Pius McCloat is a hard man to catch. The founder of Suip Manufacturing in Sligo spends most of his days ensconced in the company’s workshop in Dormard, designing and testing new products for the family firm.
“I'm a bit like a songwriter,” McCloat said. “Ideas come to me all the time. I like original ideas, but I’ve never wanted to be a one-hit wonder. I wanted a string of hits and I’ll keep going.”
A service mechanic by trade, McCloat worked for Nissan Forklifts, specialising in quad bikes and ride-on mowers, before setting up Suip in 2014.
In Suip – Pius spelt backwards – he found a new way to satisfy his long-standing fascination with all-terrain vehicles.
McCloat’s first product – a sprayer conversion kit for ride-on lawnmowers – was inspired by an elderly neighbour he drove past one day who was spraying his lawn using a heavy backpack.
Backpack sprayers are often used in garden and grounds maintenance to spread weed killer, and in agriculture to distribute pesticides and other crop treatments.
“I could see my neighbour was struggling that day. The weather wasn’t great. That was back in 2014. He's still alive, bless him,” McCloat said.
“I thought there had to be an easier way to do the job. Then I thought, a lot of people have ride-on mowers nowadays, can I convert the sprayer, so people can use their mowers instead of these heavy knapsacks?”
McCloat headed to his workshop and designed his first ever Suip sprayer. He put an ad up on Donedeal.ie, with the tagline “from mowing to spraying in less than 60 seconds”, and waited.
“We put that first ad out on a Bank Holiday Monday and we didn’t get a single call. I couldn’t understand it. I knew it was a good product,” he said.
“The next day, the phone started ringing and it hasn’t stopped. It just took off,” he said.
McCloat has since brought heavy-duty boom sprayers for agricultural tanks, smaller handheld spray guns and a front-mounted yard scraper for quad bikes to market.
His latest product, the Suip Protector, was launched online at this year’s virtual National Ploughing Championships.
He is confident that the ground-mounted quad-bike locking system will be his first truly global hit.
“I try to have a new product ready every year for the ploughing, and we often exhibit at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland as well and Balmoral in the North,” he said.
“People were coming up to us at these events telling us about their quad bikes getting stolen. It’s become a big problem in the last few years, especially in Scotland and the North.”
The GPS trackers people often use to protect their quad bikes had become ineffective, McCloat learnt because thieves had found ways to block and remove them.
“I designed Suip Protector to be truly secure but also easy-to-use. We have support from Enterprise Ireland now and, as far as they’re concerned, it is a global product,” he said.
McCloat is considering partnering with manufacturers to bring the Suip Protector into other markets.
For the time being, though, his focus is on keeping sales across the Suip range ticking over while he waits for the effects of the pandemic to ease.
“I’ll keep developing products, keep writing songs. We’ll keep selling on our website,” he said.
“We’ve secured a worldwide patent for the quad lock and we’ve had it tested and certified by a company in Britain called Sold Secure. It’s up on the website. We’ll be ready to really push it when the time is right.”