Belfast start up coal bunker expands into new markets and celebrates international sales

An innovative start up storage bunker which is designed to make storage and access to materials including coal, grit, wood pellets and animal feed easier has expanded into new markets and gone on to enjoy international success.

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The Smart Bunker, created by Niall Greenan in 2012 after securing a £6,000 loan from The Start Up Loans Company, levers materials from its storage bunker via a spring-loaded side level without using a shovel. The business has secured sales in Australia, Germany and France and now plans to expand its international footprint by launching in the UAE market.

The business currently turns over £40,000 in sales, and sells its products online through retailers including The Fireside Shop UK and Grafton Group.

Niall had the idea of creating a convenient storage bunker after his mother’s arthritis prevented her from lifting coal from tool-shed to fireplace. The product eases the process of moving heavy products out of the storage bunker. It is waterproof, easy to refill and airtight to prevent dampness, and it can be fixed to the ground for security. In addition to lifting heavy materials, The Smart Bunker keeps animal feed fresh by extracting from the bottom upwards.

After initially struggling to get the business off the ground due to a lack of access to finance, Niall approached The Start Up Loans Company for funding to support its cash flow. Giving the business this access to capital also enabled him to attend trade shows to help raise product awareness.

Since launching in 2012, the scheme has lent almost £4,000,000 to Northern Ireland microbusinesses, providing over 600 loans to recipients across the country. The programme has backed over 200 people in Northern Ireland who were unemployed and economically inactive.

Niall Greenan, founder of The Smart Bunker, said:

“Launching The Smart Bunker has taught me that providing a simple solution to an everyday problem can lead to a profitable business. We have received a great deal of international interest, and breaking into new markets highlights the wider demand for a convenient solution to storing coal, grit and wood.

 

The Start Up Loans Company was essential in putting The Smart Bunker on track for success. My mentor at The Start Up Loans Company was a great sounding board, who helped me ask the right questions in the initial stages. It’s great to see how my product helps my mum’s arthritis, especially since lifting heavy loads is usually an impossible task for her.”

Tim Sawyer, CEO of Start Up Loans Company, said:

“It’s great to see the popularity of The Smart Bunker rising. Chances are, if you’ve experienced a problem, then someone else has too. Niall is a great example of someone who has recognised this, and turned a smart idea into a profitable business.

 

For many, determination is often the main catalyst behind turning a simple idea into a tangible business. Combining the two often helps ordinary people like Niall take the leap of faith needed to start out alone. Although starting up is no task for the faint-hearted, there’s plenty of support out there to ensure your business idea starts off on the right foot. We encourage anyone who’s considering launching their own business to make the most of the help available.”

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