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Visa’s She’s Next took my business to the next level – 2021 winner Rosie Joyce



Having received €5,000 last year through Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme, Rosie’s Castlebar-based business has been thriving.

There are few constants in getting a business off the ground, other than those initial stages being some of the most challenging times you will face. From finding an idea worth buying into to accumulating the finances required to get things started, it is also something that requires a great deal of confidence.

According to a recent OECD survey, only 38pc of Irish women perceive they have the necessary skills to start a business, compared to 58pc of men. Providing practical assistance to women business owners will not only help overcome those early challenges, but will also help bridge that gap by encouraging more women to back themselves and make their business dream a reality.

That’s what Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme was created for. Launched in 2021 as part of Visa’s ongoing efforts to remove the disproportionate barriers faced by women business owners, the global initiative is returning to Ireland for a second consecutive year on a larger scale.

Last year’s programme offered five grants of €5,000 plus a year of coaching provided by IFundWomen, for women-led businesses to support them and provide the tools and resources they need. This year, the five grants have doubled to €10,000.

This increase in funding is not only reflective of the growing need for change, but also Visa’s dedication to encouraging it. To find out more about She’s Next, visit the website here.

One of the winners last year was Mayo business The Habit Store, founded by Rosie Joyce. An innovative minimal waste store that allows people to purchase exactly what groceries they need and reduce the amount of plastic waste.

Having seen first hand what efforts are being made abroad to cut down on single-use plastic, Rosie says she saw an opportunity to initiate something similar in the west of Ireland.

“I lived in London from 2018 to 2020, so I was lucky that someone I became friends with eventually had opened a refill shop in my building that I was working in. So this was a way of shopping that I had already been doing when I was living in London, so then when I moved back to Castlebar in Mayo this was something that was missing from my lifestyle.

“I really notably felt on my weekly shopping how much packaging and waste [that we had] and how our bins were just full of expensive packaging. That was something that was important to us that we wanted to be able to eliminate.

“When we decided to stay [in Mayo] instead of going back to London, I decided this was something I wanted to bring to our town,” Rosie says.

The benefits of She’s Next

If you are a female small business owner, understanding what tools and supports are at your disposal is an essential step to overcoming the barriers you are likely to face.

It was very early in Rosie’s business journey that she decided to apply for Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme. With a business that was very much in its infancy, the funding she received has helped accelerate its development and allow her to pursue new ideas that she believes in.

“Some of the money was used to finish the storage and shelving within the store. That gave us an entirely new area, and we were then able to buy new products for that section which was more a kind of eco home range which complemented the refill food stuff.

“We launched our own card range, which are greeting cards that are actually printed on seeded printable paper. So instead of putting it in the bin or recycling, after you’ve received these cards you can plant them and they grow into wildflowers,” she says.

Sustainability efforts, such as the seeded cards, are naturally going to prove popular across the board. An effective way to show customers that your business is making an effort to help protect the environment, it is no surprise that sustainability is one of the core points of focus for Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme and a category for this year’s entrants.

“The things I mentioned that we have been able to do, we would never have been able to do them had we not have had that grant. It accelerated the business.

“It brought a lot of sales, a lot of new customers. On a personal level, it was just a massive high to be chosen as one of five in Ireland. It was just incredible, especially with a brand like Visa, such a reputable company.

“It just felt really special for an environmental service like this to be recognised by such a big company,” she says.

Helping to even the playing field

While the benefits that come with the grant can be easily understood, it’s more difficult to accurately measure the value of gaining a year’s worth of dedicated coaching provided by IFundWomen. Helping her understand how to create an effective brand identity and communicate that to customers, Rosie says she has learned a tremendous amount in a very short period of time.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the copy and the wording that we use to describe ourselves. Basically, working on our pitch and how we introduce ourselves as a business.

“We’ve done quite a bit on setting our goals and obviously keeping ourselves accountable to make sure that we’re achieving them and if we’re not, then why. They are so to-the-point, they really know what they’re doing.

“They make you do the work yourselves, obviously we know our own businesses, but yeah it’s really useful,” she says.

Recent research by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that for every female entrepreneur in Ireland, there are nearly twice as many male entrepreneurs. If that gap is going to be reduced and the playing field levelled, some of the best sources of inspiration and advice will so often be people like Rosie who have taken that step.

When asked what advice she would give other women who might have an idea simmering away that could make a strong business venture, she says passion is not something to be underestimated.

“I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years, but this is the one I was most passionate about and I think passion is probably the biggest thing for me. Because it is tough running your own business, especially when this is your sole income.

“There are times when money is tight, particularly at the moment, you know? Things are increasing in price and there are a lot of factors that we are trying to lever around but I’m incredibly passionate about what I’m doing; it has a purpose and I believe in it.

“So I think if anyone has an idea and you’re passionate about it, I would probably say try and see how you can do it in a low-risk way to begin with. Also, by doing your market research to see if there is a demand for the service,” she says.

Visa’s She’s Next Grant Programme, in partnership with IFundWomen, is open to small businesses and organisations who are majority owned by women, operating across all industries and sectors, through a simple application process. To enter, apply now for one of five grants of €10,000 plus a year of coaching provided by IFundWomen by submitting your details here.