Liam, Fintan and Kate Quinlan at the SFA showcase

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Liam, Fintan and Kate Quinlan attend the SFA awards finalists showcase in Dublin.

Fintan, Kate and Liam Quinlan at the SFA Showcase
Fintan, Kate and Liam Quinlan at the SFA Showcase

The 38 finalists in the Small Firms Association (SFA) National Small Business Awards (NSBA) got the opportunity to showcase their businesses at an event in Dublin yesterday, 5 February. Here is the press release from the Irish independent on the showcase.

RUN by the same family for about 50 years now, Quinlan’s Kerry Fish is a business that can justifiably feel like part of the landscape in its home base of Caherciveen.

The thriving seafood firm has its roots in a Danish concern which set up a processing and smoking operation where the company is now based in 1963. By the end of that decade, the business was in trouble, and Michael Quinlan, who worked there as a foreman, bought it (along with a few other buyers). In 1996, the Quinlan family took over Kerry Fish, as it was called, and added the family name.

Today it continues to be owned and run by Michael and his three sons, Liam, Ronan and Fintan. As well as its wholesale and online operations, the business entails four retail outlets, a factory outlet and two seafood bars. With 40 staff, the company exports about 50pc of its produce, and its biggest export market is Spain.

Liam Quinlan says that, because of the nature of the business, it wasn’t hugely impacted by either the Celtic tiger or the ensuing recession. “People still had to eat,” he says. Most noticeable from his perspective when the recession struck, and even today, has been the exodus of young people from the area. However, he adds, the company has been fortunate in that it has generally retained its staff.


Quinlan says one of the biggest challenges in running a business in this sector is keeping on top of compliance requirements. “There are so many agencies you have to satisfy, and one doesn’t always talk to the next,” he says.

But he adds the biggest thing to bear in mind if starting a food or drinks business is that “quality will win the race every time”. He also says investing in staff, and reinvesting in the business is hugely important. “Look after your staff, and try to work on the business as opposed to working in the business. Try to differentiate yourself.”

Although there are so many elements to the firm, Quinlan is clear that the company’s main focus this year should be on growing exports, particularly to our nearest neighbour. “Work is progressing well on further penetration of the UK market,” he says. “Although I was never one to enter awards etc, over the last couple of years I’ve realised that our product is as good as or better than others on the market. So we’ve taken on a PR agency in London, and it’s doing a lot of work for us. I’m getting over there more often myself too.”