Working from home
Working from home has its advantages; hours to suit, take breaks when you want, keep costs down, and being able to enjoy the natural beauty around us.
However, 99% of the time, we actually put in more hours. Jon starts around 8am whilst I am sorting the kids for school. We work through lunch and then after collecting the kids from school, I return to the office.
Jon aims to finish around 6-6.30pm but often goes back to complete work after dinner. We have both been known to work through the night if there’s a deadline to meet – no doubt resonating with many small businesses out there.
We’ve learnt over the years how to separate working from home and family life. Having a separate office has helped and enjoying what we do makes it much easier.
Living in Sligo
Our home and business is fortunate enough to be in Sligo, 500 metres walk to Leitrim and a 15-minute drive to County Donegal.
Nestled under The Benwiskin Mountain, a day does not go by without appreciating how lucky we are. When we’re sitting in the office, we have Benwiskin and the Dartry Mountains behind us (South) and The Atlantic Ocean in front of us (North) and we can drive along The Wild Atlantic Way to visit many of our clients. If we step out of the office, we can hear the Ballintrillick river, the source of which are the mountains behind us.
Gone are the days of standing up on a tube in London, bodies crammed against each other, garlic and beer breaths from the night before!
Other family members
It started with a boxer puppy. I had grown up with boxer dogs so when a neighbour happened to bump into Jon and announce a boxer litter, it was love at first sight! Living in London, I never in my dreams thought I would have a horse. Horse riding had only ever been a holiday treat. When I met Uschi from Island View Riding Stables locally, she lined up several possibilities for me and so we bought Aghercon, an Irish draught horse and Celtic (now 46) was given to us by Uschi as he had retired. We are often visited by former riders of Celtic when he was just a young pony to see how he is getting on.
Then it was Mr Nibbles the rabbit with the pink eyes, then Pogba the goldfish. Jon’s recent outdoor project was a chicken coup. Built from just hand-me-down slats, it has a grass roof and perches inside for the chickens to rest on. We started with just 4 hens and 1 rooster. We now have 2 roosters, 4 mature hens, 4 young hens and 1 chick. We’ve certainly addressed the rural living!
Growing our website business
We have won new business mostly by word of mouth since we first launched Format web design company in 2008. Our first Sligo website was for the Sligo and Boyle law firm, Callan Tansey Solicitors. Having built a successful legal website for them, it generated a positive response and other new websites from law firms soon followed. We have always enjoyed building websites for solicitors as I used to work for a lobbyist who was always writing legal documents and submissions to European parliamentarians and then for 15 years or so, I was a Manager within a private recruitment company placing legal support staff in law firms in London, HR staff and secretarial support staff in financial institutions. When building a website, it helped with putting the legal copy together, their terms and day to day vocabulary.
The advantages of being a website designer is that you can become a specialist in all areas. In Sligo and Bundoran alone, we’ve built websites for beauty salons, accountants, a forensic scientist, adventure tours, building control regulators, hairdressers, restaurants, cafes, hostels, aerial videoing and even an undertaker!
CV writing & mock interviews
Having worked in recruitment for over 15 years, I was delighted to have the opportunity of using my skills in Sligo. I have run courses at FAS (now Solas) on cv preparation and interview skills and continue to do mock interviews on an occasional basis, which has resulted in several local lads getting jobs.
What else do we do?
When you live in a small community (Ballintrillick) within rural Ireland, you can’t help but get involved in helping out with local events and activities to promote the area and bring our ideas to the table.
I was a voluntary member of The Ballintrillick Environmental Group (BEG) at The Benwiskin Centre from 2011 but recently stepped down in March this year due to having to help my parents (both in their 80s) who, admirably, moved from England to Ireland only last year.
In 2001, I was instrumental in setting up a Scout Group in the area, known as 12th Sligo Ballintrillick. At the beginning we started with about 13 Beavers and 10 Cubs with 7 volunteer leaders. Today, we have over 20 Beavers (aged 6-9) (and a waiting list), approximately 16 Cubs (aged 9 -11) and 15 Scouts (aged 12-15) and we’ve grown the Leaders to 9 but are always looking for more (hint hint!).
Jon and I run the Cub group on a Monday from 5.45pm to 6.45pm. It has become a fantastic opportunity for children from all local areas to come together to learn new skills and meet new friends. We have also benefitted from some of our clients’ involvement with Killian O Kelly (TurfnSurf Tours) and RNLI running one of the sessions about the RNLI and water safety and recently Mo from Hullabaloo Mobile Craft Parties running a session with the Cubs to design their own T-shirts.
In 2014, our lovely neighbours, Mary and Dominic Rooney, offered to host and revive the former Ballintrillick Donkey Derby. This has become a fun family day. Jon and I are in charge of old fashioned sports activities for the kids and this year helped out with the novel race of pushing a child in a wheelbarrow whilst stopping and stacking turf then filling a sack full of potatoes then racing back to the finish line still with child in wheelbarrow!
After this it’s donkeys racing, tug-of-war, hanging from a bar to see how long you can hang, a sheep shearing competition and guess the weight of the ram! It’s a day of laughs and often brings to mind that episode of Father Ted although I think our day even beats that!