10 Tips for Entrepreneurs

Denise O'Grady

Most entrepreneurial success stories are based on someone successfully identifying a problem — then working like mad to take it to market.

That happened Denise O’Grady.

In her old job as a teacher, she constantly saw “the chain” break.

These chains are arrangements where Parent 1 is notified of an event such as a canceled game.

Parent 1 is then supposed to text Parent 2 who is supposed to notify Parent 3 and so on.

“Invariably the chain broke and the 11th person never got to know the game was canceled,” O’Grady said.

Problem identified, it was time to fix it. That’s been done, and now O’Grady’s company Schoolspace is market leader in school-to-parent communications.

She was speaking at an information session for The Founder Institute in Ireland (I’m a Co-Director). The event was hosted by Lucey Technology (@LuceyTechnology) in Blackrock, Co. Dublin.

O’Grady outlined what the last five years have been like for her and what some of the potential entrepreneurs can look forward to.

As organized and prepared as a teacher should be, O’Grady laid out 10 points for the audience.

Write down your idea. Get it out and down on paper. Then get it out there by talking to everyone about it.

Chances are your idea won’t be stolen. In fact, the opposite is likely because people will want to help.

Research. Talk to potential customers. What do people care about in your space and what, if anything, will they pay to fix it?

“Be as absolutely accurate as you can with your maths,” O’Grady said. Are costs calculated accurately? Are any assumptions likely to cost dearly if they prove wrong?

“Get a customer,” O’Grady said. In the very early days of Schoolspace, “we were actually terrified of our customer.”

But “they were the ones using the product and they knew exactly what was wrong with it,” she said. “Our customers have sold more of our Schoolspace services than our [sales] reps have,” O’Grady said.

“Sell the living day lights out of it.” If someone says they will buy your product if it had a feature, say it will then close the sale, O’Grady said. Then make the feature.

Staff up. “We always have at least 2-3 interns,” O’Grady said.

Get press. “You can, with a story, get incredible free publicity,” O’Grady said. However, it needs to be worked on and framed properly.

Give the media valuable content. “They will publish it because you are doing their job for them,” she said.

“Surround yourself with genius.” O’Grady said she worked in isolation for too long. Finally she started getting out.

“Get as many coffees with as many well connected people as you can.”

Experienced business people respect early stage struggle. “It’s amazing how many people want to help,” she said.

Prepare yourself for a roller coaster ride. O’Grady said one of her mentors draws a wavy graph in meetings and says, “Just realize you are somewhere here.”

“It’s not smooth and it never has been,” she said. “Try and balance yourself.”

“Keep a helicopter view,” O’Grady advised. “You can work in your business or you can work on your business.”

She said entrepreneurs should take a half day a week above their business to look at it strategically.

This will answer questions like, “How we’re going to get to my vision.”


The Founder Institute will be holding more free talks in the coming weeks.

  • Sept. 18 (Weds.) will be in conjunction with the Ireland Israel Business Network at the Dublin Whiskey Company, 33 Mill St., Dublin 8.
  • Sept. 24 (Tues.) will be at The International Bar (downstairs), Wicklow St., Dublin 2. Denise will speak there again.
  • Oct. 2 (Weds.) will feature Patrick Leddy at Beauchamps Solicitors, Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2.