The Irish Fairy Door Company

Making It Happen

A magical fairy story with global ambition becomes a reality!

Niamh Sherwin Barry

Once upon a time, four friends had a wonderful idea to start a business which made children happy and feel good about themselves. 

It might seem far-fetched, but it is true about how the Irish Fairy Door Company went from being just an idea between friends to getting off the ground with a Business Priming Grant from their Local Enterprise Office South Dublin.

Co-founder Niamh Sherwin Barry recalls: “My husband, Oisín, and I had an awful time in the recession around 2008 - 2010, we almost lost everything, and our friends Aoife and Gavin weren’t too far behind us.

"One evening in June 2013, Aoife and I were chatting at the kitchen table about these little shapes that looked like doors, and we had called them fairy doors. We were just discussing what our fairies were doing and we were laughing about it, and that got us and our husbands thinking that we could definitely make money out of this.”

The four friends decided to make a go of it but soon realised their idea to build a magical world for children behind fairy doors would need more capital than they could provide.

Niamh continues: “Our Local Enterprise office South Dublin was just incredible. We got funding and it was totally game changing. We used it for developing the product, the website and for marketing on social media. We had been sitting around the kitchen table making the doors ourselves but now we were able to take on carpenters to make the doors.”

“The LEO also gave us lots of mentoring and support, getting us ready to export, they were absolutely brilliant – and it continued when we transitioned to Enterprise Ireland."

Fairy doors, fairy friends, fairy accessories and fairy books and activities soon followed, as the Irish Fairy Door Company, now an Enterprise Ireland client, started selling globally. More than 750,000 products have been sold worldwide, with that number growing daily.

The fairy characters and stories are now being brought to life online as part of a “game changing” global animation deal with Wild Brain, a digital network with over 50 million subscribers and a portfolio that includes brands such as Fireman Sam, Curious George, Shopkins and Ben 10.

Niamh says: “They’re making cartoons about five Fairy Door characters. There’s the protagonist ad the antagonist, then there’s a baddie, and we also have a guardian – it’s all very much based on our concept.

“Our Worry Plaque is also a big part of the animation - it’s about being able to give your worries away and the fairies enabling children to worry less. It’s a huge part of the storyline because we’re very much firmly in the wellness space.”

The Irish Fairy Door animation will be available initially on Wild Brain’s YouTube channel with plans for terrestrial or streamed TV service in the future. The move means that new product ideas may well be impacted by the success and popularity of the characters in the cartoons.

The Irish Fairy Door Company’s position as one of Ireland’s most iconic and successful toy exporting franchises all seems a long way from the company’s humble beginnings round a kitchen table as the country started to emerge from the depths of the economic crash.

For Niamh, however, the advice and support she and her co-founders received from their LEO in the early days has stayed with her – and she is quick to point fellow entrepreneurs in the same direction.

She says: “I do talks up and down the Country for early start-ups and there is one message I always, always say – go to your Local Enterprise Office, see what they’re at, see what information they can give you.

“Apart from the likes of funding and mentorship, when you are an entrepreneur it can be a very lonely road, particularly if you’re in business by yourself, and when you go to the LEO it’s like feeling part of something. Part of a business community and I believe that has a hugely beneficial effect on people that are beginning their entrepreneurial journey.”

Thomas Rooney, Head of Local Enterprise at Local Enterprise Office South Dublin says that businesses such as the Irish Fairy Door Company epitomise the benefits of engaging with your Local Enterprise Office.

“This is what the LEOs are there for, to give people the support that they might not get elsewhere. To be recognised as a place where you can go for help to get started and push on and grow. The Irish Fairy Door Company is proof of this.”

For Niamh, her journey with the Irish Fairy Door Company has instilled in her a belief that other aspiring female entrepreneurs can also turn their great ideas into great businesses. 

“There is nothing stronger that one woman helping another – I really do feel that. The networks for women run by the LEOs and Enterprise Ireland are tremendous for providing support and belief that you can achieve your goals."

If you want to grow your small business, talk to us. Together we can make it happen.