SERI Member Spotlight: An Mheitheal Rothar
Social enterprises are the most passionate and dedicated enterprises in Ireland. At SERI, we
want to share all the success that our members have achieved with our community. Today, we are shining a spotlight on An Mheitheal Rothar. We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Cathy Coote, Coordinator at An Mheitheal Rothar.
What is the impact that your social enterprise wants to create?
While we want to recycle bikes and teach cycle mechanic skills, for us it’s about more than
that. We want to grow the repair and reuse skills required for the circular economy to take
off, and also to provide an alternative economic model that delivers satisfying, meaningful
jobs that can’t be offshored.
Why did you set up your social enterprise?
In order to fight climate change and provide a working, cooperative model for the circular
the economy that empowers people.
What is your personal connection to the impact you are trying to create?
People laugh at me because I actually have no interest in cycling! I’m interested in climate
change and resource use and how the circular economy can address these interlinked
issues. I’m even more interested in the power of cooperation, and how we can make the
economy work for us instead of the other way around.
What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced with your social enterprise and how did you overcome it?
SPACE is the final frontier in Galway. Circular economy enterprises are very storage-intensive and getting accessible space in Galway has been a huge challenge. We are in the
process of overcoming it in various ways, from paying massive private rent to getting space
from the council.
What are some of your biggest wins?
Getting the Pilot Bike & Ebike Upcycling funding of €750k over three years is pretty cool.
But we’re proudest of our response to Covid when the NUI Galway campus shut down and
we lost access to what at the time was ALL of our space. We could have closed the
organisation but instead, we took a huge risk and rented private shop space using a loan.
We’re managing to make a go of it, although the rent is cripplingly expensive.
What is your favourite thing about the social enterprise community?
People who are inspired to do things differently and motivated by our common humanity
are always a pleasure to deal with. I especially like members of the community who are
looking at cooperative ways of doing things as a response to the failings of the extractive
capitalist models that have failed us all so badly.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in the social enterprise industry?
If someone (especially a bureaucrat from the public or private spheres) patiently explains to
you why something is completely, utterly, eternally impossible, nod and smile then do it
What is the best form of support you have received to date from state or otherwise?
The Western Development Commission believed in us right from the start, lending us
€30,000 in 2019 when we were a very small unincorporated operation. That was amazing
and nothing we did subsequently would have been possible without it.
What have you learned personally from your experience of working in the social enterprise sector?
Things can change if you live as though they have already.
Can you recommend a resource (book/ podcast/ article/ Tedtalk/website) that has been helpful to you?
I have a retrospective crush on Paddy “the Cope” Gallagher, who set up the Dungloe Co-op
back in the early 20th century. His book (My Story) is an autobiography that includes walking 60 miles off to work in bare feet at age 9, picking potatoes in Scotland, starting his revolutionary co-op in Donegal, being arrested by the British on trumped-up charges, buying his own fleet of boats when none of the importers would bring in his goods, smuggling weapons for the war of independence, selling Donegal tweed to big department stores in London, rebuilding his co-op after it burned down and much more. Paddy was a warm, funny and humane person determined to use the power of cooperation to find a fairer way for people to buy the things they need and to create meaningful, dignified jobs, and I find that deeply inspiring.
After a long day, how do you like to switch off?
Either nerding it up with a book, or letting my kids choose a TV show to watch together.
They like Dance Moms and The Simpsons currently.
When you need to pick yourself up, what is your go-to motivational song?
This bunch of Galway hippies always brings a smile to my face:
(Warning for cool people: contains banjos)
We would like to thank Cathy and her team at An Mheitheal Rothar for their continued support of SERI. We wish them the best of luck in 2022 and the future.
If you would like to stay up to date with An Mheitheal Rothar, you can find them at any of the links below.