Happynest - Premium Nursery Products & Babywear

Christine Carolan HappynestOur Client, Christine Carolan, talks to us about her journey in founding Happynest which provides a unique range of premium quality reversible nursery products and babywear.

What inspired you to set-up Happynest?

As long as I can remember I have designed costumes for amateur plays, changed items of clothing with tweaks here and there. As a working mum of two I found I had less time to work on designs as I juggled work and family life. I always said in the back of my mind I would love to be self-employed but the situation never really arose to make this wish possible. However, events took an unexpected turn when in 2012 I was suddenly faced with redundancy. My first reaction was one of fear, how was I going to manage financially.  I took some much needed time to think things through and once I got over the initial shock, I decided to reinvent myself and do something I was really passionate about.

Have you always wanted to have your own business?

I love being my own boss! I am a planner by nature, I like things to be organised so I am really at my best when I have things under my own control. I am a people person so the interaction I get from customers, potential buyers and parents really help me strive at what I do. I really enjoy the flexibility and freedom my business gives me. It’s not a 9-5 job which suits me perfectly as a normal working day doesn’t really exist but I’m not complaining! I love the flexibility of working around my role as a mum and also being allowed to pursue my passion which is business.

What makes your products unique in the market place?

The Happynest range of products are my own creative designs, inspired by my experience as a mother. The ethos of the Happynest brand is of safety as well as comfort. Each of the designs I create are with parent and baby in mind. The Cosynest for example was created based on travelling with my girls in the car. I was tired of thick jackets and blankets and always wondering in the back of my mind of the car seat straps were still as secure when they were in the jackets and snowsuits. Our weather is so fickle that you could have the baby all wrapped up in heavy jackets and by the afternoon the sun would be shining and the baby would be overheating in the car. The other unique feature is that my products are reversible from pink to blue, girl to boy. I launched the business with three products to start off with but have a catalogue of designs coming down the line.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge to date?

One of the big challenges I faced was finding the right manufacturer to make the products. This was the tough part of the journey. My standards are very high, especially when it comes to children’s clothing and I needed to ensure that all items passed the stringent safety tests before going into mass production. A lot of the factories struggled with the reversible concept. 

How important is your website to the business?

The Happynest.ie website is so important to our business. We are an e-Commerce platform so it really is the landing point for my customers. We will be investing more in the website as time goes on and I will be applying for the Online Trading Voucher Scheme from LEO Fingal to help me really bring my website up to the next level.  I have started blogging on my website so am always looking at ways of getting traffic to our site. I have ensured we have multiple payment options on the website to ensure customers can purchase our products safe and securely.

How has LEO Fingal helped you establish your business?

LEO Fingal has been instrumental to me starting the business. Once the seed of my business idea was planted, I discussed it with my husband and he backed me 100%. The next question I had was “where do I start”. I googled support for local enterprise and I found the LEO site. I contacted LEO Fingal and the support provided has been fantastic. Since that initial call to LEO Fingal I have completed the Start Your Own Business course, been placed with a business mentor, obtained a feasibility study grant and a business priming grant, which has allowed Happynest to grow. I would highly recommend the Start Your Own Business course, the advice I received while doing the course really stuck with me in relation to playing to your strengths and acknowledging your weaknesses. We covered a wide range of topics and I still revert back to my notes two years later! LEO Fingal has not just been a supporter of Happynest but also a valuable resource for me when I had questions or needed guidance. The team offer an exceptional service and really encourage and celebrate entrepreneurism.

What are your plans for expansion in the near future?

Although we are relatively new to the market, we are already about to stock in two boutiques in Scotland and I am in conversations with retailers in Ireland also. I have a catalogue of designs coming down the road and the feeling on the market is one of excitement.  I have a strong PR campaign behind me and have received endorsements from some very high profile celebrities. We were on IrelandAm on TV3 recently and I am delighted to say the business has really taken off. I will also, in my role as owner and designer of the Happynest brand, be looking to the LEO for more learning and development opportunities.

Have you any words of wisdom for those just starting out?

I did a radio interview recently and was asked if I had any advice for people just starting out. I have had so many learning curves along the way and it’s made me a better business woman for them. I would advise anyone starting out first and foremost to contact their LEO. The support is priceless, I genuinely feel I would have wasted a lot of time and money if I had went in a different direction.  I would advise people to look outside of their family and friends for advice and feedback on a product or service. Your family and friends love you, they are emotionally invested in you and sometimes they don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth. Organise a focus group within your area, targeting your audience and hear from the people who eventually will spend their hard earned money on you or your product.  Last but not least I would say start as you mean to go on, be credible, put yourself out there and know your market and know your field. Use all forms of communication available to you, people will not come to you until you establish yourself as a contender on the marketplace. It’s a tough journey and there are highs and lows and although it’s taken me two years to get from my drawings on paper to an actual business I still feel it’s just the beginning!

For further information on Happynest visit www.happynest.ieHappy Next Products