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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 24 May 2022

'Every job was cancelled': How this Dublin-based events company used technology to pull through Covid-19

Michael Keelan’s company, Flying Elephant, creates builds for concerts and festivals.

Flying Elephant founders Michael Keelan and Max Fox.
Flying Elephant founders Michael Keelan and Max Fox.
Image: Flying Elephant

“WE REALISED we had to figure something out quick, otherwise we’d all be sitting at home for a while.”

When the country went into its first lockdown in March last year, Dublin business-owner Michael Keelan wasted no time adapting his event production company, Flying Elephant. 

Based in Cookstown Industrial Estate in Tallaght, Dublin 24, the five-year-old company creates bespoke builds for events such as concerts and festivals. It was set to have its biggest year yet in 2020… until everything was called off. 

“Usually, before COVID, all of our work would be for a couple of weeks or weekends during the summer,” says Michael.

On Armageddon day, that’s what we call it, we had about 65 jobs cancelled. That was basically every bit of work we had ordered. We had to go back to the drawing board.

The solution? Moving the business completely online and using the leftover materials to make furniture. 

“Basically what happened was one of the lads in the office, one of his friends was looking for a desk and we had the materials sitting in the warehouse from an exhibition that got cancelled that week. We just cut a really simple, well what we thought was a simple desk, gave it to him and a few other people were like ‘oh that’s cool’, so we decided to put a picture of it up on our Instagram. It all kind of snowballed from there.” 

Now the company offers a wide range of custom-made, 100% Irish products – from garden furniture to standing desks to wine racks.

Screenshot 2021-02-03 at 09.09.43 Source: Flying Elephant

Equipped with reliable connectivity thanks to Vodafone, they were able to make the most of their digital know-how to launch online very quickly. “There’s loads of companies who kind of followed our way after a couple of weeks, whereas within 24 hours we were able to set up an online shop and get a website. We were very fast.

“We were already set up with our landline and our internet. Vodafone’s service made our lives easy because we had good, quick internet and because we basically changed into an online business overnight, so we needed our internet and phone to be good.”

In essence, all we need is a fast reliable service which Vodafone thankfully offer. We haven’t had one day down in the last 12 months with our internet or phones, which have now become a vital part of our business.

After an unpredictable start to the year and having to adapt their offering during the coronavirus pandemic, Flying Elephant ended up expanding their business in 2020. The company now employs 20 full time-staff and doubled its Tallaght warehouse to 25,000 sq ft.

“We were going 24 hours a day in here from March to July,” says Michael. “We never had a night shift or anything like that before, so we had our usual day crew and a night crew as well.

We got bigger rather than smaller.

While the company has scaled back during Level 5, Michael maintains that a positive attitude is key to survival.

Screenshot 2021-02-03 at 09.10.57 Source: Flying Elephant

“We haven’t gotten to a stage where we’re like ‘oh god, the lights are turning off again’. We kind of work best when those situations arise. We just kind of figure a way out of them.”

“The only thing that sets us apart from anyone else is that we’re all young and we all like to be busy and no one likes to sit around and do nothing. Everyone kind of chips in with different ideas. That’s why, at the start of it, we didn’t want to just throw the towel in when every single company like ours was closing.

“We obviously realised very quickly that’s how this is going to work, so we worked really hard on social media, our website and all of that kind of thing… the rest is history, as they say.”

Are you part of a small or medium-sized business? For technology as resilient as you, talk to Vodafone Business about our range of solutions. Visit Vodafone.ie/business to find out more.

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