BabyDeasa is a new Irish online business based in Limerick city founded by Niamh Bowen. Bowen wants to reclaim the Irish language by encouraging her customers to know some Irish words and phrases. BabyDeasa (Deasa is the Irish word for lovely) specialises in unique and colorful Irish Language baby clothing. Each design is unique and features an Irish phrase printed on each clothing product.
Where did the idea come from?
A friend of mine from college was an Irish speaker and we had this business idea 13 years ago, we did all the research and then she got a job in London and emigrated! I didn't want to do it on my own so the idea got shelved. In 2012 I lost my job so started thinking about the idea again. I tentatively began to research and gradually persuaded myself to take the leap into the entrepreneurial world.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience?
I'm completely new to the world of business. My background is in psychology, i worked as a theatre director for years, also as a teacher of drama. Then as an assistant psychologist. I had to learn the ropes pretty fast. I got tremendous support from the local enterprise office here in Limerick city. I spent a year upskilling in the areas of accounting, sales, marketing, digital business, the online world of ecommerce. All of these courses were organised by the local enterprise office. Eventually I put pen to paper and wrote a business plan and a funding application. I was successful and got a grant to give me a leg up. Hence I was able to invest in a beautiful website.
Why target the diaspora?
Emigration figures in Ireland are the highest they have been since the famine. The highest rate of emigration is amongst those of childbearing age. It makes sense for BabyDeasa to target young Irish people who will probably have their children abroad. I know from my own experience that I have a lot of friends who live outside of Ireland, in the US, Australia and the UK mostly. These people love to keep their roots strongly planted, and miss Ireland a lot. A way to keep that connection alive is through a having connection to the Irish language. There are very few companies trading in Irish language clothing, and especially in children's clothing that celebrates the "cúpla focail" (Irish phrase for "the few words"; its what everyone says if asked if they speak Irish - I have "cúpla focail".
What does your company do?
I sell baby clothing and toddler clothing that has Irish words and phrases printed on them. The words and phrases are carefully chosen for their cuteness and quirkiness. They are not the run of the mill phrases that some companies from traditional tourism perspectives trade in. The are tasteful, beautiful and sweet words and phrases that perhaps pull at the heart strings or remind someone of their growing up years learning Irish as a school child.
What is it like to set up a business in Ireland?
I have to say I was so well supported by the Local Enterprise office, www.localenterprise.ie/Limerick/ There has been substantial investment in business start ups as an attempt to reinvigorate the economy by the government; this support ranges from training and mentoring to direct funding to business. Courses tend to be subsidised, making them affordable to people who have lost their jobs. I am based in Limerick city in the south west of Ireland. Limerick has a strong tradition of being an industrial town, a strong tradition of craft and in more modern times of art and design. Limerick School of Art and Design is in the city centre and is renowned for its graduates of excellence. I have the good fortune of working with a graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design, George Fitzgerald, of Mobius Design who is my graphic designer.
How can we help?
Spread the word! My biggest challenge is to get the word out to Irish people abroad, the Irish American community being an ideal target market. I know this business will expand through word of mouth, for e-commerce, word of mouth is online nowadays so I guess I'm asking people to spread the word through their online channels, social media and the like.
What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
This year I want to have a line of Halloween clothing and to follow this with Christmas lines. I have plans then for Spring and Summer collections. The process of idea to getting the product back in hand after being with me, then designer, then printer is an exciting one, I love working creatively with my designer. We have a brilliant working relationship and he has that wonderful ability to turn your ideas into fabulous designs through a process of consultation and collaboration.
Tell us about your products?
Our start off range is basically five designs in four different colours. We focus on unusual colours, purple, green, cerise and navy, not the usual colour palette that is marketed at babies. We are trying to provide a broader choices to discerning customers. Our most popular designs are Réalt Óg which means Young Star and Grá mo Chroí, which translates as Love of My Heart. Each design has an emblem representing the meaning of the phrase embedded in the design. This is our statement as BabyDeasa.
Have you plans to expand your product range?
Yes, as described above have plans for seasonal collections, themed collections but also I plan to expand to different types of baby gear such as teething bibs. pacifiers, (or dodies as we call them here), blankets, hats, etc. I'd love to expand into older children's clothing, but that's a medium term goal.
Tell us about the focus you place on great design?
The design element of BabyDeasa is part of its unique and esoteric nature. Each piece receives many turnovers before it is a final design. There are usually several designs discussed and looked over until the "feels right" thing is felt and I'm ready to sign off. These designs are not something you will see on the high street, or even the high internet super highway, they are unique to BabyDeasa, an act of creativity
How do you plan to acquire customers?
I have a broad ranging marketing plan that encompasses print media, locally, nationally and internationally. I'm actively using social media, select online advertising, articles like this on news portals, to get the word out there to the diaspora. I'm hoping that each sale will beget another sale because when you see these outfits on a baby or child you will just want to buy one for someone else so I'm hoping that magic will gain traction over time. Ever since I started business all my advisors /mentors always say "it takes three years for a business to make money, I'm 19 months in now, so nearly half way there. Its all about hard work, it doesn't finish at 6pm.