Inside Track Q&A: Miriam Lloyd of Christening Generations

Even turning wedding dresses into heirloom christening gowns relies on broadband

Miriam Lloyd is the owner of Christening Generations – a bespoke service based in Ballon, Co Carlow, that takes wedding gowns, communion dresses or veils and turns them into heirloom christening gowns. Clients post their gown to Lloyd who then agrees on the design and manufacture via email with the result she can provide the service to customers anywhere in the world.

What's sets your business apart from the competition? I'm not the first person to come up with this idea but I am the first person to market it as a specific design idea in Ireland. I saw an opportunity to have a business idea that could work in an area with relatively low footfall such as Ballon. I meet a lot of brides who like the idea of using their bridal gown to make a christening gown for their baby and future generations rather than leaving it in a box forever.

What was the best piece of business advice you've ever received? "Believe in yourself and be confident in what you do." I didn't always believe in myself and I haven't always been confident, but after five or six years in business I have realised that, if you are not confident when you meet your client, they know.

What's the biggest mistake you've made in business? Being afraid to ask for help. Getting the business off the ground would have been a lot easier if I hadn't been afraid to ask for help. I think you feel in business that you should know everything about things like social media, running a website, how to find your customer. I discovered my local enterprise office in Carlow and no longer hesitate to pick up the phone to ask for help.

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And your major success to date? Being on RTÉ Nationwide in April this year and on Irish TV [an online service aimed at the Irish diaspora] in January. It really has been a huge boost to my business. I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity.

Who do you most admire in business and why? I admire anyone who works hard. I admire Gavin Duffy; I did a workshop with him last year and I was very impressed with his down-to-earth attitude and willingness to help. There are no airs and graces about him for such a successful business person.

Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs? Starting off small means that I have never approached the banks for finance. They seem to be doing a lot of advertising to say that they are open for business at the moment but I don't know how many hoops you'd have to jump through. I am a client of the Carlow local enterprise board and have received a grant from them to upgrade my studio under the rural initiative.

What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy? I would say broadband. I cannot believe the infrastructure hasn't been put in place years ago. As Irish businesses, we have so much potential to export products and services and it's not good enough in this day and age. The Government needs to make it a priority.

What's been the biggest challenge you have had to face? Getting my name out there and building a reputation without a marketing budget. I do everything myself from the design and manufacture of the gowns to the accounts, the website and social media. It's an additional job aside from the design and sewing side of the business.

How do you see the short-term future for your business? I see the future as very bright – media coverage has helped my business a lot and, believe it or not, the christening of Prince George in the traditional robe has helped my business a great deal and has made people see that it is okay to put a boy in a traditional christening gown. In the near future I would love to take someone on to handle the social media and PR side of things.

What's your business worth and would you sell it? I am the business so I am not sure if it is sellable or if anyone would want to by it.