SmartWorking Mother Launches Luxury Brand From Rural To Global
Today we welcome guest blogger, Alison McEvoy who shares her heartwarming experiences on juggling motherhood whilst designing an organic kidswear range and transforming the Future of Work 🙂 Alison designs, creates and runs her brand remotely from her hometown of Abbeyleix in Laois!
Our attitudes to work, the workplace and employment are changing for the better, thankfully. Unlike many rural residents, I don’t have a long daily commute to work in Dublin. I’m self-employed, my business is called AAMcEvoy and I design luxury organic children’s clothing which is made in Ireland.
From Abbeyleix, Laois, I can do all of this.
I created AAMcEvoy in a way that suited both myself and my daughter, Annie. A way that offers flexibility. Annie is now three and in play school- which you would think means I’d get more done but it’s almost the same amount! It’s all about trying to adjust and tailor your work hours to have time to spend with family and increase productivity whilst working. When I was thinking about starting a childrenswear brand I was drawing on my background in fashion design, retail and newfound motherhood but needed to find a way of scaling it from my rural town in Laois.
Smart Living through SmartWorking
I think small towns and villages could take a leaf out of eco villages like Clough Jordan’s book in their approach to sustainable living in a community setting. Smaller towns and villages have potential to change faster than city hubs. I’m a huge believer of supporting local- the local butcher, the local baker, greengrocer etc. Supporting small businesses builds the community. As I write this I’m sitting in my local bakery, Mueller & O’Connell’s in Abbeyleix, having (multiple) coffees. Supporting local business’ helps rural areas to regenerate.
I love where I live, and I would never want my work to dictate where I live. I also understand that not everyone is in that position. Abbeyleix, along with being a heritage town, is also a very authentic town. Geographic flexibility is very important and I would love to see co-working spaces like we see in Dublin, spread to outside of the capital. It’s something that I would be really interested in being part of.
The ‘Work/Life Balance’ idea is so out of date, certainly for me anyway. One side is under pressure to keep the other afloat which isn’t a healthy way to live. Neither should negatively impact the other.
Challenges to Overcome
Being self employed in Rural Ireland can have its challenges; slower internet speed, courier deliveries when postcodes are either not passed to the courier or not used by that courier service to find the location but I have usually been lucky as we have gotten to know our local delivery man, Tony so there has never been any issue. There is also the assumption that you are based in Dublin when people schedule last minute meetings. Working from home is full of distractions and it requires a lot of discipline.
Mindset for Good Measure
Self-employment is also full of opportunity but you have to think differently, logistically etc! Not everything is right on our doorstep and that gives us a slightly different mindset. I can just as easily send an AAMcEvoy order to France or Japan just like anywhere else in the country. To exhibit at trade shows in Paris or Florence and have people come up to me and say ‘Oh I follow you on Instagram, I love your brand and I love that its made in Ireland’. That is amazing to hear because in the back of my head I’m thinking about the small operation I have and that they love a little brand from Abbeyleix. And of course a little bit of Irish pride thrown in for good measure. Again, we are determined to build our brand from Laois, to support local and go global.
Some of the huge advantages of working from home include the ability to make coffee (a must!) and also that you can leave when you need to. It gives me the flexibility that I need to bring Annie to play school, collect her or visit the production unit. Also, having an escape from the stresses of work, even just for a few minutes to be able to think clearly is invaluable. That for me is my little veggie patch. Taking a few minutes away from the computer to be on my own is so beneficial for me. The stress leaves almost immediately, whether its planting seeds, pulling weeds or picking some flowers to bring into the house. I used lots of different pollinator seeds so the garden is constantly humming, it’s such a relaxing sound. Apart form all that, you get a kick out of running out to grab some broccoli or courgettes! I get the chance to do this by flexible working.
AAMcEvoy on the Future of Work
I would love to see innovation hubs dotted around the Midlands, the likes of the Tara Building and newly opened Talent Garden hotdesks are fantastic additions. We can see that it is the way forward. This gives entrepreneurs and startups the ability to have ‘an office’, a place of work, somewhere to leave their house and know that they are going to work. Having innovative and design thinkers congregating in one area makes a positive change to that area. Bank of Ireland even has hotdesking at their Workbenches. This is the Future of Work!
In terms of flexible working and diversity, Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka is leading the way. She started a campaign in the UK called ‘Flex Appeal’. If she did a talk in Ireland, I would definitely go and support the cause. Anna campaigns for flexible working conditions for parents, also on maternity discrimination and the Gender Pay Gap. Anna is a woman to watch! Flexible working for parents would positively impact every aspect of their life.
As they say, positive input leads to positive output. Flexible working is so important especially for parents. With the rising costs of rent and childcare I see it as the way forward. To feel that your company values you enough to do that is fantastic and it also leads to more output as you’re happier in your job. As we all know a negative work environment equally impacts negatively.
Not Limited by Location
By working, ‘smart’, you are not limited by location. We have been incredibly lucky in our short time in business. We have been mentioned in many newspapers, trade magazines, blogs and websites. We have made the shortlist for The Irish Country Magazine Irish Made Awards in 2018 & 2017 in the fashion category, the regional shortlist for Bank of Ireland Startup Awards in 2018 & 2017 and most recently we were finalists in the prestigious Future Maker competitions run by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland.
Business is mainly through AAMcEvoy and recently we added a really cool retailer in Japan. They will stock our Spring Summer 2019 collection. We are just over a year in business since launching the first collection, so we are very excited about it. We have exhibited at major international trade shows in Florence and Paris each season to meet buyers, build relationships and take orders. We have also just signed with an agent in Paris, they will represent AAMcEvoy in France, North America, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and Finland. Having a business based in Rural Ireland still means that you can be seen on the international stage. SmartWorking facilitates cross border connections by utilising technology such as email, interview calls and courier services.
And with that, AAMcEvoy is determined to grow, inspire and innovate – the Smart Way.
Guest Blogger Bio:
Businesswoman, designer and Mum to Annie, Alison McEvoy shares her inspiring story. Building a brand from the greenfields of Co. Laois, AAMcEvoy is a growing Irish brand offering the softest, luxury organic kidswear. With Christmas around the corner, Alison will be showcasing the collection at The Dublin Christmas Flea Market in the Point from December 6th-9th and Playtime Paris in January.
The Brand: There are so many totally impractical and unsuitable baby and toddler styles of clothing. So this list of impracticalities became my list of things to improve. We only use super soft organic cotton which is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified, we use envelope neck openings, everything is slightly larger size and of course all AAMcEvoy products are made in Ireland, ethically. Our logo just like our brand name features two A’s which looks like a mother and a child or a mountain and a hill. One A for Alison and one A for Annie, my daughter.