, she says. “Also, it’s important to remember that success is paper thin, it’s called a balance sheet.”
The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programme will be documented in an RTE 1 series kicking off tomorrow at 8:30pm. The programme will air every Monday until October 21, with the live awards on Thursday, 24 October at 10.40pm.