South East BIC client Veri in the Sunday Times

Kilkenny woman Ann Marie McSorley was one of seven siblings and the first in the family to get a college degree. Not that anyone noticed.

“When you’ve an Olympian in the family, no one cares.”McSorley is a younger sister of Marion Hughes, the international showjumper who represented Ireland in the 2004 games in Athens.

She studied business management and went on to have a peripatetic career that included hotel management, tourism, and a stint as a commercial director at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena.

But it was a brief spell as a substitute teacher during the Celtic tiger years that proved pivotal, marking a move into the world of education and training. It led McSorley to successfully tender for a public contract customising a training programme designed to enhance secondary level students’ understanding of democracy.

In 2008 McSorley set up her own training business, iResource Education and Training, delivering training programmes for publicly funded organisations such as Skillnet, Fas (now Solas) and Leader groups, eventually employing two people. The business is still in operation, but by 2013 almost all its work revolved around delivering a government programme retraining the legions of newly unemployed, mostly construction workers.

“These were guys that had been on €100,000 a year before but who all of a sudden found themselves sitting at home depressed,” she said. “Our role was to get them placements with local businesses, and try to get their confidence back.”

The programme, called Kickstart, was large and successful, which meant it needed more management than any other initiative McSorley had worked on. “I went looking for a tool to help manage it from a quality assurance perspective but I couldn’t find one,” she said.

“My aim was to find something that ensured all the guys delivering the programme were delivering it in the way they should be. I also wanted something that would take the paperwork out of training — you generate rafts of paperwork, all of which you are required to have for audit purposes, but none of which gives you any sort of overview. There’s no way of seeing what’s on each piece of paper.”

Not being able to find an app-based quality assurance tool for training, she set about developing her own, signing up as a participant on Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme for early stage entrepreneurs.

Then she was accepted on to Dublin City University’s High Fliers scheme for female entrepreneurs. It culminated in a pitching session which, ultimately, led to her securing €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund to launch her app, Veri.

All of the money went on a key IT hire. “A mentor told me that I should have a tech person look over the beta version of Veri and recommended Shane Barron who had previously worked at Hostelworld,” McSorley said.

Barron didn’t just give Veri the once over: he joined the company. Supported by Enterprise Ireland, they then set about developing a dedicated version of the product for the construction sector, which enables management to see at a glance where each person on a building site is in relation to mandatory health and safety training. Veri has a wide range of clients, from Robert Quinn Construction to the Irish Red Cross, which uses it to manage training for volunteers. It now employs eight people.

McSorley has found that the key to securing real talent is to look harder for it, and offer flexibility to keep it. She says Barron came on board because he has young children and valued the flexibility McSorley offered in relation to remote and smart working.

Another of her key hires is from Belarus and previously held a management role at a major multinational there but had found it hard to find work of any description here. “She’s amazing,” said McSorley.

Small businesses have to think outside the box to succeed as employers, said McSorley, who is also involved in Crystal Valley Tech, an industry group set up to help attract talent to the southeast.

Veri, which is based in Kilkenny, recently opened an office in Belfast. “Our aim is to target the UK market, so with Brexit, it seemed a good idea to have a presence on both sides of the border.”

It looks like there’s another international competitor in the family.

Source: Irish Times 28th October 2018


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