Most of us pepper our speech with dates, statistics, percentages, and numbers - however, Sophie Cafolla seems to do it more than most.
When the bubbly blonde talks about the birth of her baby girl, Sienna, she says her daughter was born on her due date, adding that only one per cent of babies arrive on their due date. "My friends laughed, because I am always super organised. They wanted to know had she arrived out with an Excel spreadsheet," Sophie says with a laugh.
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She mentions that 13 - unlucky for the superstitious among us - is her lucky number, and reels off a list of reasons why, including the fact that 2013 was the year she and her husband, Ivano, married, and that Sienna was born on Friday the 13th.
The numbers thing is possibly because she studied economics and sociology in university - both include statistics and figures - but also probably because she was an event management consultant, and predicting numbers of event attendees, and the logistics of what to do with them, is an important part of the role.
Sophie is out of that area now and has a business, The Stork Box, selling baby gifts both online and retail, where again figures - sales, profit and loss - are important.
Entrepreneurs in the family
But of course, there's much more to the business than cold calculations and, in fact, her experience as a mother of two played a huge part in its creation - as well as Sienna, who is now four, Sophie and Ivano have six-month-old Dominick.
Sophie, who is one of two girls, says she always wanted to be an entrepreneur, ever since she was little. "I always wanted my own business, even though I didn't know what that meant or what it would be," she says.
"Dad's family are entrepreneurs or medics, and here I am with my business, and my older sister Vicky is an obstetrician. I think part of why she became a doctor was, when we were kids, Dad had a triple bypass. At 40. I was only eight, whereas Vicky was 12. I didn't really get it, whereas for Vicky it was a big thing, and moved her in that direction."
Sophie's dad, John Gleeson, is from Offaly and has been involved in many businesses, including that of the hugely successful designer John Rocha - who is married to Odette Gleeson, John's sister - while Sophie's mum, Imelda, was a nurse who worked as cabin crew for Aer Lingus and then went back to college to become a clinical psychologist.
When opting for a career after the Leaving Cert, Sophie toyed with the idea of doing physiotherapy, as she was very sporty, but the drive to create something was greater, and she briefly considered going into fashion. "I loved fashion and knew quite a lot about it because of John and Odette, but I never thought it was something I could do, so I did economics and sociology and a post-grad in event management," she says.
Event management chimed with her organisational skills and her desire to be creative, and she worked at a marketing agency for two years, before taking off for Australia for a gap year with some friends.
On her return in 2011, she opened her own event consultancy, Muse. "I worked for Taste of Dublin, and Web Summit, and I did weddings," she says. "Actually the first wedding I did was Vicky's, which was in a marquee in Mum and Dad's garden in Dublin 4. We were able to incorporate all the trees inside the marquee, it was beautiful."
When she and Ivano got married, she organised their wedding too, also in a marquee at her parents' home. "Having it at home is very special, and luckily I knew all the suppliers, so that made it easier. And we had the most spectacular day. We had 220 guests. My dad knows everybody; so does Ivano," she says with a wry laugh.
The couple got together just after Sophie came home from Australia. "We met at Oxegen [music festival]. The romance of it all!" she volunteers with a laugh, adding, "Actually it was funny, for our table plan, I got our graphics guy to do the floor plan as if it was Oxegen, with an imaginary ferris wheel in the centre. My parents were horrified. It was a nod to where we met. The actual wedding was very soft and pretty."
Ivano was a DJ and nightclub promoter, and has a company called After Dark, booking musicians. "Mutual friends introduced us, and it's so funny, after we got together, they said, 'Oh yeah, we so see it'," Sophie says. "We're quite similar in lots of respects. We both like to be hosts, and yet we're the caring type at the same time, and then we both worked in the same sort of business."
While Ivano is still in events, after Sienna arrived, Sophie decided it wasn't for her any more. "I always felt I was missing something, but I didn't know what it was. Event management as a long-term career with children is very difficult. With events, there are nights and weekends, and it can be very challenging. I went back to work when Sienna was six months - you're gone all day, you're working late, and I wanted to be here with her, and I was thinking, 'What else can I do?'"
The hospital bag
It was on maternity leave with Sienna that ideas for a business of her own began to bubble up. "Maternity leave is funny. It's great to have the time with the babies, but I'm the type of person who needs to be doing. I was constantly thinking of things, and I started a blog on children's fashion."
Her sister Vicky had developed an idea for a seat aid for pregnant women with back pain, and she asked Sophie to get involved because business development wouldn't be Vicky's area of expertise. According to Sophie, the aid is brilliant, but they found manufacturing it would be prohibitively expensive.
"While we were doing that, I was thinking of the next product, because you can't just have one product, there has to be a line. That got me into the area of pregnancy and babies, and the next idea was the hospital bag."
In 2017, Sophie gave up the events job and launched the hospital bags - a mum bag containing shampoo, shower gel, maternity pads, nipple creams, and a baby bag with baby clothes and accessories. They - Vicky, a mum of three, is involved in an advisory capacity - would design and manufacture the newborn baby clothing for the baby bags themselves.
"What really took off was the clothing in the bags and the accessories. We still sell hospital bags, but what has actually come about is more of a clothing and accessory line. Gifting is huge for us - we do a variety of gift boxes for babies, and we ship them worldwide," Sophie says. "Dad always said when we started, 'You never know where this is going to end up, so see where it takes you', and I'm so glad he did say that - it has become something totally different."
The USP of the Stork Box range of baby clothing, which Sophie calls Grow, is that they're not seasonal, as the fabric weight suits summer and winter, and they have details that make them very flexible.
"We're very practical; children are so expensive," Sophie says, adding, "We wanted the softest clothing we could get; we use eco-friendly ink on the graphics. We want the kids to be able to explore, and move about, so we use 95pc cotton with 5pc Elastane. And the tops and leggings expand with the baby - there are three arm and leg lengths within the one garment, and adjustable waistbands."
It's an idea that appeals to mothers and to those buying them gifts as well, and the Grow range of clothing now sells in the Kilkenny shops, as well as online.
John Rocha has been a great help, and one of his team helped her to design prototypes. Ivano, who has his own start-up relating to the restaurant business, has also been a huge help. "With any business, there are ups and downs. Being a great entrepreneur is being able to persevere. We brainstorm a lot; we enjoy it," Sophie says.
Her parents are also a great support, and she feels she's learned a lot from her mother as well as her father. "Mum always said. 'When you're spending money on something, you want to get the most out of it', and I've taken that approach with the clothing," Sophie says.
Her mother also had that approach, when it came to houses. "Mum very much loves antiques and traditional styles," Sophie says. "She always said, 'Pick really good antique pieces because they're going to last longer'."
In Sophie and Ivano's home in Dublin 4 there is a mix of traditional and contemporary styles; this is because the house was bought by her parents when Sophie was 18; the parents did it up in a traditional way, and Sophie and Vicky moved in.
Vicky got married and moved on, and when Sophie met Ivano, it became their home. Since then, they've kept the reception rooms intact - valuing the period features like the high ceilings and the original fireplaces, while adding a spacious, modern kitchen/dining room, and the all-important utility room.
"It's grown with us, we're constantly evolving, constantly tweaking," Sophie says.
Just as with a business.
Edited by Mary O'Sullivan
Photography by David Conachy
Sunday Indo Life Magazine