Provide a brief description of your business. What do you do in a nutshell?
I have a children’s wear brand called UPA (pronounced oopah) since 2016. I’m the founder, creative director, and designer, producing luxury children’s fashion. We exhibit in Florence and are mainly wholesale at the moment and we export to Middle East China, New York, and Europe.
Which sector does your business idea belong to?
Textile and retail sector
Describe the opportunity: What problem does your business idea solve? What challenges and pain points are you resolving for users/customers?
We only started to develop before when Covid hit and everything changed after that because we were a very young brand.
We are in very unclear times now with prices increasing. It’s more challenging as everything is more expensive and we have to be innovative.
Mothers are inspired by children and even my mother knit silk dress for my daughter and that’s where I got the idea. I just dived in and did not even research. I created a photo shoot, and registered a business and it was based on a hobby and not a business in mind when I started.
I design high-end, luxury clothing for children, made from sustainable materials and ethical sources.
Describe the Team: How many people were involved from the beginning? How were they involved?
Along the way, there are so many people involved and it’s not just my own accomplishment. Family, friends, and certain jobs are outsourced and some are willing to contribute to this project. Then it started to look more like a business and then I started to ask others to be involved.
I’m really grateful for the training, mentoring, and grants and I have accessed a lot of support such as the Local Enterprise Office. I started on the Start Your Own Business program as I was unemployed at the time.
Describe the Target Market: Who is your target market? Who makes up your target audience?
Boutiques or retail chains for children. Buyers want to see you in the market long enough before the select the product for their outlets. In the beginning, I went to the wrong trade show as it wasn’t my market. I have to go to trade shows where the buyers chose who they the brands they want to work with.
I also have private clients from all around the world from Ireland to Japan.
Funding Required: How much did it cost to begin approximately? Where did the initial funding go? How did you acquire that funding?
Marketing for trade shows was the biggest area. I was invited to a sustainable brands expo were hand-picked to exhibit. It’s the biggest fashion trade show in the world, which validated my product and proves my value and the product is worthy of being there.
Preparing the showcase, and developing new collections cost a lot of time and money.
Brief Financial Profitability Estimate: How long did it take for your business to become profitable?
With the inclusion of Covid, I’m not at the stage where the is no room for growth and I probably will never be. Seeing potential for growth shows the development. It took three of four years to feel more confident.
I still need to work out more things because we are targeting a very niche market and we may have to consider compromising some of our products to offer to the wider market in order to broaden customer base.
The trade shows showed me how to present my products and by the third year I knew what I was doing. It needs persistence and passion to continue and develop.
You must have creative passion to succeed even in finance, and have patience as there are sacrifices to be made at the initial stage such as not having family holidays
Industry Analysis: What are some key elements related to being successful in your industry? What does your business have that your competitors don’t?
I want to see my brand up there with Dolce Gabbana because it’s sustainable and it deserves to be there.
My brand has a soul, a sense of community and it’s like art. It’s quite hard for us to break through in this market as people are only now that people are going for sustainable designs and practices and we have to do something to avoid climate catastrophe. Its down to the fabrics we use and fair labour for example. We set ourselves apart with the quality such as French seems. Other designers love to physically touch the designs and we can see the admiration from competitors. We know we not there yet and have to do more work on marketing as other designers are always coming in.
SWOT Analysis: What are the main Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of your company?
My strength is to develop good visuals, films, editorials and how to present products to their best, children’s couture and how they compliment other things.
I’m a qualified interior designer and when I was studying I had to do a SWOT analysis and my tutor wrote ‘living in a dream land!”. But I am where I am because I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and I want to become a better business woman. I don’t have a bad business mind but I don’t always follow the rules. If I think by the book, I wouldn’t have new exciting collaborations with other brands, such as with India now. I refer to these things (SWOT), but I don’t always use them.
Legal Requirements: What are the basic legal requirements for someone to start this business in your country? Are there any licenses they need to obtain?
If you search, you will find the information and I wasn’t afraid to call a lot of places for the information such as the Citizens Information Centre. When I look back it took me many years to access programmes and mentors. When you are starting something, it’s all networking and you need to meet people and talk to them, from multiple areas.
If from the EU, residents here can register the business name with the CRO. You need to have capital, and work it out very well.
Creative Cultural Entrepreneurship course and adapting it to my business. There are so many here in Ireland and access such as Springboard and you can build and learn new things all the time and become your own asset.
Which hard skills and specific knowledge will the individual require to become successful if they implement your business idea?
Cultural background is an aspect and all immigrants can feel similar and I do as well – we are not rooted here (the new country), especially for new emigrants. I’m from Lithuania and it was a harder country when I left but in Ireland everyone is smiling at you. I was taken aback when people used to stop you and say, “hi, how are you?” Communicating properly is important and especially if you come here with a family. It would be easier to blend into an Irish community as I came here in on my own.
Which soft skills will the individual require to become successful if they implement your business idea? (communication skills, leadership skills, etc.)
Utilize the likes of Instagram. It’s of huge importance for UPA
Please provide any final comments, links, and resources related to your business idea.
Don’t be afraid to try another business idea if one fails.
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