When did you set up your business and why?
My husband is a born and bred Schull man, who started a career that he loved working with Des McWilliam at McWilliam Sailmakers in the early 90s.
From that start, it took him all over the world to where I met him in Hong Kong.
I am from an IT background and was working in banks on their trading systems at the time, but as a hobby, I’d always sailed.
I met him in the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and, fast forward 14 years, we were looking to move closer to home.
As luck would have it, Des was looking to retire, so we jumped at the chance to buy the business and return to Cork, which we did in December 2017.
Can you explain your process?
These bags are iconically Cork. Designed originally in the 1970s by sailors, for sailors, they were born to be rugged and last a lifetime.
Every bag is handmade in our Cork sail loft by a small team of four.
In 2019, we did a complete rebrand project to relaunch these bags to the wider public, as we believed that they suit not just sailors, but everybody, as they’re ideal for travel, as kit bags and school bags.
These bags last for a lifetime - we repeatedly get photos of bags that are 30 years old.
What is your best seller?
Our best seller currently is held between two bags - the navy striped bag with the sky blue handle and the blue bag with the pink handle.
What is it about your business that brings you joy?
We love seeing our bags out and about. When we see our bags turning up on unexpected carousels in different airports, on the backs of people travelling across the world - that brings us happiness.
Another time is when we get a bag sent back to us, after 30 years, for it to be 100% intact - with just a few little bits of stitching to be upgraded.
It speaks volumes to the longevity of the bags and how much they’re loved by our customers. It brings a smile to our faces every time.
What are your hopes for 2022?
We’re looking forward to 2022. After a couple of hard years with COVID and not being able to do much in the way of product development or marketing as such, we’re hopeful that we can take our bags all over the country to interest others.
We already have our stand booked for the National Ploughing Championships.
What advice would you give to another start-up business?
Trust your gut - you know your product and you’re passionate about it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help - there are some amazing supports out there. Start with your Local Enterprise Office - a fantastic resource who can help.
For further information, visit www.mcwilliambags.com. Prices start from €60.