Pierce Dargan of Equine MediRecord tells us about improving animal welfare.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Pierce Dargan: My family has been going through ups and downs like most families. I think it is important to focus on and celebrate the positives. I was very happy to become an uncle for the first time with my brother Garrett and his wife Melissa having their first child, my niece Rayleigh Dargan. Also, I got engaged to my partner of eight years, Alexandra May, so there are lots to be thankful for celebrating soon.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you Equine MediRecord.
Pierce Dargan: When I first left high school, I was very much focused on sports. I won a rugby scholarship to Trinity College Dublin, where I completed a Bachelor’s in Political Science and History while a member of the Trinity Rugby Team, which won an all-Ireland 7s title in 2012. I was part of the Irish Universities team that played against England in 2016. I subsequently went and played with the professional Irish and European Champions, Leinster’s, Development team, and then the US professional rugby league, which is now called Major League Rugby, for the Ohio Aviators.
After playing professional rugby for a couple of years, I returned to complete my studies. It was while studying for my Masters in Business and Management at Trinity that I had the idea that led to the development of Equine MediRecord. My family has been involved in the equine industry for at least five generations, so the topic of ensuring animal welfare and anti-doping compliance was something that I knew a lot about. I had spent time on my family’s farm ensuring compliance to the rules and helping complete the paperwork that took a lot of time, and you were always worried that it might be lost or damaged as it used to be all done on paper. When I was going back and forth to college, it was hard to keep on top of it as I was not always there to help, and I thought there must be an easier way, and that is how I started my business.
How does Equine MediRecord market its product/services online?
Pierce Dargan: We use a number of channels for marketing our platforms and services online. This includes marketing across a number of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We try to be featured in online publications to help knowledge about our services, platforms, and mission, to help improve equine welfare, and to become more universally known. However, given we are in a traditional industry, most of our marketing is done through traditional channels as that is where our customers are, and we find the largest return. I know this will change in the coming years, but for now, traditional industry publications are what our customers engage with most.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
Pierce Dargan: So our plans were drastically changed as we had worked with multiple partners to devise an entry strategy for the US, where we had hoped to deploy our system across the US in multiple state jurisdictions. This was going to plan at the beginning of 2020, and we had been invited as a speaker at the Association of Racing Commissioners International Conference on Equine Welfare and Integrity that was scheduled for April 2020. Of course, this, unfortunately, was unable to take place as it was canceled due to Covid, and we had to completely change our plans and adapt them for the new world we found ourselves in.
However, we didn’t give up. We decided we had to try and get the meetings to get our system approved via platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The work did pay off in the end with our virtual launches into Kentucky and California after we secured contracts with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Thoroughbred Owners of California once we had our systems approved by their state government agencies. Our biggest achievement was securing a partnership and contract with the Breeders Cup World Championships. This is the competition where the top thoroughbred racehorses from around the world compete each year. The competition continued this year behind closed doors with horses from countries like Canada, the US, Ireland, Germany, and Japan, to name but a few. Having the top racehorses in the world be cleared using our system was honestly something we dreamed of when we started the business. It was amazing to be able to go in person with some of our team to help on the ground at the world championships in Kentucky 2020.
We have continued to expand in the US by securing a contract to provide our platform for the Breeders Cup World Championships at Del Mar in 2021 and the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida in 2022. We have also secured contracts in other jurisdictions, most notably in Saudi Arabia, for the most lucrative race globally, the Saudi Cup 2022.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Pierce Dargan: I think it was just being able to ensure you have an online marketing strategy, set goals before you start certain campaigns, and have a way of tracking ROI for each online campaign. There are a number of systems out there that can help you with online campaigns, and depending on the type of campaign we are running, we use multiple different platforms to help track the ROI on that specific campaign.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pierce Dargan: Currently, we have no direct competitors. For us, it is trying to convince more people in a predominately conservative and non-digital industry to embrace technology to help all those involved in the equine industry, but of course, this is a challenge. Trying to change processes that have been in place for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years is, of course, a challenge. The main way you stay in the game is always to be open to change and look at new technologies that can complement your current offering to your customers.
Your final thoughts?
Pierce Dargan: I just want to say the very best of luck to all the entrepreneurs who have just started or started businesses during one of the most challenging times imaginable. Businesses thought that coming out of Covid, things would start to be a bit easier, but now entrepreneurs have to deal with rising costs and uncertainty due to the conflict in Ukraine. Though difficult, there are still opportunities out there and do not be disheartened if you are not achieving what you had hoped for this year. These are hard times, but all we can do is work hard and hope that things will be better for businesses in 2022.