A civil engineer who returned home during the Covid-19 pandemic has launched a new business servicing and repairing air conditioning systems in the automotive, heavy plant and agricultural industries, thanks to help from the Go For It programme in association with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Mr Matthew McCarney (31), from Enniskillen, admits he has always loved working with tractors, but it was only when his job as the foreman of a civil engineering team was furloughed that he discovered a gap in the market and set up his own business servicing agricultural vehicles.
“I was furloughed last March and in the middle of the summer last year I was helping a couple of farmers that needed help with silage and bits and pieces of farming,” he says.
“I heard a lot of people talking about the air conditioning in the tractors during the heat wave early in summer – there was nobody around who could repair and fix the systems on a mobile basis. Due to family reasons and with the pandemic still prevalent, I left my full-time employment, found a supplier for the refrigeration gas, bought a van and equipment and went on the road working on air conditioning in tractors, plant, commercial and private vehicles.”
He launched MCC Auto and Agri Services in September, and business has grown from a handful of customers to more than 25 on the books now, ranging from small machinery dealerships, hire centres, construction and agri contractors and farmers. Being mobile is a key benefit, rather than requiring customers to bring equipment to a central location.
Matthew has become a distributor for Mastercool Inc and can supply the service equipment and consumables for auto air-conditioning systems and HVAC (Heating, ventilation & air conditioning) applications.
Over the months, Matthew has also found himself branching out into new areas based on requests for other services. These include the supply of vehicle trackers, multi camera systems and fleet management systems in partnership with Vehicle Tracker NI.
Meanwhile, he has also started moving into the electrical side of operations and is poised to become a distributor for OM (original manufacturer) spec LED lighting for plant, agricultural and commercial vehicles.
“Lights for construction and agricultural equipment are in big demand – there are a lot of diggers and tractors working in the evenings during the winter,” he says.
“Operators and owners want a quality product that will withstand the harsh environments that these machines work in. I have made contact with a manufacturer of quality light units for these machines and hope to be able to offer them for sale in the near future. The key is not only being able to supply products but also being able to fit and maintain them.”
Matthew says the help of the Go For It programme proved invaluable.
The Go for It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
“I met with my mentor, Fionna, and explained what I wanted to get out of it,” he says.
“She was able to go through everything, explaining what’s involved and how to manage costs and payments. Fionna worked through projection spreadsheets with me and from this I was able to demonstrate how I could make the business viable.
“Next Fionna helped put together a business plan and together we set out goals for where I wanted the business to go. I’d like to think that within five years I will be able to have one or two employees.
“My passion for this type of work comes from both having farmed myself and my passion for machinery. I am starting a business that suits my passions well.”
As the business grew, Matthew’s business advisor was able to work with him to help find the working capital to get some new enterprises off the ground, such as the LED lighting branch.
“My business began as a mobile air-conditioning business, and things have grown from there. I would say starting your own business is great – however there is a lot more involved than you realise and the Go For It programme is a great way to help prospective entrepreneurs with understanding that. I found the Go For It programme very straightforward. My mentor Fionna was great. She was so enthusiastic and supportive, and it was nearly like it was her own business that she wanted to succeed.” he says.
I am starting a business that suits my passions well
The Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Diana Armstrong, said: “The ‘Go For It’ programme, delivered by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running.
“There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented many businesses with significant difficulties. However, in these challenging times, it is heartening to see a local entrepreneur spot a gap in the market and turn his passion into his livelihood. From initial concept Matthew has listened to the market and now provides further services within the construction and agricultural sectors. I wish Matthew every success in continuing to grow and develop his enterprise, and I would encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the “Go For It” programme!”
Fionna Martin, Business Advisor with Fermanagh Enterprise Agency said: “Matthew spotted a gap in the market business for a specialist business servicing and repairing air conditioning systems and came to us for support and advice in getting it up and running. We were able to help him develop up a business plan that helped him to finalise his business proposition, pricing and financial forecasting, as well as making sure he had the necessary insurance and health and safety regulations in place.
“We are delighted to see Matthew so busy and I’m sure that with his attention to detail and willingness to succeed, MCC Auto and Agri Services will become a name synonymous within the local automotive, heavy plant and agricultural industries.
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.