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Shared Heritage with the Irish Small Business Big Impact 50

Irish Echo Interview

A Q&A with Jack Butler, CFO of MRP and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, chair of the Irish Echo on the Irish Small Business Big Impact 50 and Irish American Businesses

Moderated by James Regan, CMO & Co-Founder at MRP

James:
Jack, can you talk a little about this upcoming event, the 2018 Irish Small Business Big Impact 50, and what MRP’s involvement is?

Jack:
I’d be delighted. It’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. On Friday, May 18th, MRP, along with two distinguished organizations, The Irish Echo and the Irish American Business Chamber and Network, will host the 2018 Irish Small Business Big Impact 50 Awards right here in Philadelphia at the Union League. This is the only event in the U.S. of this scale that honors Irish American small businesses and we are proud to sponsor this first occasion where it is being held here in Philadelphia.

Each of the 50 companies nominated has displayed entrepreneurial skills and the ability to create companies that are leaders in their field. We have two amazing speakers lined up – Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Ciarán Madden, Counsel General of Ireland.

The event honors companies from all across the U.S., including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and New York. They span a broad reach of industries, including technology, engineering, vineyards, florists, hotels and resorts, and caterers. But one thing they all share is a commitment to business excellence and a pride in their Irish heritage.

James:
Can you provide a little background on MRP’s Irish roots?

Jack:
MRP was founded in 2002 by Kevin Cunningham and James Regan, both Irish American entrepreneurs, with the initial goal of helping companies expand their sales footprint beyond major enterprises and into the midmarket. Early success led to the opening of MRP’s first location in Philadelphia and the rapid growth of the U.S. team.

After six strong years of growth and building our brand in America, MRP became part of Newry, County Down-based First Derivatives, which is a public company traded on the London Stock Exchange and a great success story in its own right across Ireland. This union set the stage for MRP’s entrance into the global market, beginning with its 2011 expansion into Belfast. We started out with 10 team members, and today we are over 200 strong in Belfast with another 15 based in our Dublin office which opened last year. We are proud to be one of the largest employers in Belfast and to serve a global market from Ireland.

James:
The event’s sponsors include the Irish Echo and the Irish American Business Chamber and Network. I’ll direct this next question to Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, chair of the Irish Echo. Máirtín, tell us about The Irish Echo.

Máirtín:
The Irish Echo has been serving the Irish American community for 90 years. Our mission is to not only report on activities within the community, but also to play a catalytic role in community uplift and business growth. To that end, we organize annual conferences in major U.S. cities such as Boston and New York to support the efforts of Irish American businesses.

James:
Máirtín, what are the unique challenges and characteristics of Irish American businesses?

Máirtín:
The common link among all Irish American businesses is their hunger for success, their focus on growth and their deep appreciation for their Irish roots. One of the calls to action for this group of 50 companies is to think of ways in which they can expand their relationship with Ireland. We want them to consider trading with Ireland, expanding their businesses there or partnering with an Irish company. It’s a two-way street as well – some companies, such as First Derivatives, that started out in Ireland now have operations in the U.S.

James:
Jack, do you have anything to add?

Jack:
MRP was named Irish American company of the year by the Irish Echo in 2009. That put us on this path that Máirtín referred to, and two years later, we opened an office in Belfast. There are great opportunities to scale with the help of the Irish and Northern Irish government and a robust talent pool filled with people who embody the can-do culture that Ireland in known for.

Invest Northern Ireland is a perfect example of the support available to companies who expand into Northern Ireland. They gave MRP a helping hand in getting our business off the ground in Belfast. It’s important that the Irish American businesses being honored this week are aware of these resources, and way for them to follow in the footsteps of Facebook, Oracle, Google, LinkedIn, eBay, and more, who have all made Ireland their European homes.

Máirtín:
I’d just like to add that MRP is a perfect example of what we aspire to accomplish with other Irish American businesses. They have a compelling history of entrepreneurship, a strong link to Ireland, and success on a global scale.

James:
The other sponsor is the Irish American Business Chamber and Network. Jack, can you tell us about their mission here in Philadelphia?

Jack:
The chamber serves Irish American businesses here in Philadelphia, large and small. Founded by Bill McLaughlin, the chamber has connections at the top of the Irish government all the way down to the local leaders and serves as a powerful connection point for Philadelphia on a global level. The chamber provides a forum for networking, a place where people can come together to understand relevant business topics and a larger voice when it comes to what matters to Irish American businesses in the area.

Máirtín:
As someone who has had the privilege of traveling across America and seeing many Irish American organizations, the Philadelphia chamber is a business organization without parallel. The primary focus of the chamber is to support Irish American businesses and it is highly regarded by the U.S. and the Irish government. Every year, the chamber hosts the largest luncheon in the U.S., which is attended by the Irish ambassador to the U.S.

James:
The Irish Small Business Big Impact 50 should be an impressive event.

Jack:
Indeed, it will be. The commonality you will see at this event is entrepreneurial success, Irish pride, and the result of the Irish work ethic. There is a deep connection among the members of this group, and a willingness and desire to see each Irish American business succeed. We expect a full house at the Union League on Friday night and are looking forward to meeting the honorees.

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