Irish mums in business: Meet Caragh O'Driscoll of Bow & Rattle
It all began before she even had babies of her own.
When Caragh O'Driscoll's friends started having babies few years back, she quickly noticed many of them were struggling to find changing bags that were not only practical, like changing bags have got to be, but that they also genuienly liked and were happy to carry around everywhere.
And with that, and idea that grew into a business was born.
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We recently caught up with the lovely Dublin-based mum-of-two to chat business, babies and some seriously swoon-worthy nappy bags:
How did the idea for your company come about?
It all began when the first of my friends were starting to have babies. Many hours were spent mulling over what bassinet to get, which buggy was best and ultimately the conversation turned to changing bags. Everyone was excited picking theirs as it was the one item that was all about them. But it soon became clear how the girls were struggling to find their perfect bag. There were a few stylish ones on the market but they didn’t feel they could justify such a large spend along with everything else they had to buy and then there were the cotton casual type ones which although practical just didn’t make their hearts flutter.
In retrospect it seems kind of obvious that there was a large gap in the mid-price range for a bag that looked as stylish and expensive as the top end leather ones, but that at the same time was as practical as one would want.
I had always wanted to do something entrepreneurial. It was in my blood coming from a family of entrepreneurs. From day one as a little girl I had been designing ‘collections’ of clothes and accessories for my dolls. I adored the process of design and getting to use my imagination is so many different ways. I always knew I wanted a career that had an element of design in it. My passion for style and design incorporated with my love of business made it the perfect match. I went about creating the dream bag that merged practicality with stylish design. And so Bow & Rattle was born.
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When did you start?
I chose the name, registered the company and made the first of several factory sourcing trips to China in 2014 whilst I was still working in advertising. There were countless ‘bumps’ along the way (both with the business and with having two little boys!), and so Bow & Rattle has only really properly launched in the last year.
How did you get started?
Having no experience on where to begin in something like this I reached out to my friends and family to see if anyone had connections that might be able to help. I was lucky to find a wonderful friend of a family member who put me in touch with his colleague in China who then went about helping to source a factory for me. At the same time I was busy sketching and designing the range, taking inspiration from the high street but also adamant that I wanted to keep the designs very timeless and classic. Bag trends can go in and out of fashion so quickly so it was important to me that these designs would be timeless.
I also spent a lot of time researching the functionality side of things with my friends who were already mothers. It was a bit of a minefield as I soon discovered that each friend had quite a different idea of what their perfect bag was. I did my best to marry as many of the design features I could to make the ultimate changing bags. My husband Alan and I and also my separately my father took a few trips back and forth out to Hong Kong and China to work with the factory going through all the requirements, materials and accessories. Those trips themselves were so fascinating, I was instantly hooked on the whole process and knew this was where I wanted to be.
Thankfully working in advertising I had loads of wonderful friends, colleagues and contacts that helped me get the design, website and print elements ready so that happened a little more naturally.
As I look back, it literally took a village to get it all up and running when I think of everyone that helped with each little step!
Any hiccups in the beginning?
I really had no idea how much of a challenge going into business could be. There have been endless hiccups and challenges along the way. The largest of which was my very first order from the factory arrived with some serious quality issues. It took a very long time trying to recover from it and I essentially had to start all over again with new factories and new designs. It’s devastating when you are going through it but thankfully I can see the light again and we are now back on track. I feel I can now take pride in the quality of the product and every little element that goes into the bags having spent a lot of time perfecting them.
How easy is it to combine motherhood with running a business?
It’s the hardest thing ever. I always knew it would be challenging, but until you’re in it you can’t describe how tricky it is. I had always heard the expression ‘mom guilt’ but only now do I truly understand it. Every day it’s a balancing act between giving the boys the time they deserve and need, running a household and keeping a business growing. I think the most important thing I’ve learnt is to stop trying to do it all at the one time and to just focus on the task at hand. So, if I’m spending time with the kids I try to switch off from everything else and just give them my full attention. Fortunately or unfortunately I wasn’t blessed with great sleepers so I’ll often be found at the desk at 5am responding to emails, working on designs or packing orders to go out!
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Biggest (business) high to date?
Getting lots of interest from retailers. It’s one thing when you love and believe in a product but it’s a much more exhilarating and incredible feeling when you know others love them too. That first moment I walked into Bella Baby in Dundrum and saw them proudly positioned on the shelf was an ultimate pinch-me moment that I’ll never forget!
Any lessons you have learned the hard way?
Patience. It’s so incredibly hard to have it when you want to see the fruits of your labour coming together quickly: I have to admit there have been a few occasions in the early days when I was too eager to get the business moving and didn’t take all the necessary steps that I needed to. Patience and time are always worth it in the end. I try to remind myself this daily.
What is next for the business?
We have so many exciting things planned for next year! We have a new amazing large Irish retailer coming on board early in the new year and have some incredible new designs in the works that will be launched at the start of 2019. I’m particularly excited for our first photoshoot abroad happening in sunny Miami in a few weeks!
What would be your ONE piece of advice to other mums dreaming of setting up their own business?
Talk your ideas through thoroughly with someone before ploughing straight into things. For a lot of moms it seems like a dream to own your own business so your time is your own to divide up how you want, but the reality is there are so many layers you can’t even imagine at the start of the process.
The best advice I could give is to find a mentor or that person in your family or among friends who can talk through all the positives and negatives of the idea and give you honest advice. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people even if you don’t know them, the worst they can do is say no. Ireland’s business community tend to be very open and giving of their time so use that as best you can to your advantage.
Are YOU a mum running a business? Would you like to feature in our Meet the Mumpreneur series on site? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at Trine.Jensen@Herfamily.ie and I'll be in touch!