Laoise Leahy founded By Leahy Jewellery in 2019, initially as a sideline to her full-time work in the tech industry. Support for Irish-made products during the pandemic, however, resulted in a surge of business, with Leahy committing full-time to the brand from the start of 2022.
Are you a saver or a spender?
I’m definitely more of a saver. One of the best things my dad taught me was to save. When we were younger, he brought me and my sisters into the post office every Saturday to lodge whatever amount of pocket money we had saved that week in exchange for a squirrel stamp. I started my business with my savings and have been bootstrapping it ever since.
Do you shop around for better value?
If it’s an expensive item, absolutely. I don’t feel satisfied until I know I’ve got the best value, and sometimes it can really pay to shop around.
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
My Phoebe Philo Celine Belt Bag. I’d wanted it for years and, when I left London, I bought it as a way of marking my experience there – or at least that’s the excuse I gave myself. Plus, it’s 25 per cent more expensive now, so technically it was an investment and on a cost-per-wear basis, it’s paid for itself by now.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
I recently purchased an engraving machine. It was a significant capital investment. Prior to that, I had outsourced the engraving element of the business but, as demand grew, I knew I needed to bring it in-house to eliminate any risk exposure. It is invaluable.
How did you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local?
Both. The Design and Craft Council of Ireland-backed Made Local Campaign started in 2020 and it was incredible for encouraging everyone to consider local and to appreciate the wealth of talent and choice in Ireland. With support from the Local Enterprise Office, so many local businesses could shift online, meaning we could now shop both local and online, and I’ve continued to do both.
Do you haggle over prices?
I’m terrible for this. I don’t chance it often enough. My husband loves to ask for a “small farmer’s discount”. He does it with a cheeky laugh and always gets one.
How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits?
I always think Irish first – can I buy what I’m looking for from an Irish brand or Irish-based business? Last Christmas, I committed to buying 100 per cent Irish. I managed to buy everything but one item in Ireland. I’m taking the same approach this year.
Do you invest in shares?
Yes. I consider myself lucky to have discovered (and worked for) MyWallSt, and Emmet Savage, who got me started on my investing journey. They make the whole investing experience enjoyable and accessible. I’ve also invested in another business through crowdfunding.
Cash or card?
Both, but with a leaning towards card.
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
A cot for our little boy who has just turned six months and is moving into his own room. On the recommendation of a friend, we bought it from a superb stockist in Tralee, and they’re hard to beat on price for large-ticket baby items.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
I’ve got into the habit of continually saving so when it came to big purchases like my car or the engraving machine, I was able, thankfully, to purchase them without incurring debt.
Have you ever lost money?
The stock market isn’t looking too pretty lately so my portfolio is down, but I’d only be losing if I were to sell and lock in the loss. I’m in for the long term.
Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?
I enjoy a day at the races and I’ll always have a small bet. I got lucky with the winner in the Grand National in 2016 and that was my biggest win to date.
Is money important to you?
It is in so far as the freedom, independence and options it affords me.
How much money do you have on you now?
€110 in my wallet and change for the trolley, plus €10 in my phone case for emergencies.
in conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea