Dainty Bear turns three this May. Owner Áine McGurk takes us through the inception of her baby shoe and accessories brand - from corporate IT to designing beautiful baby items.
McGurk worked in IT for over fifteen years, it was a job that saw her in charge of big teams, working long hours and lots of overseas travel but all of that changed when she had her first daughter Annabel.
On maternity leave she found for the first time in years she had a little time on her hands as she was blessed that Annabel was an easy-going baby.
“I always loved fashion, I was creative at school and I was good at art and graphics and things like that, but I never thought I was good enough to pursue a full career in it,” explains McGurk.
These skills were dusted off when she was looking for baby outfits for a family wedding, she was looking for nice quality accessories and couldn’t find appropriate shoes or bows for Annabel. Spotting a gap in the market she began to develop her own accessories.
“I spent three months doing the brand research and development, and getting the samples,” she says, “and making sure that if I was going to launch the products, they were really good quality.”
“I developed the brand, basically on a shoestring budget,” she continues. “I launched it on Facebook, just a soft launch and followed that up with a Shopify site in May 2018.”
McGurk continued her full-time job juggling post office runs and orders with work and mum duties until her second daughter was born and this is when she decided to reevaluate her work life balance.
“Dainty Bear was kind of always a side-line thing to me, it was my outlet, so I said, this is it now, I am going to give this business my best shot and provide for the family while having that work life balance,” she says.
“I've been working full time now on Dainty Bear and home with the kids for over a year. It'll be three years old in May,” she adds.
The adjustment from corporate life to owning your own business has been ‘like day and night’ says McGurk. Working on her own has been the biggest challenge as she came from an environment where she was managing big teams and surrounded by work colleagues daily.
“I’ve taken comfort in the fact that I would have been working from home anyway, if I had still been in corporate, because of Covid,” she says.
“That was a major adjustment for me,” she continues. “I have availed of a lot of mentorship and coaching because I need that sound and ear from people, that bit of reassurance or backing. I've used Nicole Higgins, The Buyer and Retail Coach, I'm on my second time using her and I find her amazing. We really clicked, and she's really helped me in terms of my expansion plan and how to grow my business.” “I’ve tapped into places where I can get that little bit of advice or sounding boards, that’s where the Women’s Inspire Network is a good example,” says McGurk. “Those networks are my team.” The next move for Dainty Bear is to expand their product range and to introduce other Irish made products through their new ‘Dainty Bear Collective’.