Meet the Mumpreneurs: Christine Carolan, Director & Designer, Happynest
WHO: Christine Carolan, owner of Happynest, an Irish premium nursery products and babywear company and mum to Eve (7) and Sophie (5).
What makes your product different?
Unlike bulky jackets or snowsuits, the Cosynest and Cosysleep do not interfere with the security of the car seat harness. Our products are also reversible from pink to blue, boy to girl so they make a fantastic gift for the expectant mum or new arrival.
How did your business evolve?
When I started to sell our products it took time, we were a new brand and a new concept so I spent a lot of time informing parents about the Road Safety Authority and about car seat safety. So many mums were not aware that padded jackets and snow suits are not the best choice when travelling in car seats as they create space between the baby and the car seat strap, which is quite dangerous.
What was the tipping point?
The tipping point was when I appeared on Ireland AM in August 2014. We had regular sales each week but that three-minute slot had our phones ringing off the hook for days! We have a great celebrity following including Holly Willoughby, Amy Huberman, Karen Kostner, Maura Derrane and many more.
I began to work with [model and mum] Alison Canavan who wrote an article endorsing our Cosynest and Cosysleep. As a parent she totally understood the importance of car seat safety. Alison is also an ambassador for Honda International and Honda invited me along to their roadshows to talk about Happynest and car seat safety.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known?
I would have loved to have understood the manufacturing industry in Ireland. It was so hard for me to find someone to make my prototype for me starting off. It’s a shame that a lot of the textile manufacturing is now gone from Ireland.
What are the benefits of working for yourself?
When I worked in the corporate world I travelled a lot and worked quite late at times often missing bed times or school runs. Working for myself has given me back some time with my children. I am happier in myself as I am following my passion.
And the drawbacks?
As rewarding as running your own business is, it is tough! You need believe 100% in your product and be ready for knockbacks. You need to have patience, and anyone who knows me and reads this will know I have no patience but I am learning! Creating brand awareness around a new product takes time. Success does not happen overnight and the hard work will pay off.
What advice would you give to a wannabe entrepreneur?
Test the market! Once you have a concept, get a focus group, do loads of research. Try to find out if there is a gap in the market for your product or service. You need to be able to show what makes you so different to everyone else and be able to back it up with raw data. Also, embrace social media! It’s the most important tool in terms of raising awareness and reaching your audience base.
What’s next for you?
I have some very exciting ventures in the pipeline. I also have some new product designs coming out very soon. I am talking to key retailers and will be launching in stores in the next few months."