Castlewellan Man Who Invented Smartbunker Appears On RTE Dragon’s Den
The Smartbunker Is Now Dragon Proof.
Castlewellan man Niall Greenan of Greenan Products has appeared on the RTE version of Dragons Den pitching for help from the dragons to boost his invention… the Smartbunker.
The Smartbunker is a multi-purpose bunker designed for wood pellets, animal feed, coal or grit. Niall the inventor first came up with the idea to help out his mother who was struggling with their existing coal bunker. He wanted to eliminate the need for shovelling, as well as ensuring that the contents would stay dry and clean.
Before 2009, Niall was a builder but suffered an accident and had to leave his trade with a long-term injury. He then went ‘back to school’ and learned how to use a computer and it was during this time that the Smartbunker concept emerged in his imagination. He said: “I began working on the concept back in November 2010 and became convinced that this idea was a winner, and I worked hard in developing it to the next innovation stage.
“I then went through the Go For It Business programme at the Down Business Centre and was helped and encouraged greatly by manager Janice Symington and her team. Janice referred me to Invest NI who also supported me. It has grown from strength to strength since then. We have come a long way from the original prototype concept of a bucket, a lampshade and a handle with a spring. The product has been refined after much advice from people such as Ireland’s top vets and equestrian feed specialists.
“Initially my plan was to use it for dispensing coal into buckets, but I realised it had an application in dispensing animal feed. Farmers and horse owners are encouraged that it fills the bucket from the bottom preventing the problem of old feed being used. I have had a lot of feedback from different sectors and the product has developed now to an injection moulded plastic model, light and durable, and it has a lock on it too for security.
“I first attended horse shows with the new model and found that there was a very positive interest in it. Vets were very helpful in their advice and encourage me to move the design from a metal body to plastic. I met dragon Gerard Duffy at one of the agricultural shows I attended and he said Smartbunker was “genius”. he encouraged me to apply for Dragon’s Den a few months ago.
“I did apply and I was surprised that I was selected to appear on the programme. I then learned as much about my business as I could before the filming. I was looking for €200,000 and offering thirty per cent of my business. I didn’t attract the funding but I was very encouraged by their kind words. And just being on the programme was brilliant. People are now recognising me on the street. It should in itself give the Smartbunker a good boost.”
Janice Symington, Manager of the Down Business Centre, said: “Niall first came to the Business Centre to help skill up for a new business. Following his training and putting a business plan together, he has done very well in developing his Smartbunker product. It is a genuinely innovative idea and we are all delighted he is doing so well. I referred him to Invest NI and he received further help with Smartbunker. He had hard luck on Dragon’s den but he is a very determined businessman and will do well.”
When Niall appeared on the RTE version of Dragon’s Den (on Sunday 29 March), the Dragons commented on the design of the Smartbunker with Gavin Duffy saying: ‘This product will win oscars for its innovation’, and Barry O’Sullivan added: ‘This is really inventive’.
“The reason why I was asking so much,” said Naill, was to buy the injection moulding equipment which is very expensive. If I had this equipment I could then drive down the unit cost of the product and increase sales.”
But Niall is very hopeful the Smartburnker will continue its success as he is now selling across the whole of Ireland and in the UK.
The Smartbunker is filled from shoulder height, and keeps any fuel or feed dry, and the lockable dispensing handle means that very little effort is required to fill a bucket that sits under the dispensing chute.
Made in County Down with initial backing from the Down Business Centre and InvestNI, the Smartbunker has won innovation awards for it’s smart design and ease of use.
Niall added: “To celebrate our debut on the Dragons Den, we are introducing a promotion for the Smartbunker for coal and wood pellet storage in support of the HELP STOP THE HEAT OR EAT CRISIS.
“This offer is open to anyone over 65 years of age, or those with a recognised disability. The Smartbunker will pay the VAT on the sales, as well as providing free delivery anywhere in Ireland, and half price delivery to the UK for the month of April 2014.”
To avail of this offer please contact [email protected]
or call +2843770845.