Having 3 businesses keeps Wicklow Town based Sinead busy; iBagsIt.com is an on-line retail shop offering Fashion and Travel items not easily found on the High Street. Local Zone.ie takes old run down shops on the Main Street, refurbishes the façade and then displays other businesses in the window – “Putting a Face on a Space.” CFL Events grew out of Corporate Fairways which Sinead ran for 18 years, now focused on PR, Marketing and Event Management.
What led you to starting your business?
Local Zone: Realising that there were few opportunities for small businesses and artisan producers to promote their business on Main Street apart from tying into a long lease through a premises. This initiative gives businesses the presence on Main Street without all the hassles.
After 17 very successful years organising Corporate and Charity Golf Events here in Ireland and abroad I experienced, as many did, the effects of the downturn in the economy. As my clients were mainly from the banking sector my business was hit pretty badly overnight as many senior managers and decision makers could no longer be seen on the golf course flittering away their marketing budgets! Luckily in 2009 I had already set up another business to satisfy my love of everything quirky and new with iBagsIt.com Holding onto the tail of that Tiger was fun and I enjoyed setting up the business and it continues to grow as I spot new trends and stock these on the website. Because of the way it started – as a second small business, almost by accident, I was never too worried until it became the breadwinner! But it took the pressure off in the early days. Maybe that is the way to go – have a few businesses on the go!
I continue to operate Corporate Fairways under CFL Events as I now include PR & Marketing as well as Event Management to the repertoire undertaking many Awards Ceremonies, Artisan Food & Craft Events and Restaurant re-branding.
I have always been an ideas person – I get these crazy ideas pretty often and I have had many opportunities to act on them! I have had a few other businesses over the years. Last summer I came up with the idea of Local Zone; a simple yet effective initiative offering local businesses the opportunity to showcase their products or services on Main Streets, while breathing life into vacant shops in Towns and encouraging community spirit that offers economic and social benefits to the area. I take these vacant shops and re-energise them by painting them in vibrant colours, using their windows to display products from various businesses. The shops will remain closed but their windows will tell the story! These shops are still on the market to let by the landlord but meanwhile I am giving them a “Face on a Space!” I have achieved our objective and have turned over 3 shops in Wicklow Town and 2 in Drogheda, with a happy a Landlord as a result of this initiative! And a Happy Town!
I have in place a Local Zone Ambassador Programme where by this can be replicated in other towns using local people to become Local Zone Ambassadors and run their own Local Zone shops in their towns. It is a good business for the right person with contacts and an eye for display!
How did you raise the start-up funds you needed?
CFL Events: In 1994 £1,000 was all I had to get a brochure with full photos off the ground to promote the business…we had no Facebook, Twitter or eZines back in the good old days! Savings! I was working at Hewlett Packard at the time so double jobbed until it was in full flight!
iBagsIt: In 2009, €2,000 was for the website and stock. Funded by the existing business in CFL Events.
Local Zone: In 2011, €700. Very little was used to set up Local Zone – hard work, elbow grease and good negotiation skills were all I needed!
What was the most significant lesson you learned in starting your business?
Trust your instinct and also never put all your eggs in one basket, don’t rely on customers to always be in business, some close.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read, business or non-business?
I have so many business reference books on the shelves that I dip in and out of all the time. But when I was a young teenager I read a book by Barbara Taylor Bradford called A Woman of Substance and I loved it, the character was terrific in business. The sequel To Hold the Dream was equally good. Both were star movies.
What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date?
Multi-tasking ! With 3 businesses and family it always takes a lot of planning….but that’s what I like best – to plan!
What has been the proudest moment in your business so far?
When the RTE’s Local Heroes asked me to set up a Local Zone in Drogheda as part of the Local Heroes series last Autumn and being filmed as part of the Town Rejuvenation.
What was the best piece of business advice you ever got?
Running a business should never be all about the money!
Can you recommend a good time management technique for other entrepreneurs out there?
One hour of worrying during the day (work or personal worry, we all have it at the moment) – just one hour, no more! And the usual suspects….one hour of catching up on emails and one hour or PR and Marketing….the rest is as you please and what is necessary!
What magazine do you never miss each month?
Quite a lot actually – as I have to check (and buy) if my clients were covered with the PR I do for them! Makes it both interesting and expensive!
What is your favourite film?
What is your favourite ad?
Mostly for the song!
This video was created to support Wicklow in the entry of the 2010 Livcom awards in Chicago, USA. Wicklow was awarded second place and a Gold award as being the most livable community in the world. Project submission & management: Grainne McLoughlin.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business?
Running a business isn’t all about the money. And it shouldn’t be. As an entrepreneur, you should be passionate about what you do, be motivated to help others, and have a desire to make the world a better place.
What do you like to do when you’re not running your business?
Driving fast cars.
Voluntary Leader of Wicklow Guides.
Enjoying family & friends.
Have you found the self-employed formula for a work/life balance?
Prioritise – both at home and at work and then over all. Sometimes it doesn’t always work but you can…but try!
What’s your website?
Do you have a Facebook page?
Are you on Twitter?
On the list of things to do!
How has Wicklow CEB helped you and/or your business?
I run the Network of Entrepreneurial Women for Wicklow CEB for the last few years on contract and this has helped me through networking with other women in the County – we all need support especially when operating on our own and this is a great way to get that.
If you could start up all over again, would you do anything differently?
No – not a thing! Maybe live in a sunnier climate!!
Sinead is one of the primary organisers of Christmas at Kilruddery, the Victorian Christmas Artisan Fair in Wicklow Town at the Assembly Hall in Bachelors Walk, and the 12 Days of Christmas in Bray this year. Hop on down and take a peek!
Christmas at Killruddery – 2 weekends
November 30/December 1/2
TIMES: Fri 3-8pm, Sat 10-6pm, Sun 10-6pm
Christmas Artisan Fair in Wicklow Town – at the Assembly Hall – 3 weekends
TIMES: Fri 3-8pm, Sat 10-6pm, Sun 11-6pm
12 Days of Christmas in Bray – 4 weekends
November 30/December 1/2