Monday 22 January 2018

Waking hours with... Niamh Banks

Niamh Banks (34) is an entrepreneur. She used to work for Avoca in marketing and business development. Recently, in conjunction with a pop-up shop, she launched, a homewares and interior website

Niamh Banks who launched the homewares and interior website. Photo: Tony Gavin
Niamh Banks who launched the homewares and interior website. Photo: Tony Gavin

Ciara Dwyer

The alarm goes off at 7am. I definitely work better in the mornings, so I like early starts. I live by myself in Terenure. I have a shower, and then I listen to Ian Dempsey on the radio while having my breakfast. I like to eat healthily. I'll have a juice and porridge. I love the process of getting a coffee in a nice coffee store in the neighbourhood, or in town. That's how I like to break up my day, because working alone from home can be quite tough and isolating.

Recently, I opened a pop-up store in Dublin, in the city centre, for a month. The aim was to highlight my new website,, which I launched two weeks before the store opened. It sells homewares and interior goods.

I'm doing this on my own. It comes from my own passion for really nice homeware pieces. I made the decision to go down the route of kitchenware, because the kitchen is where I spend most of my time with family and friends. I also stock well-being products - creams and candles, and a lot of beard oils and shaving creams. I like to keep goods that are good for you, and that are really well made and not out of your price range. For example, I sell spiralizers. I know they are on-trend at the moment, but I've got really good brand, and it's one of the best spiralizers you can get. We're not into stocking gadgets that will end up gathering dust in your press.

I'm from Sligo and I've been living in Dublin for 10 years. I've got a Master's in marketing, and my background is commerce and business. I spent the bulk of my career working in Avoca, and that time had a huge influence on me. They were offering things that you couldn't get in Ireland - stuff that was colourful and covetable - and packaging them together in a way that was unique.

I travelled a lot for the store and saw how they brought it all together. I loved it, because there was a creative slant within me. I've always wanted to do something a little bit different. My grandparents on both sides were entrepreneurs - they had retail stores - so I suppose it's in the blood.

I spent so many months painstakingly putting it all together. I'm doing what I love, so that makes it easier. The pop-up store got a great reaction. I wouldn't say that I was scared starting the business - and of course, you need to have money to pay your mortgage - but I believe that if you really love what you're doing, and you can get it out there in the right way, then you will get a positive reaction.

I love seeking new, beautiful things but I think, since the recession, there has been a change. Now, less is more. I know that sounds strange coming from somebody like me who wants to sell things, but I think we should be massively choosy about what we buy for our homes. It made me look for items that were reasonably priced, but were going to last. It's important to buy well.

Craft is important to me and I sell a lot of hand-painted pieces, but they have to be accessible as well. My job is to get the balance between finding beautiful things and then making sure that you can use them on a daily basis. Most of our products are dishwasher-proof and you can put them in the microwave too. I do a lot of research into companies. I like to know where the product comes from and the company's ethos. That's what gets me excited, especially if I can contribute to another company.

While the pop-up shop was open nine to six, I enjoyed the energy of working in the city. It was fantastic when people were receptive to the store. For me, I have found launching a website as hard as opening a permanent premises. You're depending on digital word-of-mouth. I'm opening another pop-up store soon, because it definitely helps with the website. People might come in to look at products - and there is no denying that holding something in your hand is very important - but then they may go home and buy online later on.

In some ways, having an online store is fantastic because you have a tool and you can put stuff out there. Unlike major companies, you don't need to have a marketing budget. But at the same time, I'm not trying to conquer the world. Right now, I'm starting with the local market and working on the step-by-step process of trying to engage people.

Once you're self-employed, I think it's quite difficult to switch off from work. In the evenings, I love meeting my friends. Also, I always tend to do some activity which helps me chill out, like yoga or Pilates. You might be really stressed about something, but when you make the conscious decision to stop working and do something else, then, when you come back to a problem, you find that you have that spark again.

I'm still trying to get the work-life balance, but I think it's normal, in the early stages of setting up a business, that you dedicate a lot of time to it. There were times when I was starting the business that I wondered if I was cracked to do it, but friends and family encouraged me to do it. I wouldn't have been able to open the pop-up store without their help.

So far, things have been going well. I believe people are spending more. This is because they are working hard and they are willing to part with their money. They are spending more wisely and they want things to last, so you are dealing with a different sort of customer in comparison to the boom.

In the evenings, I'll usually have a stir-fry. I eat as many greens as I can, because they keep the energy up. I watch a bit of television in the evening and I try not to look at my phone, which is very difficult. I have Post-it notes all over the house with lists of things I need to do. I try to get as much sleep as I can, but generally my brain is going at 100 miles an hour. Even in bed, I'm still jotting down things I have to do tomorrow. At the moment, I'm working so hard during the day, that by the time I get into bed, I'm out like a light.

Seven Wood has a new pop-up store at 119 Ranelagh, D6. It will be open until July 31. See

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