Sandra Whelan, Chief Operating Officer of award-winning software firm Immersive VR Education, reveals her keys to success — and her superpower of choice.
What prompted you to set up your business?
The opportunity to do something completely different was exciting to me. My work life had, up to that point, been based around people and client relations and setting up my own company gave me the chance to be my own boss. Having a supportive partner in my co-founder and husband, certainly helped. It was a risk to put everything on the line and go out on our own, the corner from a market that but it paid off, luckily.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the variety and the team of people we have around us. The fact that I get to come to work every day and still laugh, learn and have access to the best tech equipment that isn’t even on the market keeps every day fresh. I also love the free sweets a little too much! Is it wrong that I can’t wait to come to work so that I can eat fizzy jellies and marshmallows?!
How has Enterprise Ireland helped your business?
I have always been very vocal in my praise for my Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland. Without that help, we honestly would not have known where to start. Their willingness to listen, to assist, and to do all they could to help us succeed was so refreshing. Enterprise Ireland provided us with fantastic development advisors who held our hand through preparations for various funding pitches. The patience they showed us was truly amazing.
Do you have any words of wisdom for someone considering starting their own business?
Research, research, research. Before you put your heart and soul into a business — because that really is what is required along with the blood, sweat and tears — be sure you know what you are getting into. If you think you have an amazing idea and are thinking, ‘This is fabulous, why has no one ever done this?’ be sure to find out the answer to that question, as there may be a very good reason for it.
If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be?
Freddie Mercury — I imagine he would be great fun, with so many funny anecdotes. I loved his dry wit and sense of humour. Barack Obama — nothing to do with politics, he just strikes me as such a knowledgeable and genuine gentleman. He has been known to be a bit of a crooner so himself and Freddie could sing me a duet! And Tom Hanks, my favourite actor.
What would a film about your life be called?
Apple Market to Stock Market. I grew up in Waterford, around the corner from a market that was known as the Apple Market. Today, it is full of vibrant bars and restaurants but when I was younger it was where my nanny would bring me to buy fruit and veg, scarves, ribbons, clothes and toys. To come from there to having a company that is now dual-listed on the Irish and London stock market is quite something.
If you could pick one superpower, what would you choose?
Replication. I could then be in lots of different places at once and if I was running low on milk I could simply replicate another carton. I could do that for all of my shopping; to never have to do the food shop again...that would be truly amazing.
For more on Immersive VR Education go to immersivevreducation.com; to learn more about Enterprise Ireland go to enterprise-ireland.com.
This article originally featured in the November issue of Irish Tatler magazine.