Joanna Cronin founded Peppermint a few years ago, designing and making high-end costume and semi-precious jewellery in her workshop in Galway.

'Inspired by the Wild Atlantic Way, each piece I make is carefully considered and is either limited edition or one-of-a-kind. I believe that the person wearing my jewellery deserves to feel special, and the knowledge that each piece is either unique or limited edition contributes hugely to that ethos. I specialise in mini collections, for retail, themed around the Wild Atlantic Way and the Irish landscape, with each collection comprising of 30 or so individual designs, all blending together seamlessly to create a stunning offering to the customer that can be built on over time.'

What can you tell us about the early days and how it all started?

I started the business when I took a career break from my job at the time. I wanted to explore my creative side, and had always had an avid interest in jewellery, especially hand-made, but found it difficult to find what I wanted here in Ireland. It seemed only natural to have a go at making my own jewellery. I took some jewellery-making lessons locally, and took to it straight away. Within 6 months of taking those lessons, I was already selling a few pieces and had set up my business. I was very inexperienced at the time, and probably a bit naïve, but I was determined to make a go of it!

What were the high points and low points when you were a start-up?

The high point for me was being my own boss, taking control of what I was doing and the direction I wanted to go in. The low points included the fact that I had no start-up money to speak of, very little experience, and not a lot of knowledge on how to go about what I wanted to do, which held me back to a certain extent.

What was your big ‘break-through’ moment?

I don’t know that I’ve had a big ‘break-through’ moment as of yet. For me, it’s all been about taking my time, learning as I go, making steady progress and growing the business at a rate that I’m comfortable with and feel I can manage as a small business with no employees. Certainly though, having completed the BCDE (Building Craft & Design Enterprise) programme with the Galway LEO and the DCCoI (Design & Craft Council of Ireland), I can see huge improvements in my confidence and in my attitude to developing the business, and am definitely reaping the rewards there. When I started the programme, I was stocked in only 3 shops I think, and as of the end of this July, that has risen to 15. I can definitely say that wouldn’t have happened without doing the programme and with all the support from the mentors, the LEO and the DCCoI.

Your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) has supported your business. Tell us about these supports and what impact they have had?

Once I learned about the LEO and what they offered, I immediately started doing their short courses – one day workshops, 2 day workshops – on everything from ‘Should you start your own business?’ to social media and taxation workshops, all of which were extremely helpful. I can honestly say I’m still using some of the tips & techniques learned in these workshops in my business today. I then undertook the BCDE programme in 2016, which has honestly transformed my business. Not only because of the mentors / tutors involved directly in the programme, but from the support received from the LEO Galway staff. The growth I have achieved in my business to date, plus the confidence I now have due to the knowledge gained and expertise I could lean on, has made all the difference. I have also taken some mentoring from the LEO in a couple of different areas, where I felt I needed additional concentrated expertise to help with specific issues I felt needed addressing – again, the level of mentoring available is absolutely invaluable. I know that if I need help, the LEO is there for me.

Are you optimistic about the future?

Yes, I definitely am. I feel fully confident that I have the tools to enable me to continue to grow the business in the way that I want. Having attended Showcase for the first time in Jan 2018 with the LEO’s help, it has given me even more confidence that what I offer fits into a niche that was largely neglected in recent years, that my business model is attractive to retailers, that doing it on my terms, being mindful of retailer’s needs & expectations, is achievable and has growth potential. I know I wouldn’t be where I am with my business today and going forward, without the support that the LEO Galway offers.

What’s next on the business agenda for your company?

At the moment, I’m still working with new retailers coming on board around Ireland, improving the service I offer to existing retail customers, and am planning for Showcase 2019. I am also making plans to look at possibly extending my business internationally, looking to the UK initially and then possibly the US, but as always, I will take my time and make sure I have all the tools I need to ensure that whatever I do, it will be right for me.

What’s the best piece of advice you got about running a business?

I think the best piece of advice I got in recent times was at an Exporting workshop that the LEO sent me on in Dublin, run by the DCCoI. It has really stuck with me for some reason! Basically, when considering your business, you don’t always have to have the best quality product ever made, but if you can be the best supplier to your retail customers, making their lives easy, then that will ensure your business is successful. I’m not quoting this verbatim, and I do try to have the best product that I can possibly create, but alongside that, I try to be the best supplier to my retail (and individual!) customers that I can be, and am always mindful of their needs in everything that I do.