Entrepreneur of the Year award finalists Aoife Lawler and Niamh Sherwin Barry, The Irish Fairy Door Company

Fairytale start via ‘The Late Late Show’ opens doors for fast-growing business venture

Aoife Lawler and Niamh Sherwin Barry have a highly unusual job: they help fairies relocate into homes and gardens all over the world by producing high-quality wooden Irish fairy doors.

The Irish Fairy Door Company, which currently employs 15 people, started trading in August 2013. Since then it has sold close to 500,000 products globally.

The firm's main markets are Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada, but it has shipped pieces to over 120 countries.

Describe your business model and what makes your business unique

We truly believe in what we have created. We here in Fairy HQ believe that every child should have a fairy living with them. When we established our company, that was our aim and at present, every second child has one in Ireland, so we now want to replicate that across the world.

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To achieve this, we sell our doors and accessories in thousands of shops around the world. We also support our believers with weekly content to encourage imaginative play with their fairy.

At the same time as selling the physical products, we are developing “Fairy Valley, our digital world and a new TV series. Once we achieve this we will have an “evergreen” product with lasting significance in all families’ lives.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

Our growth rate has been exceptional in more ways than one. Within months of our initial sale we had retailers and distributors knocking at our door.

Being able to keep up with the growth and basically walk before we run has been the most difficult thing to overcome. Getting help from mentors from Enterprise Ireland has been of use as has speaking to people whom are a little ahead of us in business terms.

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?

Probably our first round of funding from LEO South Dublin. That and our appearance on The Late Late Toy Show in 2014, which led to our website crashing!

Describe your growth funding path

At present, we are funding our growth through a combination of sources. We self-fund through our online and distribution sales. We are supported by Enterprise Ireland as a HPSU unit, and are also backed by our bank, Bank of Ireland.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

Trading in all of the major mass retailers in the US and across the world. Also for us to have an animated series up and running on TV both here and in North America.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

HR is by far the toughest thing for me. Having to let people go is a tough one, especially when they are the kind of people who give the company so much.

What was your biggest business mistake?

Not recognising the importance of the difference between an “eager amateur” and a “trained professional”. The financial strain of a paid professional can yield much higher and far-reaching results, very very quickly.

What “red tape” hampers growth most?

The paperwork needed to deal with the bigger retailers around the world. To sell into some of these retailers, the process of setting up the correct paperwork can last up to seven months. By that time sometimes the deal may have gone cold pushing us into going through an existing channel which takes away from our margin.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to Government to stimulate the economy?

Put a proper plan in place for small business when it comes to Brexit. It really is very worrying for small- to medium-sized businesses not knowing what is going to happen next and not being able to be reassured by the Government.