The Day That Changed My Life: Eimear Varian Barry on becoming a mother and launching her business
In an Independent.ie special series, blogger Eimear Varian Barry speaks about her biggest life-changing moment: becoming a mother and gaining financial independence
Eimear Varian Barry is a laugh riot.
Currently expecting her third child, she’s curled up on the couch with a cup of tea ready to tell me her life story. I have to take her word for it, though - I'm calling from my office in Dublin to catch up with her in Surrey.
Eimear isn't exactly a household name yet: you might be one of the 80k+ people who follow her on Instagram already or this might be your introduction to her, either way, you're in for a treat. She’s the 30-year-old former radio presenter from Cork who packed it in to travel the world, wound up falling in love and moving to the UK, where she lives with her partner Daniel and two children Saoirse (three) and Harper (two).
And she happens to be making a very successful living out of just that.
She can't be put in one specific box - she cherishes being a mother and credits it with helping her find her place in the world. She's still trying to figure out if 'having it all' is really a myth or not and she thinks she may have found the formula – the day she realised she could be at home with her children while still making money on Instagram and have financial independence.
What was it about that moment?
“What changed everything for me - especially when I was pregnant – I was working in a call centre earning a fiver an hour, I had to take two trains to get there but it was the only place that would employ me because I was pregnant,” she explains.
“I think I had £200 in my bank account and I was selling e-cigarettes to retail stores over the phone. It was not good. I got an iPhone when I came to England and that really changed it for me. I’d always been taking photos during styling jobs in the past and I studied photography, so I set up an Instagram and Pinterest; soon people started to like my photos and four years later of me doing the exact same stuff, I do it for a living.
“People seemed to react well to it.”
Let’s rewind a few years. Always something of a creative adventurer at heart, Eimear originally started studying photography before leaving after she was offered a presenting job on Cork's RED FM, which only gave her the appetite for more. She upped sticks to live in New York City for two years in order to get experience in just about anything she could get her hands on.
“I was working in a restaurant five days a week and movie sets the other two days. It was extremely hard, but it was the best. I learned the hard way. New York is amazing if you’re established and you have money behind you to set yourself up, but it's very difficult if you don't. If I went back now, I would grab Manhattan by the balls," she says.
“I wasn’t in a good place, so I moved to Australia. I set up shop in Melbourne, I did backpacking and the whole, 'eat, pray, love type of thing. I saw Daniel among a group of English builders there and fell completely in love.”
She found out she was expecting her first child in 2012 while still living in Australia and the couple made the decision to move to Surrey, where Daniel is from in order to be nearer to his family.
“In 2013, when I moved to England first, I was pregnant and I was looking for a job. It was really difficult because I didn’t realise England is so structured, when I was in New York, I’d meet someone on a night out and I’d be on a movie set the next day. When I came here, I thought, ‘What’s a second interview?’
“I’d talked my way into my radio job, all my other jobs just happened organically, so that was daunting for me,” she says. “They do everything right here, which I love, but it came as a shock to me. I was going through agencies asking them to give me anything.”
Which is how she wound up in that infamous call centre, heavily pregnant, taking two trains to get to work and selling e-cigarettes over the phone. After giving birth to her eldest daughter Saoirse, she chose to stay at home with her over returning to work, which was actually the beginning of her most successful job ever - herself.
Over time, she returned to her original passion of photography and in 2013, before Instagram became the behemoth we know it as today, she was quietly cultivating a loyal following, comprised largely of young mothers like her.
“Suddenly I got loads of followers and companies started sending me messages asking to send me free things. I had no idea what gifting was,” she says. “A year later, I was invited to a blogger dinner and I was quite intimidated – the other girls had agents and photographers and I was very intrigued. It was all a bit mysterious.
“I sat down with one of them, she started telling me what she does and how she makes a living and I said, ‘That’s what I do. I can do this as a job?’ It was a lightbulb moment.”
She’s signed with The Collaborations Agency in Dublin and Models 1 in London and says her career has given her a newfound sense of confidence that comes with earning your money from blood, sweat and tears.
“It has changed my life; I was able to actually make money for the first time in my life,” Eimear told us. “The day I realised I could work for myself and be a mother at the same time. That’s what I want to say to women, you can do that and the world is becoming more open to that.
“Instagram changed my life. I remember GAP offered my £1000 for a job for their website and I thought that would be coming in every week. Nothing came in for another whole year. It was a huge lesson for me and reminded me to never ever get ahead of yourself and always be cautious. You can be excited about things, but keep it together until those contracts are signed.”