By Mary Dennehy
CLONDALKIN-based business the Irish Fair Door Company has successfully sprinkled imagination and magic into the toy market, bringing playtime back to basics – and into local parks.
Oisin Barry, his wife Niamh and their friends Aoife and Gavin Lawlor established the Irish Fairy Door Company in 2013 with a €8,500 loan and a lot of hard work – and now three years down the line they have officially launched in America and are opening a Fairy Trail park in Canada later this month.
A magical example of how a local company can fly to international heights while still creating jobs and business opportunities in their home town, the Irish Fairy Door Company’s Oisin Barry was an ideal guest speaker at the recent Tallaght Enterprise Town in Tallaght Stadium.
Despite a busy schedule, and plenty of fairies to re-home, Oisin took five to speak with his local paper.
Where did the idea for the Irish Fairy Door Company come from?
My wife Niamh and her friend Aoife had invited fairies into our own houses, where they have been living happily for years. Queen Kate, the head of all the fairies, approached us to help her re-home more fairies, as she was delighted at how happy our fairies were. Myself and Gavin overheard our wives’ discussions on this and felt we could build a business around this, and so The Irish Fairy Door Company was formed.
What were you doing beforehand?
I was in financial services. I had my own financial services brokerage, so as you can imagine, this was something completely different and exciting.
Was there supports locally that you tapped into when trying to get the company off the ground?
Initially, we had to get support from my mother-in-law, who lent us €8,500 to get it off the ground. We had to work markets all over Dublin to get enough money together to buy pop up tents etc. We then worked with LEO [Local Enterprise Office] South Dublin, and Ena Coleman in particular, to get funding to help us to bring all our carpenters and painters in house - as we were working from the side of Gavin’s parent’s house in Clondalkin.
Obviously you knew there was a market for your idea. However, are you surprised at just how well it has done?
I think all entrepreneurs believe in what they do. You have to believe it will succeed, as there is no point in setting up a business otherwise. In saying that, it’s amazing how people’s imagination has been captured by what we are doing. We are over the moon and so excited about what we have coming next. It never ceases to surprise and excite me as to the levels this business can reach.
Why do you think the company has been so well received?
I think people are crying out to get back to basics. They love the fact that their children can run wild with their imaginations again. It is very simple, but has got parents and children alike just enjoying the fun a fairy brings to their house. We worked very hard to get our name out there, so once people heard about us, they loved it.
Would you encourage people to take a chance on a business idea? Any advice for people who want to make a business plan a reality?
It is one of the hardest things anyone will do, especially those who are in full time employment. To take a chance, on what you believe has the potential to be a great business is something you really need to plan out. Do your research. Plan out your cash flow for the first year at least. Ensure you can survive, without putting more pressure on yourself, to make ends meet. If you can do all this, go for it! Advice wise, plan well, build a great team around you to help out, whatever way they can, family, friends etc. We had everyone we knew working for us at the beginning doing markets. Lastly, roll with the punches. You will get knocked. You will get down. It will consume you, but you need to jump up and punch back.
The company has recently moved into the States.Tell us a little about that?
We officially launched at the New York Toy Fair in February this year. That was an unbelievable experience. We were voted in the top ten toys, by CNBC, NBC and Fox and Friends, out of over 25,000 toys there. We then linked up with Dublin Ohio where we launched a fairy trail. The reception was amazing. We have teamed up with them for another fairy trail in August at their Irish Festival. We launch another fairy trail on Toronto Island, Canada, at the end of the month. They have signed up around 3,000 stores, to date, which is astonishing.
The company is based in Clondalkin, how important is it for you that you were able to stay local and hire locally?
My wife is 6th generation Clondalkin. Gavin and Aoife are heavily involved in the community here. We wanted our business to have a local feel about it, so we launched Fairy trails in Corkagh Park in Clondalkin and Tymon Park in Tallaght. The support we got and get on a daily basis from these communities is amazing. They were our launching pad and continue to be our test market at all times. Most of our staff are from the area and work so hard to maintain the level of customer care that we pride ourselves on.
Since it started, how many jobs has the Irish Fairy Door created?
At present we have 22 working for us. On top of that, we do a lot with local businesses. We hope to be able to continue the growth in employment, but it is always hard as our sales can be seasonal.
You took part in the Tallaght Enterprise Town event last Friday. How important do you believe it is to support local?
This was amazing. Martin Kavanagh [Bank of Ireland Tallaght Manager] and his team did a great job. It’s brilliant to see so many local businesses getting out there. We started with stalls at all the local markets and we got the support we needed to grow. People need to understand the blood, sweat and tears that go before anyone can sit in front of you with their brand new products. They work so hard to get there. Supporting them, by encouraging, buying or helping out, is the only way they will be able to expand it into something more.
Fairy trails are located locally in Corkagh Park and Tymon Park. For further details visit www.theirish fairydoorcompany.com
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