The hen with golden eggs
Kate Hyde struck gold with her idea for a hen-party website, success on Dragons' Den, and meeting husband Paul Twohig, says Andrea Smith
FORMER British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once famously remarked: "The cocks may crow, but it's the hen that lays the egg." And in bubbly, flame-haired Kate Hyde's case, she has managed, like a fairy-tale hen, to lay a golden egg on more than one occasion.
Firstly, there's www. henparty.ie, the flourishing business she set up to cater for the growing area of hen parties. Then she went on RTE's Dragons' Den and successfully sold 40 per cent of the business to two dragons, Gavin Duffy and Niall O'Farrell. And finally, she met her husband Paul Twohig, whom she's madly in love with, at her cousin Sarah's housewarming party in 2005.
"Paul and I had both just come out of relationships, and I don't think either of us was expecting to meet someone that night," says the 31-year-old Cork woman.
"I thought he was really good looking, and he also had a really funky T-shirt on. I am quite possibly the biggest George Michael fan I know, and I remember chewing his ear off about him. He must have thought I was OK though, as my rant didn't scare him off."
Paul remembers them having great banter with each other that night. He thought Kate was beautiful and funny, he says, and really up for the craic.
"There was a karaoke machine at the party and we were singing half the night," he says. "It was great fun, although Kate wouldn't be known for her singing voice."
On paper, they'd probably appear very different. Paul is from Kinsale and has two brothers, David and Mark. His parents were both archaeologists, and his father, Dermot, died when he was 12. His mother, Elizabeth, then raised the three boys by herself. He studied law in UCC, and after further studies is now working as a solicitor.
Kate is from Crosshaven, in Cork, and is the daughter of Rom and Verna Hyde. She has one brother, Jonathan, who married his fiancee Lisa last week.
She studied biochemistry in UCC for two years, but didn't enjoy science so moved to a degree in business information systems. After college, she joined Pepsi on its graduate programme and trained to be an accountant for a while but soon realised accounting wasn't for her either.
She then worked in IT before starting up her own business 18 months ago.
"I always felt if I could work that hard for myself and use up all my energy on something of my own, I could fulfil that restless part of me," she says. "I started my business because I realised that the women of Ireland were spending millions of euro on hen parties every year, and nobody was capitalising on it. I sell advertising to hotels, restaurants and activity providers looking for hen-party business. I also have an online store selling accessories, and lots of pages of tips and ideas for planning hen parties."
Even though we are in a recession, Kate says that the business is going really well. She has noticed that the service providers that didn't want hen party business previously are now looking to attract the huge revenue that comes from them.
And obviously her appearance on Dragons' Den back in February has also helped business hugely. She now employs two staff members and is just about to launch a version of the website in the UK.
"It's a really smart business," says Paul. "I'm so proud of how hard Kate has worked to bring her business on, but her good qualities have helped her to succeed. Kate is the love of my life. Her best qualities are kindness, generosity of time and listening to people, and the people she does business with appreciate her loyalty and honesty."
And anything that drives you mad about her, I wonder?
"She's always losing things," he laughs. "I'd be rich if I had a euro for every time I hear, 'Have you seen my keys/wallet/bank card/insulin?' (Kate has Type 1 diabetes). She's also very messy, and you should see her car or the bedroom. Sometimes it's difficult to find the floor! I think the carpet is beige, but it's been a while since I've seen it."
Kate and Paul now live in Waterford with their dog Arthur, as Paul is practising as a solicitor there. They were married in August 2008 and had a marquee reception at Kate's parents' house in Crosshaven. Her own hen party was in Courtmacsherry, where she and 20 friends dressed in black dresses for dinner and Kate's friend, Sally, brought nuns' headdresses for all of them as a nod to their convent-school education.
Kate says that while her relationship with Paul is only five years old, it's very strong ,and he knows her better than she knows herself at times. He is keen on endurance activities and she admires him for challenging himself with something different every year. This year he did the French cycling race, L'Etape du Tour, last year's feat was a marathon, and the year before he cycled from Malin Head to Mizen Head.
Kate and Paul love to travel too, although her red hair and freckles generated a lot of interest when they were in China last year.
"The people there literally recoiled from me like I was an alien," she says. "I remember one man looking at my skin and moving away from me at a bus stop. I think he thought I was contagious. Paul found it exceptionally funny, but for me it wasn't so funny!"
Kate says she loves the fact that Paul is really secure and solid. He's also very patient, which counter-balances her own impatience. And he's not afraid to think differently to other people, or have a different opinion.
"I'm very impulsive, and I hate when I get a fantastic idea and Paul won't share my enthusiasm," she jests. "Like running away to France and living in a commune, growing vegetables and making our own clothes. He is so logical sometimes that it drives me mad, and he often rains on my illogical parade. He's also great fun and we laugh loads together, and he means pretty much everything to me."