There have been many proud moments for Heidi in her business since she started but she cites that one of her proudest was when she relocated to her new boutique in Portlaoise last year, which included a design studio. “I always wanted to have my design studio and my boutique all under the one roof, says Heidi. It is the perfect location to meet my clients and my buyers and now I have more space to showcase my designs”.
Heidi is a graduate of the National College of Art & Design where she studied Fashion Design. When she was in college, she applied for work experience and was thrilled when she was given the opportunity to work with Louise Kennedy in her Merrion Square Studio and Boutique in Dublin. Working with an international designer was a great experience for Heidi and she learned so much during her time there.
Heidi sells her collection to a number of high-end boutiques and her designs are also stocked in Brown Thomas. “This did not happen overnight, say Heidi. It was hard work to get to where I am right now but it has been worth it”. She started her business with a loan from her local Credit Union of €2,000. She rented out a space in The Loft in the Powerscourt Centre in Dublin in April 2009. While her designs were well received, the money had to go back into the business to create the next season’s collection and business costs i.e. rent, etc. so there was very little money left over. This was a tough time but Heidi was persistent.
Heidi uses only the best fabrics and sources her materials from Italian Mills, which all leading Fashion Houses procure from. She is quality driven and while of course there are elements of trends in her designs, she gets most of her inspiration from creating a truly unique feminine and classic look. “I have created a distinctive look, Heidi says. My clients love it and come back each season to view my collections”. Heidi has worked hard to create the ‘Heidi Higgins’ brand and is always pleased when it is recognisable by the fashion editors.
Heidi also contributes to her success to the fact that she always challenges herself. She is a hard worker and has a strong determination to succeed. What makes her unique in this type of business is that she loves the ‘thrill’ of doing business with her B2B clients and the satisfaction it brings when you get a sale and there is a win-win for all concerned. She also loves the balance of the creative side of her business and enjoys creating beautiful designs for her clients. She is always happy when her clients are happy and a real testament of her client satisfaction is the fact that they always come back. She is also delighted that people are travelling to her Boutique on Grattan Street in Portlaoise from counties as far as Cork and Donegal.
She is currently rebranding her business and revamping her website to appeal more to a global audience. Being online activity is critical for her business. Heidi is active on the various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and has over 1,200 subscribers to her Online Newsletter. There is great engagement on her Facebook page and she is keen to explore other social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest on the new website. Trade Fairs are also key and as they are an expensive marketing spend; she is very selective about the Trade Fairs she will participate in.
The best advice that Heidi was given was from a Business Teacher in her local secondary school when she said that ‘Persistence always pays off in the end’. Heidi believes in this wholeheartedly and she applies this thinking into her business all of the time and it has certainly worked for her.
Heidi entered the Irish Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) run by Enterprise Ireland in conjunction with Laois Local Enterprise Office in 2014 and won the prize for the Best Established Business with Add-On. She is using the €20,000 prize fund to grow her brand on an international platform. She has been accepted to participate at the prestigious Fashion Fair Scoop London which takes place during London Fashion Week in September. Heidi is very excited that her Collection has been chosen, as this Show is one of the highlights of London Fashion week. It focuses on contemporary and premium UK and international designers and Scoop London will run at the Saatchi Gallery from 20-22 September 2015. Heidi hopes to have all her rebranding and new website up and running by then and with the IBYE Award, she is in a much better position to do this.
The IBYE competition also gave Heidi the opportunity to sit down and think more about her business. She also enjoyed the networking experience with young entrepreneurs going through similar issues and it was very good to get feedback on her business.
Heidi says this about her IBYE journey “The IBYE competition has provided me with a platform to gain profile for my business and create a greater awareness around my brand. The prize fund has provided me with the opportunity to implement new business ideas and explore new opportunities. The training and mentoring offered during my IBYE journey has helped prepare both myself and my business for new ventures both in Ireland and overseas”.
Heidi’s advice to any new budding entrepreneur starting out would be ‘go for it’. “Go in on a small scale, Heidi advises. Test the local market and do all the necessary ground work. You will learn as you go and you can then build your business step-by-step”.
Heidi’s store is located on 42 Grattan Street in Portlaoise and she can be contacted at email@example.com . Check out her website www.heidihiggins.com to view her latest Collection.
Laois Local Enterprise Office are now taking applications for the various categories in the 2015 Irish Business Young Entrepreneur Award. For more information, please visit www.localenterprise.ie/laois/ibye/