"I won't be a pen pusher," Blue Insurance co-founder Ciaran Mulligan 2 years ago

"I won't be a pen pusher," Blue Insurance co-founder Ciaran Mulligan

"I'll be my own boss."

You never really know what stage in life you'll have a "lightbulb moment," or even what it might entail. It could be the day you envision a new product to offer the world, but it could also simply be the day you realise that nothing but the top of the ladder will ever be enough.


For Ciaran Mulligan, Blue Insurance co-founder and 2011 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Finalist, that day came in the middle of an argument. Speaking to host Sonya Lennon on this week's Architects of Business, he said that something his father said to him in passing had a resounding effect on him:

"I know one of the things my dad said during the time when I was in Coyles, I think we were having an argument over something and he was going: ‘Sure what would you know? You’re a pen-pusher.’"

There are two ways one can respond to someone saying something like this. You can take it as an insult and go on as normal, or you can soak up the feedback and back yourself to prove them wrong.


"I've been successful"

Ciaran knew that he was never going to spend his life riding on someone else's coattails. Once someone had put the label of "pen-pusher" on him, he wasn't going to stop until he lost if forever.

While he said that his parents were never particularly pushy about him becoming an entrepreneur, his father's words made him rethink his career path:

"He didn’t mean it in a nasty way but it sort of made me think 'I won’t be a pen-pusher, I’ll be my own boss, I’ll be very successful as we go on.'

"And even though it didn’t matter to you at the time and you moved on, you think about it as you go on in your career and you think about ‘Well, I’ve been successful.’"


After 15 years at the helm of an insurance company he founded himself, on thing you certainly can't call Ciaran Mulligan is a pen-pusher. When he was named an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Finalist with then-business partner Rowan Devereux in 2011, there were no prouder people in the room than his mom and dad.

"My parents when we were finalist in the EOY in 2011, they were so proud that night at the awards. Dad in his tux and mam and the family and friends."

You can't help but feel Mulligan Snr. knew exactly what he was doing when giving his son the hard truth.


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