This September 28, Bushmills Irish Whiskey is joining forces with local inventor and entrepreneur Ciaran Larkin to host ‘Whiskey and Invention’ in The Menagerie, Belfast, as part of its latest collaboration in the #AnswerTheCall series.
Attendees of the event will hear the journey of how Ciaran launched his business and have the opportunity to put their creative stills to use whilst enjoying specially-created Bushmills Black Bush serves.
We got the chance to speak with Ciaran ahead of this fascinating event to find out what inspires him, how he got involved in the business, and his advice to local inventors trying to break into the industry.
When did you know that you wanted to be an inventor?
“I always knew. Even as young as nine, other kids were playing football or climbing trees but I was taking things apart, discovering how they worked and rebuilding them to make something new - something better than before. I spent my time building things like super hero masks out of shoeboxes and movie-inspired costumes out of scrap metal, all as a hobby.
“After school, I went on to graduate with a degree in Electronic Engineering from Queen’s University but really struggled to find a role that allowed me to use both my creativity and technical knowledge. I was an artist and an inventor at heart but on paper, things weren’t adding up. I could make cool things and had tons of ideas but I didn’t know what path to follow. Becoming an inventor isn’t an everyday choice!
“I ended up working on side projects just for fun, in between jobs in a local kitchen and a supermarket. I eventually realised that I had the ability to turn these scrap material side projects into a business and that’s when I decided to become a full-time inventor.”
You pitched your invention ideas to Hasbro at The Inventor’s Workshop in England. How did this change things for you?
“Before Hasbro, I was taking commission work to make props, costumes and personalised gifts for other people. This was great but I felt that my own creative ideas and prototypes were being neglected and sitting on shelves collecting dust.
“In 2015, I decided that it was time to find a market for my own inventions and attended The Inventor’s Workshop in England where I pitched my ideas to a room full of top executives. Luckily for me, American company Hasbro liked me and I started to work with them.
“It has changed my life – I now split my time between my home in Belfast and in the US working on top secret projects for the company through my company, MadeRealDesign. I get to work on my own concepts and inventions, working on things I’m passionate about. I’m following my dream.
“Two years ago, I was standing in front of a panel of executives pitching my ideas and last year, I was invited back as the event’s keynote speaker to inspire other inventors and creators. It’s amazing to think that doing something I love, that comes so naturally to me, has led to this incredible life.”
You work in a modern industry surrounded by technology, but your success has been down to your interest in doing things in a more traditional way. Tell us why you think this works.
“I build my inventions the old-fashioned way. I don’t like to rely on computers, instead I sketch out my ideas in a notebook and use hammers and Dremels to build them.
“I set out to grow my business from my family home. There is no ‘tidy’ way to do what I do, I was always leaving a trail of mess in my wake and was constantly seeking my parents’ forgiveness! It can’t have been easy for them but now I can show them that it was all worthwhile and for a purpose.”
What skills do you think are needed to start your own business?
“Perseverance is key – you need to be prepared to work hard and keep knocking, even when the doors don’t open at first. It isn’t an easy path but it’s worthwhile when you finally feel like you’re getting somewhere.
“You also need to believe in your ideas, trust your instincts and know what you want to achieve.
“It’s important to make bold moves, to be prepared to take risks and to roll with the punches when things don’t go to plan.”
What would your advice be to aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs?
“My advice would be that people will try to push you down a conventional path and discourage you from breaking the mould but you have to trust your instincts, above all else.
“If you want to do something unique and true to yourself and your own passion, you have to be prepared to work hard.
“As the well-known saying goes, ‘if you’re doing something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’
“Yes, some days you’ll feel like you’ll never make it and it’s demotivating but when things finally click into place, it will all have been worth it.
“When you feel like you can’t go on anymore, keep going; that’s the difference between making it and giving up.
“Having raw talent is one thing, but passion and determination is what will get you to that end goal and allow you to follow your calling, even through the adversity and set-backs.”
This month, you’re collaborating with Bushmills Irish Whiskey as part of the #AnswerTheCall campaign. Can you tell us a bit about the collaboration?
“I’m really excited about my collaboration with Bushmills Irish Whiskey on this campaign because, for me, it rang true to my journey. #AnswerTheCall is about celebrating local talent, sharing the stories of determined adventurers, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives, inspiring others to follow their own true calling. That’s important to me and I’m very happy to play a part in inspiring others to invent and follow their dreams.”
“I will be teaming up with Bushmills to host ‘Whiskey and Invention’ at The Menagerie in Belfast. The event will allow me to share my entrepreneurial journey with attendees and guide them in making their own whiskey-inspired items in an invention workshop, using old whiskey bottles, ice buckets and scrap metal.
“This is the first time I’ll host an event of this kind and not only will I have the chance to share my career journey, I’ll also share an up-close and personal insight into what I do every day with a local, engaged audience so it’s pretty cool.”
To register to be in with a chance to attend ‘Whiskey and Invention’ on September 28, visit answerthecall.co.uk. For more stories of calling and to keep up to date with #AnswerTheCall events, follow @BushmillsUK on social media.