My start-up story: Niamh Fitzsimons, founder of Niamh Design Studio
Surface pattern designer makes baby and kids’ wall arts and homeware products
Niamh Fitzsimons: ‘It does not feel like work when you are passionate about what you do’
1 Give us your pitch. Why should someone buy one of your products? Niamh Design Studio produces design-led products, such as framed personalised baby and kids’ wall arts, branded design journals along with commercial surface pattern baby design collections. Niamh’s designs and products have a unique combination of eclectic design combined with functionality.
2 How did your business come about/where did the idea for it come along? My business has been evolving organically. It has been quite a journey to get to this point. After graduating as a graphic designer in 2000 I knew I was destined for a more specialised area. It took 10 years of striving to discover I am a surface pattern designer. There were no jobs in Ireland for this so I began Niamh Design Studio. I have spent 15 years honing my skills.
3 How long has your business been running and how did you scale it up? The business has been running for five years now. I started off selling and licensing design collections through an agent in the US who sold them to buyers such as Walmart, Target and Robert Kaufman Fabrics. After that I created personalised baby and kids’ wall art sold through my site niamhdesignstudio.com. Then I designed and manufactured my own line of stationery and homeware products.
4 What has been your biggest success in business? The biggest success has been landing my agent for the US markets. They are the best and work with 15 designers from all over the world. I feel lucky to be chosen to work with them.
5 What have been your biggest challenges so far? The biggest challenge so far has been to run a one-woman operation wearing all the hats such as designing, manufacturing, researching, selling etc. The second challenge has been to get the team I need and the finances to fund the expansion of the business.
6 What has been your biggest influence so far as an entrepreneur? The drive and ambition I have felt my whole life has always driven me to reach for success and try to grow all the time. It does not feel like work when you are passionate about what you do. The happiness and excitement you feel when you are working on a few business endeavours at the same time and when you make people happy when they buy your work cannot be described. People buy your joy, so you need to feel it.
7 In the next 12 months what would you like to achieve in your business? To create many more personalised wall arts for babies and kids to keep my customers happy. To create new and exciting surface design collections to sell to the commercial market and to keep working with my agent in the US. I’d also like to keep honing my skills and become one of the top surface pattern designers. A new, exciting website is also currently in the making.
8 What is your best piece of advice for other people setting up start-ups? Always believe in yourself, be positive, stay away from any negativity, and find ways to keep motivated. If you feel overwhelmed take one or two small steps each day to keep moving forward. It can be isolating at times so forge relationships with the business community and learn from the best. My local enterprise office has been a fantastic support.
9 What is the worst business advice you have ever received? This is not the worst advice I received but don’t feel pushed by anyone to enter a showcase straight away. Wait until you have your financing and team set up so you can make sure you can exhibit each year.
10 What is the best thing about being your own boss? Having the freedom and control to create what you like, it flows more. Being a creative, it does not always flow in the nine-to-five time-slot. Making your own design decisions and not being told what to design.
In conversation with Pamela Newenham Niamh Fitzsimons is founder of Niamh Design Studio