Belfast Telegraph

Roof window specialist saw ‘window’ of opportunity to run his own business

It only takes one bright idea or clever insight to come up with a brilliant business.

Sometimes that comes from a secret burning passion and other times, it comes from something right under your nose.

That’s exactly how Draperstown man, Mark O’Neill came up with his own roof window and loft ladder installation business with the support of the Go For It Programme.

The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

After a long career working with Velux® windows, Mark had over thirty years of product knowledge and expertise when he spotted a gap in the local market: there were hundreds of these roof window products in Northern Ireland, which were no longer covered by the manufacturer’s 10-year guarantee.  Mark realised that there was no clearly identified business to repair these and customers didn’t know where to turn.  This was the spark which started him thinking about starting his own business and he contacted the NI Business Startup Programme, Go For It, to get some advice on turning his idea into something viable.

Mark’s Draperstown based company, the Roof Window Specialist, has been up and running now for over two years and he has work coming in from all over Northern Ireland.  It provides replacement, upgrades, new installations and servicing of old roof windows, as well as supply and installation of quality loft ladders, loft flooring and blinds. 

Mark O’Neill, Owner of the Roof Window Specialists, said: “I grew up in construction, working for my Dad’s firm right from my teenage years and I always had a real passion for the industry. I studied Construction Engineering and Management at Ulster University before going on to work for a number of construction firms around the world.

“When I came back home to Northern Ireland, I moved into a sales role with Velux® across Ireland, securing significant sales success, but I knew my opportunities for growth there were limited.

“This was when I started to think about starting my own business, but at the time I didn’t have the nerve to do it. The eureka moment came when I built my own house and fitted all of my own windows. That’s when I knew I had the experience and product knowledge to start my own business.

“The Go For It Programme was a tremendous support and my Business Advisor, Enda Daly from Workspace Enterprises in Draperstown quickly became a mentor to me and he couldn’t do enough to help at each stage of the process. He really helped me focus my business objectives and work out my numbers with a clear and concise business plan. I knew the product inside out and the work required at an operational level, and Enda helped me to shape the rest of it into a viable business.

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Mark O’Neill from Draperstown turned his 30 years of experience and product knowledge of Velux® windows into his very own roof window and loft ladder installation business with the support of the Go For It Programme.
“Things have been going really well – it’s busy and a lot of my business comes from personal recommendation from my other customers, which is really satisfying. I have big plans for the future and my ambition is to expand my quality installation team and break that £1million turnover within the next three years, built upon an ethos of delivering exceptional customer service.”

The Go For It programme is delivered free of charge through all of the local Councils, by a team of highly experienced business mentors from Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan in order to help turn ideas into a reality.

Enda Daly, Team Leader with Workspace Enterprises in Draperstown said; “Mark joined the Go For It Programme with a clear idea for a business and a genuine passion for the industry. You could tell he had the experience and product knowledge as he had already done a significant amount of research into the business’ viability to succeed, as well as having a number of future customer leads. 

“We worked with him to develop his business plan, defining his objectives, target markets, sales strategy, marketing and financial forecasts, so we could clearly map out his route to success and within a short space of time he was up and running.” 

One of the common misconceptions about the Go For It programme is that it is a source of financial support. Instead, it is a process designed to take an idea, investigate it, test it and ultimately to produce a personalised business plan.  Many Go For It candidates find that having a business plan has greatly assisted them when they have applied for funding, whether that’s through the banks or other start-up initiatives.  A business plan helps you to identify who and where your customers are, any competitors, your costs, the right pricing, potential profits and targets to make your business a commercial success.  It shows funders that you’ve clearly thought through your idea and that you mean business!

If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business visit;

www.goforitni.com; call 0800 027 0639; or visit your local enterprise agency for a free, independent chat.

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