It’s usually hedonistic rock stars that grab the headlines at the age of 27, but for young Eric McNulty, it’s the beginning of a blossoming business career.
After his (slight) return to Ireland following academic pursuits in Scotland, his new show-stopping forecourt in Co Limerick is quickly becoming a huge hit with the local community.
McNulty’s Fuels is located on the outskirts of Hospital in County Limerick, on the main Limerick to Mitchelstown Road.
Opened in July 2014, the business has won admiration with an old-school approach to customer care and services from its rural catchment.
Fully attended pumps come as standard, as do free home deliveries, oil, air, and water checks. Those hefty bags of coal, meanwhile, are delivered directly to the car boot by willing and able staff.
“I knew I could make a go of this venture; with a strong background in customer care experience and a family who were all well established in business in the locality – I definitely saw a gap in the market,” he told Ireland’s Forecourt & Convenience Retailer.
Eric was born and raised in the village, and after completing a Masters in Renewable Energy Planning and working for the Scottish government, he was drawn back to his roots.
A love of the local area and involvement in many clubs and groups meant leaving the area was not a path he wanted to make.
With jobs in his particular expertise lacking, the Limerick 20-something endeavoured to use his energy and passion for the community to transform the local area’s delinquent service station into a 21st century fuel stop.
He took on the challenging prudently, signing a one year lease before opening the doors two years ago.
At the end of the first year, he committed by buying the site and completely renovating inside and out.
He has added a comprehensive solid fuels store, and a small convenience shop specialising in car care products and accessories.
The exercise has been completed in style, with Eric shortlisted for Limerick’s Best Young Entrepreneur Award in 2015, and his forecourt winning Limerick’s Best Service Business Award in 2016.
His enthusiasm for community engagement and customer-focused ethos has gone down well with locals, and according to Eric, the town has backed him all the way.
While local support is vital, is Eric intimidated by this hyper-competitive market’s big players?
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “The fuel cards from some retailers do affect business, but my strength is how localised we are. We give back to the community, and that helps me compete. I’m trying to give as much back as I can.”
The station has become a hub for the community, and includes an innovative Local Craft corner where locals display and sell their own produce. A Community Advertising Board, meanwhile, gifts clubs and businesses free advertising to customers.
McNulty’s has also sponsored jerseys for the local soccer club, a trophy for a national handball tournament, and helped out with donations and fundraisers for many local charities.
It’s an impressive list of achievements for someone that until two years ago had no experience in the forecourt sector.
“It was a challenge starting off,” he said. “But I’ve put together a really good team of staff and it has been running very well.
“Another challenge was changing people’s opinions of the old site. It had been on the verge of closure and a bit of an eye-sore. So we had a big job changing local perceptions.”
Where the business goes from here is anyone’s guess, but with Eric’s commitment to both the forecourt and the community, the odds are in his favour.
Eric is already looking at a second site, so who knows; McNulty’s could soon be the biggest show in town.