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Open for 'Business'
John Ryan and John Ahern show off their goods in the form of, a new website dedicated to helping people find and buy businesses in Ireland.
Limerick duo set up one-stop shop for Irish businesses
By Niall Stanage

An idea dreamt up by two Limerick businessmen seems to be catching on fast in Ireland -- and it could be of particular interest to Irish-Americans or Irish emigrants planning to return home.

The two men, John Ryan and John Ahern, formally launched their website,, in January. The site does what its name suggests -- it provides a forum for the buying and selling of Irish businesses. In less than eight months, 99 businesses have been offered for sale on the site along with many franchise opportunities. Almost 20,000 people have browsed the Business Shop's pages, though it is not known how many actual sales have taken place.

The idea for the site emerged when Ryan and Ahern, who also run a company that facilitates corporate text messaging via cell phone, decided to seek other investment opportunities. They relied on the usual informal network of contacts -- accountants, solicitors and business acquaintances -- but came up with nothing. It was only then that they realized that there was no obvious way to publicly advertise businesses for sale in Ireland.

"The search for the business became the business itself," Ahern told the Echo.

The variety of businesses on the sites is startling, as is the difference in the prices being sought. On Tuesday, for example, a tourist hostel was for sale for almost €3 million ($3.7 million), while the more modestly financed would be-investor could consider buying a candle-making business for €32,000 ($39,000) or a Waterford dry cleaners for €140,000 ($173,000).

Ahern contends that a large proportion of visitors to the site are from outside Ireland. He assumes that most of these people may well be Irish emigrants thinking about returning home. The potential usefulness of the site to Irish people abroad is clear, he believes:

"Irish people are coming home in increasing numbers. But most of the time, people who have emigrated will want to go back to a specific area. And often those areas might be in areas of Ireland where the chances of getting a well-paid job are not especially strong. So the only way to make a viable return to that area might be to buy a business. It's for that reason that we are really hoping to spread the word about the website among ex-pats."

Ahern and his business partner do, of course, have a vested interest in drumming up business for the website. But they also seem to genuinely believe in the importance of the service they provide:

"Most people work through their accountants or auctioneers when trying to buy or sell a business," John Ryan contended. "[But] this really limits the scope of entrepreneurs trying to find good business opportunities and also the scope of business-owners trying to find buyers for their business."

According to John Ahern, is virtually unique:

"There are websites in Australia, the UK and the U.S. that sell some businesses, but none of them encompasses every aspect of the market in the way that we do."

This comprehensive approach has contributed to the website's early success, which has seen the number of visitors, subscribers and advertisers all rise rapidly.

According to Ahern, the aim now is simple.

"To grow the site and, even if competitors arrive, to ensure that this stays the premium site of its kind in Ireland."

This story appeared in the issue of August 17-23, 2005

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