Irish Design Shop: Show and Tell
It’s been 7 years since Irish Design Shop opened for business pushing locally designed objects. Showcasing the pieces we all know about and some pieces that you may be surprised were devised by an Irish mind. They are speakers at Show and Tell this Saturday the 28th. With our focus on design and craft at our first Show and Tell conference, we had to get the experts in don’t you think?
Sebastian Stephenson spoke to Clare Grennan, co-founder of Irish Design Shop, about how they have promoted Irish design to the Irish, the ups and down of keeping the business for 7 years, how a business relationship is different form a friendship, and what they will be revealing at Show and Tell.
Sebastian Stephenson: Why did you decide to take part in the Show and Tell Conference? What are you planning to share?
Clare Grennan: It sounds like a really exciting day, the fact it takes place alongside a craft and design fair is such a great idea. Also, the other speakers. I think the standard is really high. It’s always so nerve wrecking speaking publicly, but I was delighted to be invited, and couldn’t really turn down such a great opportunity. I hope to share an insight into setting up and running a small creative business coming from no real experience, a little practical advice such as grant aid and assistance, and really the joy to be had in working for yourself.
S: How has that journey been so far?
C: Full of twists, turns and challenges. The first couple of years were pretty tough, but we remained working part-time for three years while we were growing the business and figuring it out really. Our business relationship has grown stronger too. It’s a tricky thing, setting up a business with your good friend, as it’s a different relationship. We have learned to be incredibly honest with each other. The support of having a business partner is wonderful, I couldn’t imagine doing this alone. We have also moved a couple of times (from Bow Lane East and the RHA gallery) and tried our hand at running a concession in a large department store, which really wasn’t for us. But we have learned so much from all these experiences. For the moment though, we are totally content with one shop, and feel so fortunate to be based on Drury street. Our move to the street a little over two years ago marked a new stage in our business, and since then we have grown substantially. Working for yourself is hard going, but I would not change it for the world.
S: How has setting up a business based in Dublin been.
C: On the whole, really fantastic. We have a very loyal local customer base which is an incredible support, plus Dublin is the best city in the world! There are of course challenges, high rents, extortionate rates, anti-social behaviour and of course the city’s dire litter problem, but there is a great sense of community in our neighbourhood, and a real buzz on the street. Again, we just feel so fortunate to be in business here. We are currently organising a Christmas shopping evening on the street, to promote the various independent shops, who don’t just pop up for the festive season, but who are here all year round. This is planned for December 3rd.
S:You have an online store but is the Internet for you a means to marketing people to the psychical store or you market it regardless of how buyer chooses to buy?
C: The majority of our sales come from the physical shop. We find customers will use the website as a research tool before coming in to visit the shop. Particularly those coming from overseas. In the past year the corporate gift element to our business has really taken off. The website has proven invaluable for securing these clients, as it’s the first impression they get of our business. This time of year, we are quite busy with online sales particularly as items from our product range pop up in various gift guides.
S: Who is your audience for the Irish design shop?
C: Our customers are of all ages really, from say 25+. Most have an interest in Irish craft or an enthusiasm for supporting Irish business. It’s great to see our customer base grow and include those not necessarily from a design background.
S: What would you have done differently?
C: Finally, I wouldn’t really do anything differently, less events maybe! That’s about it though. We have organised numerous events such as exhibitions over the years. We organised a Christmas fair, which was a pretty big job, we did that for three years, two unpaid, so really Its about no longer working for free I guess. We have prioritised our studio work and shop work, we are very focused on that.
You can catch Irish Design Shop at Show and Tell this Saturday