Giving business a 'loft'
With the economy still facing an uphill struggle any means of helping Irish entrepreneurs get their wares to market should be welcomed.
The Design Loft in Powerscourt aspires to do just that, serving as a retail gallery for designers and makers from across Wicklow and south Dublin to display their wares - including jewellery, textiles, photographs, art and ceramics - on a rotating basis, with a compliment of ten new designers displaying each month.
This unique concept was the brainchild of Sinead Buckley-Quinn, who aspired to combine her professional background in project management, event management and retail into a unique business showcasing the best of local designers.
'The concept I came up with about three-and-a-half years ago,' she tells the Wicklow People. 'But the landlord of the premises, the insurance people and the accountants all shot the idea down because the concept hadn't been tried before - an ongoing popup shop throughout the year.'
Undeterred, she promptly got to work setting up another business, Local Zone, which sought to give small businesses the chance to showcase their produce and breathe life into vacant premises by displaying their products in a cube in the window along with contact details. Earlier this year she revisited the idea for the Design Loft, and finding a landlord who admired her vision, launched the business in July.
Sinead enthuses about its success so far, with tourists relishing the opportunity to purchase the produce of local designers.
'The tourist market love it - they're absolutely thrilled to find something locally made in Wicklow,' she says. 'We've seen 35 local businesses through the Design Loft since it opened so the ripple effect for the local economy has been amazing. We're delighted with it.'
Sinead admits that accommodating all the different designers can prove a challenge at times but insists the hard work in helping local craftspeople delivers great job satisfaction.
'A lot of designers who have been in the Design Loft have got commissions as a direct result,' she claims. 'It's great exposure and it's another route to market for them. It's wonderful for the designers to meet the customers because they can get direct market feedback. It works for everybody.'
She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to persevere with ideas they may have had knocking around for a while and make sure they're market ready before entering the realm of business.
'If an idea won't go away and keeps coming back to you, you have to explore it more and see if it really is viable,' she says. That's what happened with the Design Loft.'