Hear It founder Tom Walsh is a good example of someone who saw an opportunity to build something great from the small side-line he had started. Beginning as a mobile DJ in his local area, he saw the need for sound equipment hire for all kinds of events and took it upon himself to provide the full service to events of all sizes across the country, which he has been doing ever since. He states that he never turns down an event and has provided equipment for festivals, meetings and events around the country. Hear It even provided the sound equipment used during an event at Dromoland Castle honouring Mohammed Ali’s homecoming visit to his ancestral town of Ennis, Co. Clare. We grabbed Tom for a quick Q&A on his three decades in the business.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started?
I grew up in Knocklong, Co.Limerick as part of a business family – we had a bakery and shop. I can’t bake but I am good with people and technical things which led me towards sales. In 1980 I started out on the mobile DJ scene. It started out as a hobby as I didn’t drink (and still don’t) so I was looking for something to fill the evenings.
How did you grow your business into Hear It as it is today?
I grew it as I went along. I basically started by answering a question: ‘can you do….?’, responded with yes, then worked out how to do it. There was no college course in this line when I started. I then added the facilities that are required and we now supply sound, lighting, projectors and screens, TVs, drapes and staging.
What are the challenges you have faced?
With the financial climate and the resulting ups and downs it is good to have survived. Another on-going challenge is technology, it keeps changing and it seems to be doing so more rapidly so I have to too.
What’s it like to work as a family business? How do you switch off from work and enjoy downtime?
Working in a family business always has its challenges, but because Anne and I work well as a team it was fun juggling things over the years it helped with trying not to miss the lads (Eilis, Domhnall and Eadaoin, who all work in the service industry) growing up, but it’s great they are on hand to help out, even if it’s carrying stage or equipment at 2 or 3am. Switching off doesn’t really happen as you are almost always on call, if not for the events today and tomorrow then taking bookings and giving quotes for future events.
In your experience of the events industry in Ireland, what do you need to survive?
Sometimes people coming into the business don’t realise you have to work hard constantly and build a reputation with your clients and suppliers. In other words the hard graft does really pay off.
What has been your favourite moment(s) with Hear It?
The best moments for me are plenty. I have made some great friends and met plenty of great characters, both big names and locals. One of the biggest gigs was the sound rig for the big screen on O’Connell St. Limerick for the Heineken Cup Finals in 2006 & 2008 with Futureama Productions (Fran O’Donnell). I also did the sound, lighting and visuals for Tony Hawk’s wedding at Adare Manor.
What are your future plans and aims for the business?
Simply to keep up the service I am known for with a variety of equipment for a variety of events.
You have also provided services to Dónal Walsh Live Life Foundation, Cliona’s Foundation, Milford Hospice, Cancer Research, Limerick LGBT Pride and many more charities and community events. How important is it to you to support such events?
With all the charities around it’s important that I can sometimes help out. Of course I have to live too, but it is rewarding to do what we can, where we can, when we can.
Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
Photography by: Tarmo Tulit
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