With the challenges of the past year, many business owners have had to innovate and turn to digital to continue their business. With the support of their Local Enterprise Offices, these creative entrepreneurs have manged to make the move successfully

There’s no doubt the pandemic has been tough on every sector, but businesses across the craft and creative sectors who would have relied on meeting customers face-to-face and trade shows have had to adapt in the past year like never before.

The makers behind these businesses have spent years honing their craft and the quality and uniqueness of their products can speak for themselves when they are one-to-one with retailers and buyers. But with restrictions in place, business owners have been coming up with new ways to show off their collections.

With the support of the Local Enterprise Offices across the country creative entrepreneurs have been able to fast-track their plans to sell online.

“A lot of exhibitions and shows were cancelled and the creative community have had to look at how they communicate with their customer,” says Kieran Comerford, Chair of Exhibitions Committee with Local Enterprise Offices and Head of Enterprise with Local Enterprise Office Carlow.

“As well as challenges though, there are new opportunities too. A lot of businesses have grown and are reaching a brand new customer. Creative entrepreneurs are very good at storytelling and once we give them support on the the marketing and digital side they can produce really good online content. They are also natural collaborators. Reaching out to others, networking and supporting each other as a community is something they have embraced and we’re seeing really positive benefits of that.”

Brexit is also presenting many obstacles for businesses, and as well as the usual supports provided by the LEOs, such as training, mentoring, the trading online voucher and network support, they are working closely with SMEs to provide information and up-to-date training: “For us, the last few years have been getting SMEs aware of their supply chain. We’ve had diagnostic services, mentors working with companies, looking at how their services and products are prepared for customs. We have specialised training and expert seminars continuing throughout 2021.

“I would say to anyone: reach out, ask for the mentoring, the training, we’ll help you as much as we can.”

Making the move online

Ethel Kelly is founder of the Claypipe Visitor Centre in Co Roscommon and  makes her own products at Ogham Wish, creating personalised Irish gifts, and Bog Buddies — bespoke gifts made with Irish bog. She has been able to adapt her business online thanks to the support from her LEO.

“Like everyone it was a massive shock when we had to close to our doors but we’ve manged to pivot. The mentoring and online resources from our LEO have been fantastic and we’re currently upgrading or website with the trading online voucher. We have a very good network of local craftspeople we met through LEO and it’s great to able to bounce off each other and see how they’re coping, share advice and tips with each other.”

Ethel is really encouraged by the surge of support for buying Irish: “Every euro we spend locally has a huge benefit to the local economy. We’ve found that people really pulled together and have been celebrating the little things – the smaller birthdays, the friendships and sending little pieces of home abroad. They deliberately went out looking to buy something Irish.”

Pivoting successfully

Emma and David Fallon run Emma’s So Naturals from Ardee in Co Louth and despite being already established online before the pandemic, not being able to show their high quality products in person was a challenge. “We would have taken part in a lot of craft fairs, getting the product under people’s noses and in their hands,” says Emma.

One innovative solution for them was joining forces with others to run virtual craft fairs: “We took a day and shared our products and others’ products on Instagram and Facebook and that brought us a lot of attention. For a lot of people in the creative industry, that was the next best thing to a live fair.”

They create an all-natural wellness and home-fragrance collection of soy candles, homemade soap and aroma diffuser oil blends scented with pure essential oils, and Emma explains that they’ve found new ways to bring their products to life online: “Over the past few months we’ve focused on professional photography, using the ingredients in the candles as visuals aides – lavender, citrus fruits – to communicate the raw natural ingredients so when you see them you can associate the smell.”

Right now they are navigating the post-Brexit world and David says the mentoring from their LEO has been really useful. “The LEOs have been fantastic. They really understand what a small-medium enterprise needs. The focused mentorship has really helped us with specific advice for the likes of Brexit.

“I’d encourage people to engage with them,” says David. “Not everybody will need branding support, or website support, or supply support – there’s always an area where you can improve as a business, so go into it ready with what you want to get out of it. The Local Enterprise Week will be really useful for people looking for support, I’d advise anyone to get involved.”

Find out more about free Local Enterprise Week events for creative entrepreneurs by visiting LocalEnterprise.ie/Week

 

Date for your diary: Creative connections: Enabling your B2B Online Opportunities, on March 3 at 2pm

Shop Irish online

Looking for a special gift to send from home? These companies are winning more customers online with the support of Local Enterprise Office:

SIAR Photography

Photography & Art

Siar Photography, siarphotography.ie

Hugh MacConville Photographer, hughmacconvillephotography.com

Emma Higgins Art, emmahiggins.ie

Lorraine Fletcher Art Studio, lorrainefletcherartstudio.com

 

Craft & Fashion

Saille Baskets, saillebaskets.com

Yewfort Crafts, yewfortcrafts.com

Claypipe Visitors Centre, bogbuddies.com and oghamwish.com

Ambrose and Brid Woodturning, ambroseandbrid.com

Elke Westen, elkewesten.com

Urban Aran, urbanaran.com

 

Candles & Reusable

Canvas to Candle, canvastocandle.com

Emma’s So Naturals, emmas.ie

Bambrew, gobambrew.com

Melanie Hand Jewellery

Jewellery

Sandia Dublin, sandiadublin.com

Melanie Hand Design Jewellery, melaniehand.com

Andrea Mears, andreamears.com

 

Hawthorn Handmade Skincare

Skincare

Berry Be Beauty, berry-be-beauty.ie

AromaBuff, aromabuff.com

Dublin Herbalists, dublinherbalists.ie

Hawthorn Handmade Skincare, hawthornhandmadeskincare.com

 

Enriching Hand Cream, Dublin Herbalists

 

Stork & Co

Children & Babies

Stork & Co, thestorkbox.ie

The Johnny Magory Company Ltd, johnnymagory.com

CottonCaterpillars, cottoncaterpillars.ie

 

Prints & bookbinding

The Designer of Things, thedesignerofthings.com

Jumbleink Ltd, jumbleink.com

Muckross Conservation Bookbinding, conservationbookbinding.com

 

Spirituality

RosaryBeads, truecolours.ie or rosarybeads.ie

Ireland’s Sacred Water, irelandssacredwater.com

 

Find out more about free Local Enterprise Week events for creative entrepreneurs by visiting LocalEnterprise.ie/Week