COMING OUT THE OTHER SIDE Aiden Corcoran, Owner and CEO of Cosmetic Creations, pictured at Cosmetic Creations’ Claremorris headquarters. The company have had a hectic year developing hand sanitiser to help in the fight against Covid-19. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
Producing and supplying Airmedica hand sanitiser during the pandemic has helped grow Claremorris-based company
WHEN Aiden Corcoran, the CEO of Claremorris-based cosmetic company Lynoslife and his team met with officials from the Department of Health in February 2020 pitching the idea of supplying hand sanitiser, they were not expecting the response they received.
“They effectively told us if we could do it they would take everything off us,” Aiden recalled to The Mayo News last week.
“I explained the two factories in Claremorris and Cork can produce over 250,000 units a week and everything is a pretty big number and I don’t want to be ruined. They said if you can make it we will buy it.”
At the time, the enormity of the crisis facing the country from the coronavirus had not been laid bare to the public but on his way home to Mayo, Aiden said he was left in no doubt of what the country was facing into.
“I was frightened after coming from our meeting with the HSE. We offered what we could do to help. We didn’t realise the pressure they were under when we went in but we certainly realised it on the way home.”
With the fear of the health officials etched on his mind, Aiden and his team got to work and very soon the Airmedica hand sanitiser was created. The company would go on to be the largest single supplier of hand sanitisers in the country, making 9 million units in 12 months with, 60 percent of it supplied to hospitals and public bodies.
Up to then, the company had concentrated on producing cosmetic products and the decision to look into hand sanitisers came over concerns over the importation of raw materials from China.
Aiden described how after meeting with the HSE officials, things started to move at a frantic pace.
On March 2, 2020, the team in Claremorris met to discuss what they could do and the decision was made to concentrate solely on hand sanitisers.
“We said we need to get this product out by Friday. We had no official order but we had to stop everything we were doing and bring in the raw materials and we started doing that. We started to bring in alcohol and buy up spirit components around England and Ireland.
“Ultimately in the end everyone and their granny was making hand sanitiser but we were one of the first companies to deliver hand sanitiser to the HSE. I remember a guy [from the HSE] saying to me on the second [of March] that he had to trust me to do it. That was Monday and by Friday we had two arctics full of hand sanitiser leaving our facility in Claremorris for him and we were going.”
It was not all plain sailing though for Aiden and his team. They had to raise €2 million in investment and spent €1.5 million refitting their Claremorris and Cork plants to increase capacity. As the health crisis worsened in Europe, France refused to allow two 30 tonne vessels full of ethanol leave Cherbourg for Ireland - and Aiden had to source alternative supplies from whiskey companies.
He also recalls moving into a camper-van on the Claremorris site for fear of having the product stolen, and having to turn people away who were desperate for hand sanitiser.
At its peak, the Claremorris plant employed 70 people and could produce 120 tonne of sanitiser. Aiden admits that the need for hand sanitiser has benefitted the company but he feels more importantly it has proved that his small team is capable of achieving.
“When I say it was a fantastic experience it was not an experience we could live through every year ... but I am delighted that we delivered. The pandemic has been positive for us as an organisation ...what it did for us, it moved us on two to three years.
“In fairness to the teams in Mayo and Cork, they delivered and they lifted the load for us and it is a credit to them. The question about us was could this junior team deliver at the senior level.
By Jesus, we did and not only that, we drove it to the back of the net.”
With the demand for hand sanitisers decreasing, the company has taken the decision to scale back and concentrate on conventional cosmetic products. Aiden joked that it is much more enjoyable to be back concentrating on the ‘fake tan surge’ which is anticipated with more social gatherings expected later in the year.
However, looking back he is proud of what the company has achieved, and that they were willing to play their part in the pandemic emergency.
“It wasn’t trying to make money, that was secondary. It was about making sure we had a product which would stop the virus. We don’t know how many lives were saved but by us being there and offering sanitiser, when we did, I think we did a really good job and inadvertently saved people from serious illness. Sometime we reflect back and think we could have done this differently but broadly we did a great job and I keep reminding our team of that.”