Get fit, find a new job, finally give up that Domino’s habit. Can you remember what New Year’s resolutions you made this time last year? If you’re anything like us, they’re long forgotten.
For the six Irish women we spoke to for the new issue of STELLAR though, January 1st was Day One of a life-changing year. Pick up our new issue to hear from first-time marathon runners, newbie filmmakers and emigrants, or read on to meet two risk-taking entrepreneurs who started or built on their own businesses in 2016.
Co-founder, Spotlight Whitening
Vanessa and her sister Lisa, both dentists, first thought about starting their own business around two years ago, but it wasn’t until 2016 that they really kicked things off. In September the pair launched Spotlight Whitening, selling safe and effective at-home teeth whitening kits.
“Lisa and I run our own dental practice in Galway, and teeth whitening is something we’ve always seen a market for. In the past the whitening industry wasn’t well regulated, but in 2011 a lot of new legislation came through to make things much safer. Given our background we knew we could provide a product that was effective yet safe to use.
“Spotlight has been growing as an idea and a project over the last two years, but getting the formula right for an at-home whitening kit takes time, not to mention sorting regulation and production. In 2016 things began to fall into place and we had our official launch in September of this year. It’s been a whirlwind since.
“Lisa and I have different approaches to business and our skills mesh well. I think working with a sibling means you can be really direct to one another, which makes everything happen a lot faster and more efficiently. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so my main focus is the formula, the package design and everything that comes with that. Lisa on the other hand is very business-oriented… and a tough negotiator! All along we wanted to develop a product that we were 100% happy with, that we could recommend to patients without worry and that we would gladly use ourselves.
“We both still work full-time as dentists so needless to say it’s been a very busy year but we’re loving it so far. As for New Year’s resolutions, we don’t just set goals at the start of each year, but every three or four months. It’s the only way to stay focused and on track.
“Our plans for 2017 are already in place: we’re expanding into the UK and broadening our product range too. It never stops!”
Founder, Galway Food Tours and Merveilles D’Irlande
Growing up between Ireland and France, Sheena Dignam has always had a love of food, and set up Galway Food Tours in 2014 to showcase some of the West of Ireland’s best culinary offerings. In the last year she’s added another string to her bow with Merveilles d’Irlande, a tourism company directed at the French market and offering holidays to the West including everything from picnics and fishing trips to gourmet food tours of the area. She’s also expanding her food tours to Mayo and beyond with Connemara Food Tours.
“I’ve been running food tours around Galway for two years, and I knew there was scope to expand into other locations, so this year I started Connemara Food Tours. I’ve teamed up with the guys from Connemara Pub Tours, so it’s a mix of restaurants, food suppliers, beer and whiskey tastings and pubs too. I’m really excited. The aim is to stay relatively local to the area to keep the tour route packed but also convenient, so there are spots like Ballynahinch Castle, and Connemara Smokehouse.
“Food has always been a massive part of my life. I moved to France when I was eight and fell in love with the whole food thing there. After school I studied culinary arts and went on to do some study as a sommelier too.
“When I eventually came back to Dublin I started doing start-up work for new restaurants: training staff, putting wine menus together and generally straightening things up. One of my projects at the time was the Drury St chocolate shop Cocoa Atelier. I spent a lot of time on the shop floor, and we’d often have groups in from the Dublin tour company Fabulous Food Trails, who offer foodie walking tours around the city.
“When I moved to Galway I soon realised there was nothing like that going on there, and it made absolute sense to start doing it myself. To be honest my main goal was to showcase a different side of Ireland to the French tourists I’d often hear saying that Irish food had ‘nothing going for it’ or that Ireland was only about pubs and drinking. I really wanted to show them a different side to Galway.
“Since then we’ve been mentioned by the Lonely Planet and John and Sally McKenna’s Guide and the overall response has been brilliant, from tourists but also from locals who want to discover new places to eat. We hit up places that locals might not necessarily have been before, like Loam which is a Michelin-starred restaurant and Petit Pois, a gorgeous French spot.
“As I grew up in France I have a good link to the country, which is what inspired me to set up my other business, the tour company Merveilles d’Irlande. Like the food tours, it came about very organically. It’s a slow burner because a lot of research goes in to vetting accommodation and guides before putting trip plans together. But in my first year of trading last year I sold 20 trips which I was thrilled with. The food tourism industry is booming right now and I’m so excited for the 2017 season. I have lots of plans up my sleeve!”
Meet four other women who actually stuck to their 2016 resolutions in the January issue of STELLAR, on shelves now!
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