'I felt I could do it better, so I used my deposit for a house to start my own bridal store'
Aoife O'Gorman from Cork kicked off her entrepreneurial dream by opening her own bridal store in Cardiff, and is gathering the accolades as she goes
A young Irish woman who set up her own bridal store in Wales has been short-listed for a national award for the third year in a row.
Using the money she had originally saved for a deposit for a house, Aoife O'Gorman began her entrepreneurial dream by opening the doors to her bridal store in Cardiff for the first time in November 2014.
Since then, CocoMio Bridal has gathered a list of accolades, and has now been short-listed for 'Best Bridal Retailer' for the Welsh National Wedding Awards 2017.
Aoife, originally from Carrigaline, Co Cork, emigrated to Cardiff in April 2013 and kicked off her business just 19 months later.
"I had a friend who studied in Cardiff who I used to visit and I fell in love with the city," the 31-year-old told Independent.ie about her decision to leave Ireland.
"I wanted a change but I didn’t want to go as far as Australia and I didn't want to go too far from home.
"I had a degree and I was also working two jobs before I came here. I was well set up at home.
"I visited my friends in March of 2013 and I just loved it so much, I didn't go home. I landed a job and landed on my feet.
"I took a bit of a price cut on my salary coming over but the lifestyle was new and I was independent.
"The Welsh are extremely friendly, just as friendly as the Irish. This made it easy for me to get the business up and running. And I do meet a lot of Irish girls through the store which is lovely.
"It was a fresh start, although obviously it was hard not having family down the road to pop into for a cuppa."
Aoife began working in administration when she arrived, with the long-term dream that she would set up her own bridal-wear business.
"I worked in administration in the beginning for a company called Global Merchandise and Design, they make all the uniforms for Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, all the cruise ships that come into Bristol. The majority of the work was administration, booking in deliveries and also a bit of accounting work.
"I moved over in the April of 2013 and in the September of the following year I decided to invest into a business.
"It was something I always wanted to do. I had worked in bridal at home and I had looked at the option of getting a job here.
"I did a few interviews for a few places but I just felt I could do it better, so I used a deposit I had saved for a house to start my own bridal store, CocoMio Bridal."
Aoife started the business as a one-woman show, managing and running the store, as well as meeting and consulting with clients. She now has one full-time member of staff.
"I started on my own and worked all the hours, and then by year two I expanded the shop to include two fittings rooms.
"I also started with part time staff," Aoife said.
"Sherry joined me in June last year, she has over 20 years experience in the industry and she has recently become full-time."
Aoife said there is always a challenge to improve as her business grows, and she's keen to keep innovating.
"We've made a podcast with BBC Radio Wales and Weddings by Zoe called 'The Icing on the Cake' and we have also been interviewing by the Welsh government as being a successful start-up business.
"We won both the regional and overall Best New Wedding Business award in Wales in 2015, we were short-listed as one of the top four bridalwear stores in East Wales in 2016 and we are currently short-listed as well for 2017," Aoife said.
"The 2015 awards definitely put us on the map."
And, although Aoife is now heading up her own award-winning business, her favourite part of the job remains the same.
"I love meeting customers to help them and show them what can be done, and then receiving the 'thank you' pictures and reviews after the wedding.
"No doubt the best part of the job is being a part of the wedding."