Siobhán Cronin meets a cheerful Californian ‘blow-in’ who has swapped San Francisco Bay for Bantry Bay to work for an oil firm and hasn’t looked back since his arrival in West Cork
IN just a few short years, Ed Tan has gone from running a billion-dollar media department at tech giant Cisco in Silicon Valley, to driving a tractor at the Caheragh Vintage Threshing parade in West Cork.
From San Francisco Bay, to Bantry Bay, you might say! And what brings a major mover and shaker in the world’s top technology hub to a small village in rural Munster?
Well, the lure of its beauty, of course. And working for a cutting edge oil firm – Tria. As the brand’s new marketing chief, Ed has been tasked with getting the Tria name recognised all across West Cork – and beyond.
Many domestic heating customers will know Tria better as West Cork Oil, or maybe as Brosnan Oil, or Osborne Oil – all names which now come under the Tria brand.
‘If there was one thing I learned when I started working here,’ says a jovial Ed, in his soothing California accent, ‘is that you don’t mess with a familiar name.’
So while Tria is quickly gaining traction around the county – with a lot of help from its branded service stations – Ed knows that a name like West Cork Oil still has a lot of resonance – and a warm familiarity – with its customer base.
Relaxing over coffee in the newly-renovated bar of the apty-named Traveller’s Rest in Caheragh village, Ed is just a few steps from the Tria headquarters, in the adjacent building.
Owned by the local Kirby family, Ed admits Tria is the smallest firm he has ever worked with – but that means he is hands-on in almost every area – from marketing, to sales, distribution, communication and administration.
Born and raised just outside San Francisco, Ed was enticed to West Cork by his Kerry partner and, in true ‘blow-in’ style, they are renovating an old farmhouse, and growing their own vegetables.
‘I grew spuds a few years ago, and my neighbours were all amazed at how well they did, in my little 15ft by 15ft patch.’ As regards the house, he says it has been an interesting challenge: ‘Let’s just say, there’s no such thing as a 90 degree angle!’
And, speaking of degrees, Ed has embraced our north Atlantic climate. ‘I actually prefer the weather here – I don’t do well in heat. Anything above 25 degrees and I burn.’
But when his family and friends from the US come to visit, he finds they fall into one of two categories: ‘They either say, “are you crazy?” or they say “I might move here myself!”.’
A San José State University graduate, Ed has worked for such household names as Edelman PR and Motorola, before moving to Cisco and Riverbed, in public relations managerial roles.
But he thinks he made the move to Ireland at just the right time. ‘I think I was ready for this,’ he says, remarking on how ‘un-fussy’ we Irish are, even in something as basic as ordering coffee. ‘You know, I don’t need a whole load of coffee bean options, or 40 types of cereals … living here is a kind of therapy. You can definitely “find yourself” here! And you are fifteen minutes, in any direction, to water. I love that.’
Ed says the road he lives on couldn’t be different from his former life in California. ‘If you’re on my road, you are either lost, or the postman, or a neighbour, or looking for trouble! And you don’t want to be the last one, cos after all, I’m still an American!’ he jokes.
It was during some ‘time off’ from what he calls his ‘lifestyle change’ of renovating his new home, that Ed dropped into the Traveller’s Rest and got chatting to proprietors Kathleen and Michael Kirby, and one conversation led to another and he later found himself working for their the Tria brand.
As well as being based in Caheragh with a ‘five minute’ commute from home, Ed regularly visits new offices in Mallow and Whitechurch, and is constantly ‘driving’ the brand. ‘West Cork Oil is not really a name you can take beyond Cork, so Tria was an important move for the company,’ he says.
He explains how the colour scheme of the branding, from a soft yellow transitioning into a hot red and warm purple, was designed to signify a flame.There’s no doubt the colouring is very effective and instantly recognisable, an important factor as the group acquires new service stations while it grows.
‘I liken Tria to a 25-year-old start-up that has recently found its identity, with a brand that helps us enter other markets. It’s a start-up in that you wear many hats and have many roles. We have a growth plan to push Tria into other markets in the next few years with consolidation in the market and opportunities that we’re coming across within our business network.’
Ed says the company is soon launching a facility to order and pay at tria.ie, optimised for PCs and mobile. ‘The 20-somethings are the future homebuyers, and that’s how they want to order.’
With a name like West Cork Oil – it’s not portable nor scalable. But, wherever we go with Tria, we’re bringing West Cork with us, and raising the visibility of Caheragh!
Ed loves the direct and immediate access to the Tria directors. ‘It’s close-knit; the team is a family. That’s where the trust comes to build the brand. This trust is critical when you’re building the fundamentals, and especially so when you’re doing new things. To say this year has been full of change is an understatement!’
And driving that tractor at Caheragh’s threshing day was just one of this year’s changes which Ed has happily embraced.