Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Laura Dempsey of Pickled Pom Pom, based in Rathangan, Co Kildare.
I grew up in Dublin, living over a busy pub in Irishtown. I then went to college in NCAD and went on to live in Blackpitts, Dublin 8, so never living further than 20 minutes from Grafton Street!
My husband is from Rathangan, so we made the move with our growing family in 2015.
We swapped city centre living for living beside his family farm, with donkeys, sheep and chickens as our neighbours.
I have converted a former fuel shed into my studio, with a patch of wildflowers outside the window.
When did you set up your business and why?
I was working for a major Irish and international retailer as a children’s wear design lead.
A usual month involved design presentations, pitching to buyers, presenting to the board of directors, writing design briefs and lots of travelling.
I loved my job, but the 5am commute and juggle with childcare drop-offs, trying to beat the traffic at home time, manage childcare was so difficult.
I felt like I was letting everyone down - I couldn't give work my all, I couldn't give my children my all and I felt like I was constantly failing someone. The balance just wasn't there for us.
I had my third child in August 2017 and while on maternity leave, we decided the logistics of me returning to the commute to Dublin just didn't add up.
I was in a fortunate position where there was demand for my skill set and it lent itself to going freelance and so that's how Pickled Pom Pom began in late 2018 - as a design studio offering freelance design services to small businesses and high-street retailers.
I had quite a few clients and was busy from the get-go. However, I found as I was always designing to someone else's brief, I wasn't getting the full creative outlet I had hoped for when going solo. Surely that should be a benefit of working for yourself?!
I began to illustrate and design a small range of cards and prints so I could sing to my own tune - it turned out people liked the tune!
We went from one order a day via Etsy to being in the top three shopped Irish Etsy stores, to launching our own site last year.
We are also stocked in more than 40 small independent retailers across Ireland - businesses who champion the talent we have on this little island.
If you were to lay all the Pickled Pom Pom cards sold in a 12-month period from end to end, they would reach the top of Mount Everest!
Can you explain your process?
The cards, prints and gifts start as a sketch in one of my many notebooks and then it's a mix of digital illustration on my iPad or watercolour painting scanned into my computer.
I am a notorious faffer and very indecisive, so designs can have numerous iterations before I send them to print.
I can get inspiration from anywhere - my children, a song on the radio, memories from childhood - my brain never really stops, so there are notebooks in every handbag and in every drawer!
What is your best seller?
During the long lockdown period, the most popular designs were based on the very human need for connection and how much we were missing each other.
One design came from a particularly emotional outburst I had one evening during one of the many lockdowns. I was really missing my family, as they are all in Dublin and Wicklow.
It had been months since I saw them, so I put my feelings to paper and posted it to Instagram. My words seemed to resonate with so many people and the post went viral. We made it into a card and have not yet produced a better seller!
The range has now grown from cards and prints to include homeware and gifts and our Christmas range has grown to include stockings, baubles and other decorations.
However, cards are the core of the business and definitely the bestsellers - we don't get much post anymore apart from bills, so it's so lovely to post someone a special card with heartfelt words.
What is it about your business that brings you joy?
It's not always easy to say how you feel - I try to design the paper prompts to help. The cards are also designed to be cherished after gifting - you can't frame a text message, but you can frame one of our cards.
When people resonate with my designs, when they tell me I've hit the nail on the head or that I helped make their friends day, this brings me so much joy!
To connect with people via a few words or a little drawing, that's so special.
What are your hopes for 2022?
My hopes for 2022 are to continue to grow, overcoming the challenges we are all unfortunately facing.
I'm very excited to get cracking on the Christmas designs and to launch a mini Halloween collection for the first time ever.
We will be stocked in Arnotts as part of its Christmas market, which is huge for a little brand like ours.
We as a nation have become more appreciative of the talent we have here in Ireland and the importance of shopping local, spending local and supporting small, so I really hope that continues.
I was very lucky to be selected to take part in the Enterprise Ireland Going for Growth programme with Chupi Sweetman as my lead and it has made me think more seriously about the potential to grow my little business to match the success of international brands.
I have dreams to grow the product range and to develop further into a full lifestyle brand.
Beyond 2022, I would love nothing more than to bring colour and life to one of the empty units in my rural town with a bricks and mortar shop and working studio space with employees and a design assistant (an assistant- the dream!).
What advice would you give to another start-up business?
Go for it. Sometimes you have to just take the leap and believe in yourself!
In saying that, if you're going to do something, do it right and do yourself proud. There needs to be integrity in what you produce. There's no such thing as an easy buck. Nothing worth having comes easy.
Also not to focus on other people - comparison is the thief of joy after all.
For further information, visit www.pickledpompom.com or follow on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/pickledpompom/.