Capitalists in the classroom
Ireland’s young student entrepreneurs are working hard at school – and at their businesses
The image of a young Mark Zuckerberg starting out his company in a college dorm room has captured the imagination of many, but none more so than a group of Ireland’s secondary school students.
While many people spent Christmas enjoying downtime from school or work, it was one of the busiest times in business for many teen entrepreneurs, as they juggled their companies with exams and school.
One such student was Ciara Whooley (17), who is Ireland’s leading distributor of personalised baubles. The young entrepreneur designs and sells Christmas and landmark-themed baubles to customers in Ireland, Switzerland, the United States, Australia and Africa, under the Irish Baubles brand.
A student at St David’s Secondary School in Greystones, she has signed deals with charities including Barretstown Castle, Down Syndrome Ireland and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, as well as selling locally and to Irish people abroad.
“This year my main focus has been to maximise profits. We’ve done nearly every craft fair in Wicklow and some in Cork, too. My family and I have been split nearly every weekend in the run-up to Christmas showcasing the baubles at different craft fairs.
“A lot of parents also buy baubles off the website to send to their children abroad. I have baubles featuring various landmarks such as Glendalough, the Dublin Spire and the Shandon Bells, so the parents send them to their kids as reminders of home.”
Whooley has sold more than 2,000 of her personalised baubles this year, including 100 to Dromoland Castle. “I did some sketches of the castle, sent them over to my team in China and they painted them on the inside of the glass baubles. The hotel sells them in their gift shop. I paint all the sketches myself and they are painted on to the inside of the glass baubles by my team in China. I found the team online – they also paint the inside of perfume bottles and snuff bottles. I thought it was better to have the themes painted on the inside so they wouldn’t rub off.”
Whooley plans to expand her line of baubles, which retail at €10 for small ones and €14.99 for larger ones, to include baubles for Christenings, birthdays and wedding anniversaries. “I am taking part in Showcase Ireland in the RDS this month. My next aim is to get the baubles listed in more retail outlets across the country and diversify away from doing Christmas baubles.”
Also busy in the run-up to Christmas was Kildare teenager Tara Haughton, who runs Rosso Solini. “I ran a few deals on daily deal sites such as Groupon, so got a good few orders from them.”
Haughton may be just 17, but so far this year her designer sole business has sold nearly 200,000 units to more than 50 countries. The company produces stickers for the soles of shoes to create designer heel lookalikes.
The Cross and Passion College student received a six-figure order for her fashion product following an appearance on US shopping channel QVC in September, and plans to make a second appearance on the channel in March.