‘I know I have an audience. It’s a risk, but it’s a well-calculated risk’ – Irish fashion entrepreneurs Rosie Connolly and Aoife McNamara say of building their businesses
When social media influencer turned entrepreneur, Rosie Connolly Quinn’s husband Paul, found himself without a job due to the Covid pandemic, the couple decided it was time to take a gamble.
onnolly and Paul had saved enough money for a mortgage, but because the market was so unpredictable, they felt it wasn’t time to act. In the midst of that uncertainty, Connolly felt it was time to follow her dream – to start her own fashion brand with her husband.
“Should we bet our mortgage, put it on this business to help it thrive?” Connolly said.
‘It was a really hard lesson and I spent a few days in bed crying’
“Looks like things have settled down – we can’t wait any longer. We say: ‘Let’s do it.’ I know I have an audience. As much as it is a risk, it is a calculated risk. I know what my followers like about working with other brands – I know how they will react and what they will buy from me.”
Since its launch in December 2020, sports brand Connolly’s 4th ARQ has flourished. Its initial release sold out quickly – and the husband and wife duo realized they were being overly cautious about how much inventory they needed to keep up with demand.
The next run was successful again – but it was too successful. In March 2021, the 4th ARQ switched to an order fulfillment model and a system where outsourced ARQ couldn’t keep up with the online traffic. It oversold by 6,000 – meaning Connolly had to manually refund and email those customers.
“That sucks, it showed us that if we had another 6,000, it would sell out. It really proved to us the need.
“It was a really hard lesson and I spent a few days lying in bed crying and thinking, ‘That’s it, it’s all over.’ But look how many people bought. It was a step. turning point – it gave us the confidence to actually put money into larger stock orders, and it worked.”
The 4th ARQ has continued to evolve. The 80 per cent return of customers to buy more has bolstered confidence, with Connolly now saying she hopes to hit double-digit million euros in sales this year.
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That level of success has helped attract investors’ attention.
John Kelly, son of Tommy Kelly, founder of eShopWorld, was an early supporter of this business after seeing the hype surrounding the 4th ARQ. He helped push the brand to the next level. new.
“This is the perfect partnership,” says Connolly. “At the time, as John said, we were in the weeds. We are drowning in inventory and orders. It’s a person with no brains. He walked in and pushed us through where we felt confident enough to go. He’s aggressive with numbers – but he’s always right.”
Connolly is not alone in attracting investor attention. Irish fashion and beauty brands – from luxury goods to everyday wear – have won support.
Luxury jeweler Chupi recently received nearly 3.8 million euros from investment funds including BVP and Abbey International. Last year, Irish sports brand Gym+Coffee raised 17 million euros in a round that included Tommy Kelly’s family office, Castlegate.
With the money pouring in, what does the future hold for Irish fashion and beauty brands? Can it use domestic success as a springboard to enter lucrative international markets – or will challenges like the cost of living crisis catch up with it?
There are many options for fashion entrepreneurs to raise finance
James Doody, director of IBI Corporate Finance, said Ireland has an amazing ability to create strong brands. But investors want to see if these brands are more than consumers ‘wearing green’ when they go shopping. Investors want to know if the brands are sustainable and can expand internationally.
“Investors are much more sophisticated today – they are looking at key performance indicators and trends. Brands need to be built at scale.”
Doody says he’s noticed more and more fashion and beauty brands looking to raise money to perform functions like sales and marketing as they want to grow.
“Today there are more options for entrepreneurs to raise finance,” he said.
“Investors are always looking for good businesses. For entrepreneurs in fashion or retail, having a clear growth plan – and a clear vision of the exit – is always important.
“The brand and stuff is good, but investors are looking for a return on their money – be it an exit, a sale or a refinancing opportunity.”
Aoife McNamara is another rising Irish fashion entrepreneur building a reputation in the industry.
Her high-end clothing brand, also known as Aoife McNamara, inspired by nature and sustainability, has taken the big fashion mecca by storm.
Founded in 2019, Aoife has attracted the attention of fashionistas after making a strong impression at Paris Fashion Week. The success of her first store in Adare, Co Limerick, led to the opening of pop-up stores across Ireland.
International attention – vital for all Irish brands to thrive – has helped fuel McNamara’s hopes of success. The brand will be introduced during New York Fashion Week in September and is considering opening a pop-up store and selling clothing through a boutique.
“You can’t turn down that opportunity,” she said. “The market opportunity in the US is huge.”
‘You need to give your customers more than a product’
Her success not only puts her on the list of top promising designers in the fashion industry.
Her brand has attracted the attention of investors – but McNamara has so far chosen to continue growing the business on her own. Though she realizes that an investment could be something she will accept when the time is right.
McNamara says there are clear opportunities for Irish brands to tap into Ireland’s international reputation and succeed in the global market.
However, there are challenges in the industry, with input and production costs becoming more expensive for smaller companies.
The impact of rising input and production costs is easily absorbed by larger competitors – both in the haute couture and everyday markets.
Rosie Connolly says what makes 4th ARQ and many other Irish brands stand out is the sense of community that Irish fashion brands bring, compared to their larger rivals.
“There will always be competition,” she said. “You have to be competitive on price – but the quality also needs to be high. And you need to give your customers something more than a product – there has to be a feeling that you are part of something.”
Looking ahead, Connolly said the 4th ARQ has rolled out a new logistics model and is looking at the potential for a push into the UK and Australian markets. She’s also looking at launching some pop-up stores, with a wholesale option.
“For us, the next three to five years are all about growth,” she said, adding that the brand has grown by almost 300% annually.
“We are very active with the goals, but it is very calculated. We know we can do it.”
https://www.independent.ie/style/fashion/fashion-news/i-knew-i-had-an-audience-as-much-as-it-was-a-risk-it-was-quite-a-calculated-risk-irish-fashion-entrepreneurs-rosie-connolly-and-aoife-mcnamara-talk-about-building-their-businesses-42391382.html ‘I know I have an audience. It’s a risk, but it’s a well-calculated risk’ – Irish fashion entrepreneurs Rosie Connolly and Aoife McNamara say of building their businesses