The term ‘some man for one man’ springs to mind when speaking to Stephen Browne from Camolin, Co.Wexford. At just 21-years-of-age, he has already achieved success with his two-fold business, S. Browne Contract and Haulage Ltd.
Not only has the young man known what he has wanted all his life, but he has strived to accomplish it. Stephen left school knowing that his heart lay with the machinery.
He grew up driving tractors and other contracting equipment as soon as his feet could climb the ladder of a cab and bought his first tractor and combine when he left school at 16 years of age.
The haulage section of the business started when they were loading bulk-feeds out of a grain depot. The company had tractors and bulk blower-trailers when Stephen decided to invest in a rigid truck.
He obtained his truckers’ licence as soon as he turned 17 and began using the rigid Scania truck for the purpose of loading the bulk-feeds.
He followed that up with the purchase of an articulated lorry for drawing sand and chippings, and as if that wasn’t enough, he bought a second articulated lorry for tar.
A Scania R-series 1 flatbed trailer was next in line, imported from the UK. All the while, work on the continent was becoming more in demand and it was inevitable that Stephen filled that space with another Scania R-Series truck.
The two sides of the business go hand-in-hand as Stephen explained, “We bale straw in the harvest, about 12,000 big square bales and we put the lorries into that, drawing them”.
Stephen’s contracting influence came from his grandfather, who he lost to a farm accident in 2003 and he decided to carry on the tradition. His father has always driven lorries and a concrete mixer, so it is easy to see how both influences have shaped Stephen’s business into what it is today.
The continental side of the haulage business is a varied one, with cargo as diverse as fruit and pharmaceuticals. They just recently have brought pork from Spain and Keeling’s Potatoes to Southern Italy.
There are six full-time employees and he will employ another two on a full-time basis during the harvest season. Luckily, three of the staff have the ability to cross-over from haulage into driving agricultural machinery and work the harvest season for the young entrepreneur.
Stephen is the youngest member of staff, but he doesn’t feel that he is seen as a youngster. “I’ve been walking in and out of businesses and driving for so long, that they don’t say anything, they probably think that I’m just one of the drivers”, he laughed.
He finds that he prefers the contracting side of the business as he feels that when he’s driving that he’s constantly answering calls. “When you’re dealing with traffic and on the phone all day, it’s just not easy.”
There’s a lot of organising involved with being the owner/manager of such a large business and Stephen takes it all in his stride. He could take calls at any hour of the day or night and he comes across as an approachable type of person. “Daddy always said that I didn’t walk, I ran when I was six-months-old” he laughed.
The modest businessman lives at home with his parents Anita and John. His 19-year-old-brother Darragh is an avid sports fan, while his sister Aoife (11) has shown a great interest in her oldest brother’s business.
The speed at which Stephen is expanding his business is about the same speed with which he speaks; he hopes to have a new Scania lorry on order for 2020 and added that there is a new tractor on the shopping list as well.
Stephen has decided to keep most of his work out of the UK at the moment until the Brexit ‘debacle’ is over. Without knowing what is going to happen, it’s probably wise.
“That’s why we’re moving to the continent and we’re on direct boats most of the time. If Brexit does come, I don’t think that it will affect us too badly” he said.
You might think that Stephen has no time for a social life; however, he was speaking to That’s Farming while on his way to a truck show - mixing business with pleasure is something that Stephen has perfected.
When he does get some spare time, he helps out on his parent's suckler farm. “I’m one who’s never happy, I want to keep expanding, Mark McGuire kind of job, with 100 trucks” he explained.
Plans are already underway to open a sand quarry and actions have been put in place. Even though school was never too important to Stephen, he is proof that success comes from drive and motivation.
“When I was at school, they had a vegetable garden, and that’s where I would always be found,” he concluded.
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