Anne Kelly is founder and creative director of Anne+co, a Co Carlow-based design agency formally known as AKGraphics. On completion of her advanced diploma in Design and Visual Communication at Technological University Dublin (TUD) in the early 1990s, Anne started her own business from her family’s farm.

Since then, she has grown the company to six employees, working with a range of clients, including some well-recognised agri-food companies.

“We are in business since 1994; I never worked for anyone else,” she tells Irish Country Living.

Becoming a boss

On completion of her degree, Anne planned to travel to America, but this soon changed.

While working part time for a few local businesses during college, Anne was encouraged to start her own company by a grain merchant with whom she was working. He asked her why, as opposed to moving abroad, she wouldn’t consider starting her own business.

“Being naive at the time [and] from a farming background, I went back home to my parents and said, ‘This man says I should start up my own business – what do you think?’”

After speaking with her parents, Anne decided to take a leap of faith into the unknown, kickstarting her career and company. She had great support from her parents, and in particular, her father who said: “Great idea – I will give you a few bob.”

From there, Anne started working in the heart of the Co Carlow countryside.

“We said we would start it from the farm at home,” she explains. “We had an old farmhouse [which became our headquarters].”

Working from the family tillage and sheep farm had many advantages but, at times, caused some hardship. Anne tells Irish Country Living: “My father had a sheep dip unit down the laneway. I used to arrange appointments and he didn’t tell me that he had the sheep in. My customers were stuck at the top of the laneway and couldn’t get down.” After building her company at home for three years, Anne moved into a business office space in Carlow town.


At the time, in the late 1990s, “people didn’t even know what graphic design was”, Anne says.

Some 28 years on, Anne+Co is one of Ireland’s leading design and strategy companies, working across multiple industries to help build successful brands.

“We are a creative agency at the end of the day,” Anne says. “You really are problem solving for clients. It’s all about creativity and design thinking, which has become more beneficial now than ever.”

The company works with some of the biggest names in the agri-food industry including MSD Ireland, Kerry Group, Alltech, Tanco Autowrap, and Tirlán.

Anne says: “The reason why bigger companies bring us in is because we are not ingrained in the whole corporate culture. When we come in, we will speak our minds and ask them what they are trying to achieve.”

Anne enjoys working in the agri-food industry.

“I am absolutely fascinated by farmers and how they are very with it [in terms of technology]. They will tell you straight up if they don’t like something.”

Anne also works with smaller businesses and prides herself on providing accessible and affordable services.


There are many challenges facing businesses at the moment, and Anne+Co is no different. COVID-19 had a large impact, in particular.

“For me, COVID was horrific,” she says. “I was the only one in the office at the time, trying to keep everything going.”

Luckily, they had the necessary technology in place and were able to continue working.

“Customers much prefer meeting face to face, though,” Anne adds, saying that people are delighted to be socialising and networking again. Like many businesses, Anne+Co is now using “the hybrid model [for employees] and people are happy”.

Anne decided to rebrand last year to clarify their business communications and expand opportunities with other companies. She explains: “I had to do it because I felt I wasn’t going to get through the next few years if I didn’t make that change.”

With recent inflation and financial pressures on companies, people might assume marketing is the first budget that businesses cut. Anne says: “It’s actually more important than anything you do.

“You just have to keep your head down at the end of the day and work with customers who have a positive attitude and appreciate design.”

Carlow business awards

Anne+Co was recently awarded the Professional Services Award at the 2022 Carlow Business Awards. The award recognises excellence in customer service and commitment to developing sustainable business practices.

This was the second time winning the award – they also received it in 2018. Anne says: “Local businesses have been extremely good to us, to get [the award] is a huge benefit and boost to me and the team here.”

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