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21st Oct 2019

10 things I’ve learnt about setting up a small business in Ireland

Taryn de Vere

“Our USP is my kids need to eat”

Two weeks ago I launched my online shop, I sell handmade or upcycled pieces of wearable art, like headpieces and earrings.

Over the years many  people have suggested I set up a shop, and every time I would smile and nod as if I was considering it, while thinking to myself, “No way, too much hassle, too much I don’t know, too scary…” I had a million reasons why it was a terrible idea. Most of them based on my own fear to step up.

But a month ago I took the plunge, bought a site and started creating. Two weeks later we went live.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about setting up a business in Ireland.

1. Everyone has opinions

The week before I launched I was feeling really excited. I had a speaking engagement so I’d booked into the hairdressers for a blowdry. My hairdresser spent the entire hour that she had possession of my head telling me why being self-employed in Ireland is a nightmare. As she spoke about VAT and sick pay (or lack thereof), of rates and tax and the cost of childcare I could feel myself getting sucked into a spiral of negativity. When I left her I listened to the All In business podcast and it re-inspired me. I realised then that everyone has opinions and that not all of them are applicable to me.

2. If the time is right, go for it

When I made the decision to set up a business my first call was to the Local Enterprise Board for advice and support. They told me that I needed to attend an information event before I could access any supports or advice. The next event was on in one month and was an hour drive away from where I live.

So I thought “feck it, I’m not waiting. I’ll just have to get my information elsewhere,” which leads me to my next point…

3. The internet knows everything

About 99 percent of the information you need to know to start a business in Ireland is available online. I hadn’t a clue how to build an online shop and the internet taught me. I didn’t know what steps I needed to do in order to register as self employed – and the internet taught me. Someone, somewhere has had the very same problem as you, and nearly everything you need to know is available online. I’ve never listened to so many podcasts or watched so many tutorials in my life, but it’s been brilliant having everything I need at my fingertips.

4. Realise that some of the work is internal

Not all the work involved in setting up a business is external. I had to do a lot of work on facing my fear of putting myself out there and facing my fear of failure. I had some strange ideas about what kind of people ran businesses (and how those people  weren’t like me, so how could I run a business?) I had to do a lot of getting over myself before I could launch.

5. Perfection will probably never come

If you wait until every single duck is in a row you might never launch. Do a pretty god job and just get started. See what your customers or potential customers think of what you’ve created. You can always change later.

6. You only get to keep about a quarter of what you make

This one is a bit sad, but when I sat down and did all the sums I figured out from of a €10 sale I get to keep a bit less than €3. Depending on what business you’re in you might make more or less, but it’s good to know and be realistic about how much money you’ll make from each sale.

7. Follow the money

Because you don’t get to keep a lot of what you earn, you need to follow the money. The day before I was about to launch I suddenly decided to add a low-price range. I called it ‘under a tenner upcycled jewellery’. Most of the range is a fiver. That range has been my biggest selling stock. When I realised that, I followed the money by investing in more pieces that could fit into that range.

8. Being yourself is the best marketing tool imaginable

People want to buy from people they like. So let your customers know who you are. Be yourself and market yourself as much, or more than you market your products. But make sure the you that you’re presenting is the real you. Be authentic. One of my best performing social media posts promoting my business said, “Our USP is my kids need to eat”. I wrote that for a laugh, but it was honest and funny and people enjoyed it. Include yourself in your marketing plans.

9. People want to help

When I made the decision to start a business I knew I would need a business mentor. I thought about all the business women I knew or knew of and looked at their values and what they had achieved. I wanted to find a mentor who could support me to get to the next level but I also appreciate that it is a big request to ask an already busy woman to support another business. I hoped that owner of Tropical Popical Andrea Horan would agree to be my business mentor and I was over the moon when she said yes. Her advice has been invaluable and I’m incredibly grateful to her. Andrea is just one of many people who have offered to help me. I’ve found that people want to help and that all you have to do is ask. I was having trouble understanding some information on the Revenue site so I posted on Facebook and a bookkeeper friend of mine sent me a load of useful information. A lot of people like helping, so just ask.

10. Business is fun

I was not expecting it all to be as much fun as it has been (so far!). Who knew that I’d be whooping and dancing around my kitchen because Marian Keyes bought some of my earrings and tweeted about how much she loved them?

From that very first sale to the one I packaged this morning, each has been a joy. Business is exciting, it’s fun and much to my surprise you can be a silly eejit like me, and still be a businesswoman.