Meet the Irish entrepreneurs who believe that content is key.
Starting a blog, for many people, has been the first step in starting a business. That includes everyone from the makeup moguls whose palettes or self-tanners now line our pharmacy shelves, to the digital nomads whose businesses revolve around island hopping and luxury accommodation.
Blogging can be the catalyst that leads to many opportunities, that little corner of the internet where an idea can grow and evolve into a full-fledged business.
We spoke to two business owners in Ireland, to find out where it all began and how content has played a role in bringing their brands to life.
Jennifer Doyle is the founder of Millbee Studio, in Tullamore Co. Offaly. Her company produces a range of products that incorporate beeswax.
From the reusable food wraps (which are designed to take the place of plastic cling film or tin foil), to beautifully designed beeswax candles, sustainability is at the core of the business.
“I keep bees, so I was familiar with the different uses for beeswax,” says Jennifer. “I started with the beeswax food wraps. I made a few at home and a few people were asking me about them. It just took off from there.
“My background is in design. About 10 years ago I graduated from DIT with a degree in interior and furniture design. I’ve always been into making and craft. I just love making - anything and everything. Sustainability and living in the countryside ties into that, because it’s part of how I grew up.”
Before Millbee Studios was established, Jennifer dipped her toe in the blogging world, which stands to her today as she manages the Millbee blog, posting regularly to keep her audience up to date.
“I try and do something at least every month or two weeks. My first ever website was a blog. I had it for a year or two. It was me cooking all this food at home and the garden, a bit of crochet and a bit of craft. That was my first experience with blogging.”
As well as the blog, Jennifer uses Instagram to stay connected to her community and share what’s going on behind the scenes at Millbee Studios.
“Instagram is really big for me. I only have 3000 followers at the moment, but they are engaged and have been built up organically over the last year. I feel that Instagram is a community of likeminded people and it’s a way to develop a brand more authentically.”
Having that established community online has kept Jennifer and her products at the forefront of her customers’ minds during the pandemic.
“I think one of the biggest things has been ‘support local’ and support Irish brands and products. Even on a local level for me - I live in a tiny townland - the amount of people ordering online from within that 10-mile radius and still paying delivery. I just thought that was really interesting.
“I used to have a market, once a month in my local farmers market, and I think those customers moved online. The other thing is gifting, people gifting products for their friends or family. And some of it is for no reason other than ‘we miss you’ or ‘see you soon’.”
Many TikTok fans around Ireland will recognise Maryrose Simpson, the Laois native, who has an astounding 230K followers on the video-sharing app.
However, there is a lot more to this TikToker than her viral content. Maryrose is also the founder of My Ladybug, Ireland’s first period subscription box, that delivers period products to women on a monthly basis. This innovative idea led to Maryrose winning the Laois County award for Best Young Entrepreneur in 2014, and the business has been growing ever since.
“What you receive is customised to you, your cycle and your body, so you get to choose the products you receive,” says Maryrose. “We also send monthly treats, chocolate and herbal tea is our core package.
“The reason I started My Ladybug was for the convenience factor. It’s nice to be able to outsource a little part of our lives. Before My Ladybug was ever a thing, I went to Google and tried to look for a service like this, and at that stage (six years ago) there was no model that’s existed that covered this kind of subscription. I thought there was a great opportunity there.
Maryrose feels that creating content that women can really use is key to her business growing organically.
“When I set up My Ladybug, I wanted to focus on the aspect of educating, creating content and talking about the issues around periods, menstruation, endometriosis and all of these things. There’s a blog for everything, but there are very few content creators who focus on women’s health.
“I try to focus on educating and empathising with women on a regular basis with my content and marketing. I have only done one or two ads on Facebook etc, it’s grown very organically through customers talking about it and sharing. I’m very proud of that organic reach.
Maryrose explains that coming up with ideas and channelling creativity correctly can sometimes mean taking a step back and allowing time to refuel.
“I was at a conference a few years ago, and what was said really hit home with me. Basically ‘always have a third place’. My third place ended up being my gym, it gives me time away from the house and work and everything else. You’re just focusing on you and investing in yourself.
“That’s the time when I don’t have my phone in my hand, and as much as my phone is my creative outlet to the world, where I share everything, it’s really important to step back from that as well and have moments where it’s just you in your head. I feel like that’s where my creativity comes from, it comes from the pause of everything. You have to take a break in order to fuel again.”
While Millbee Studio and My Ladybug are operating in two different industries, the strategy for growth and reach is the same: creating content that offers value to customers is key.