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'I had to come to terms with the fact that at my age, I was unemployable'

This former company executive realised he would have to launch his own business to get a job.

I’VE HAD TWO previous careers and neither of them are even vaguely related to what I’m doing now – which is setting up a pet travel review site for people who want to travel with their dogs.

My first career was in contract flooring. I was the owner and manager of a small company, but when my main debtor very unexpectedly went into receivership I had to undertake a voluntary liquidation.

The timing was unfortunate as I was within weeks of starting my 60% share of the tiling contract in The Square in Tallaght – one of the largest construction projects in Ireland at the time – but had to pull out of it.

While it was a shock, it also presented an opportunity.  To be honest, I was looking for a way out of contract flooring at the time.

Ireland in the late 1980s was on its knees and the rates you were working for were ferociously competitive. It was very hard to make any decent margin and cash flow was a day-to-day challenge.

Back then you would have to spend a significant amount of time chasing payments which was an unnecessary distraction from actually managing your business. You weren’t getting easy access to credit from the banks back then either.

I walked away broke and in debt, but I saw other subcontractors who were one- or two-man operations that got wiped out for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

You take your positives where you can – this gave me the opportunity to upskill at that stage on the computer side which has led me to where I am today.

Gerry Molloy WoofAdvisor - Fora Gerry Molloy Michael Chester Michael Chester

New career

It was around 1990 when my tiling company folded and after that I took the time to learn a bit about computers to make myself employable.

At the time I genuinely didn’t know what a computer could do or even what a hard disk was – I knew absolutely nothing about how technology could be applied in business.

So I did a course in Bray to learn about computer business application and in the end, it got me a job. It was only supposed to be on a part-time basis in a private security company but they were growing rapidly so they had more work for me.

It was the land of the blind and with my newly acquired computer skills, I had way more knowledge than anyone else in the company, so my role evolved.

I ended up as a director in what was a very profitable and successful company, which was eventually bought by a group of investors that also acquired 15 other companies.

After the crash in 2008, they sold off parts of the group, but couldn’t service the debt and eventually it all went into receivership.

Applying for jobs

In the aftermath, I did a course in global trade, because I was looking at a career related to exporting before I launched WoofAdvisor.

Ireland was on its knees and the export markets were the only things showing any signs of life, but in the end I decided this wasn’t going to be for me.

I also did the ‘Business Innovation Programme’ at the DCU Ryan Academy that spanned an academic year and a ‘Springboard’ course on web design, which was another full-time academic year.

In between, I banged out applications for hundreds of advertised jobs and probably got two or three acknowledgements – that was it. You can feel like you’re climbing a cliff and you don’t realise how much of your confidence has been eroded.

I remember one of the guys on a course with me had applied for every job under the sun. One of the mentors told him, not to do that: “You’re not going to get the job anyway and it’s going to wreck your head.”

They were right. They said think realistically about what jobs you’re a fit for and if you’re completely overqualified, they’re probably not going to talk to you anyway.

I’m 63 in a couple of months and back when I was doing that course, I had to come to terms with the fact that at my age I was unemployable.

I did a lot of serious courses to make my skills relevant, but I was of a certain age where regardless of experience or skills, it didn’t matter – companies wouldn’t consider me.

Even other professionals and former business owners who were on those courses with me in their forties reckoned they were unemployable because of their age.

That’s why you have to look at making yourself self-employable. It’s the only realistic option.

Capture1 WoofAdvisor WoofAdvisor

The idea

So I knew I was going to have to become self-employed and also focus on starting a business that was online.

I trained in web development, social media, digital marketing, graphic design and how to start your own business, but I still didn’t have a business idea.

In the end, the lightbulb moment came over a pint with my siblings. Both of them talking about being back from a trip with their dogs to the west of Ireland and not having a great experience.

It showed me that there isn’t a resource out there for showing dog owners the quality of places they are going to bring their pets. Pretty much from that night on, I’ve been researching or working on WoofAdvisor.

I’m not from a travel background, I’m not a techie and I don’t have a skillset in a related area – so I’m learning as I go.

But all my training so far has given me the confidence and competence to project manage the website development, while not actually developing it myself.


The site is live over a year at this stage and I’ve bootstrapped it so far, but I am looking to raise finance and recruit some staff now – but there are some challenges.

WoofAdvisor is a two-sided market model and ultimately I want to sell listings to hotel chains or do deals with sponsors – that’s the business-to-business side. But to get that I have to build the traffic, users and the community.

Investors are wary of these types of business models as they take longer to build and are a heavier lift.

The other issue is that I’m on my own, hence I’m looking at recruiting a tech co-founder to help me bring that aspect of the business back in-house, and make WoofAdvisor more investor-friendly.

At the moment I’m also trying to push into the UK to build traffic in the country. It’s not just that it’s a bigger market than Ireland, the challenge for me here is that there’s hardly any pet travel here.

It’s a vicious circle in Ireland. The half a million households with dogs don’t think it’s a feasible option to bring their pets on holiday with them so they don’t bother asking hotels if they take pets. This means hotels think there is no demand.

I’d have to nearly create and educate the market here to make it work and all the startup mentors I’ve talked to have said, “If you need to create or educate the market, walk away and look to the UK.”

Gerry Molloy is the ‎founder of WoofAdvisor. This article was written in conversation with Killian Woods as part of a series on unlikely entrepreneurs.

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Written by Gerry Molloy and posted on