Parenthood

Nicola McDonnell started her company - Itchy Little Monkeys, which produces items aimed at children suffering with eczema - because of her firsthand experience of dealing with a child with eczema.

Nicola's daughter had eczema all over her body and because the condition can only be managed (as opposed to cured), she developed the company and products including The Shruggi™ to combat the 'itch-scratch' cycle.

On her website, the mum explains: "These products have been a life-saver for us and I hope they will be for you too." She told us, in her own words, about how she has built the business up from the ground.


My daughter Sienna is the inspiration behind the business. She has suffered badly from eczema since she was a baby. I came up with the idea when searching for solutions that could help her. With 1 in 5 kids having eczema, I knew there must be so many parents out there that were going through what we went through with our daughter, i.e. the sleepless nights when she was driven mad by the unrelenting itch, not knowing what condition her skin was going to be in the following morning, and the ongoing risk of infection from the scratching. Eczema can be very distressing for both parent and child and there is no cure for it, it’s all about maintenance.

I had been thinking about it for a while.  As a mum, I was searching for products to help prevent my daughter from damaging her skin from the scratching caused by her eczema. I looked for products that were effective and child-friendly with the element of fun thrown in.  After endless searching, I realised that I had to come up with something myself.  I knew from experience that parents will try absolutely anything to try and manage their kids eczema so I came up with the idea for our Shruggi so other parents don’t have to go through all the trial and error we went through with products you’re told can help but actually don’t.  Just to add, for any parent of a child with eczema, getting advice from a doctor/dermatologist is always very important and the first thing you should do.  Our Shruggi was developed to compliment standard clinical treatments.

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I know from experience that looking after a child with eczema can be very stressful. The Itchy Little Monkeys brand aims to remove the stress by making it as fun as possible for the child. We are currently offering 2 products. The Shruggi is a form of scratch mitten made from organic cotton and silk and comes in bright, colourful child-friendly designs. The main difference between this and traditional scratch mittens is that the Shruggi stays on, giving parents that peace of mind that their kids are not causing damage to their skin. We also have a range of storybooks featuring the Itchy Little Monkeys, Max & Mimi.  The stories are fun for kids while also providing top tips for parents.

There are times that I thought yes, it will work and then there are times when you doubt yourself. It’s hard to take the plunge and actually set up your own business in the first place and, although I have a business background, I didn’t have that experience that comes with designing products, manufacturing, brand and website design among many other areas so it has been a huge learning curve.

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The best way to balance work and family is making the best possible use of your time, whether it’s working before school or after bedtime, and having very obliging grandparents to help out with childminding has been invaluable.

Shruggi boy

For me, being a mum has undoubtedly helped me in the world of business. It is because I am the mum of a child suffering from eczema that I set up this business.  Being a mum in business also means you have patience, listening and multitasking skills in abundance. Motherhood is the best feeling in the world (and hard work at the same time!) and it’s amazing how a hug from your little one can instantly wash away negative feelings of any stressful day.

I would tell mums who want to start their own business that if you feel that you have a great business idea, as well as bouncing it off friends and family, test it out on those you don’t know as they will be more likely to give you unbiased feedback. Be prepared for hard work and commitment but also know that you will make mistakes. Furthermore, use the support around you and be proud of yourself when things do go to plan.

There have been many memorable moments. In relation to setting up a business, it's things like seeing your product come to life for the first time, making your first sale (to someone you don’t know) and seeing your first feature in the media.  Day-to-day, it is being able to help mums who are in the same situation I was in, be it offering them advice or helping them through the use of our products.

Heaven is… Sunset on the beach with a nice cold drink in hand... A nice white sandy beach in a warm country that is!


Are you a mum in business who would like to be featured on our website? Email me on rebecca.mcknight@herfamily.ie with some details about what you do and we'll be in touch!

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mums who inspire, Meet The Mumpreneur, eczema, careers