How Brexit has made Firefly innovate

Martin McGeough of Firefly says Britain’s departure from the EU has opened his eyes to new possibilities for his business.

“Our mantra, ‘keep moving’ is what we preach at Firefly,”

“Brexit made us sharpen our focus, that’s for sure. But it has definitely made us innovate,” says Martin McGeough, the CEO of Firefly, a Sligo-based company specialising in Podiatric Biomechanics and Orthotic Therapy.

Firefly’s customer base is spread across the UK and Ireland which means the business exports its products and sells a lot in sterling. That means the pricing model is closely tied to the fluctuating fortunes of the British currency – and the political machinations at Westminster can have a real impact.

But Martin sees Brexit as an opportunity, not a negative pull on his business which makes custom-made foot orthoses – for sale to podiatrists, who in turn give them to patients with ankle, foot or hip problems. The firm also specialises in providing related therapies to treat people of all ages.

“Luckily, our products do not attract tariffs but we ship through Northern Ireland which is a logistical consideration. However, I genuinely do not believe there will be an issue for us. “As a first step, we wrote to all our customers and gave them the reassurance that we expect little to change and told them we would absorb any extra costs that may emerge. It was important to give them that confidence.”

Firefly, which employs 25 people also provides the crucial therapy and training to ensure the patients get the best possible benefit from the products it supplies. The company is a highly respected innovator and market leader – in 2017 it brought 200 of the UK and Ireland’s leading podiatrists to Sligo for an industry summit.

“Our mantra, ‘keep moving’ is what we preach at Firefly,” says Martin. “That’s why we see Brexit as providing the impetus to keep developing, innovating and growing.”

With Brexit fast approaching, Martin is convinced that the business can withstand any bumps in the road and he has exciting plans to expand Firefly’s business to other markets and with new services – such as revenue from education and training. Brexit, though, did make him think closely about how Firefly does business. “We looked at how we price and what we do. In terms of innovation we asked ourselves could we create an educational revenue stream? So, for example, we looked at Pakistan as a potential new market.”

Pakistan, explains Martin, has a population of over 200 million people, of which 25pc are affected by diabetes. That causes a lot of health complications, with obesity putting pressure on joints – ankles, feet and hips – which means there could be a massive new market and demand for Firefly’s products, therapy and training. Firefly may soon also be making its products closer to home. The company currently has products manufactured in Vancouver, Canada and in Indianapolis and California in the United States. “A direct-spin off from Brexit was making us think about the entire supply chain and we now have plans to bring our manufacturing to Sligo, using the latest commercial-standard 3D printing technology.”

For Martin, Brexit has meant a chance to refocus his business – and prepare for the future. “It’s about being ready and getting in front of the issues before they become problems. We’re looking forward to some great years ahead.”

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