Ciara Whooley - Irish Baubles

NO-FEE-Student-Enterprise-3281-300x218She started the business in Transition Year, and it’s still going from strength to strength, even as she enters her 6th & final year in St David’s Secondary School in Greystones! Barely needing an introduction, Ciara Whooley is the current Wicklow poster girl for our nationwide initiative, The Student Enterprise Awards. We here at Wicklow CEB are amazingly proud of everything she has achieved to date, and are thrilled that she even managed time to take part in our Enterprise Hot Seat before heading back to school for the last time. Thanks so much Ciara!

What led you to starting your business? From a very young age I was always starting little businesses, whether it was selling toys outside my house or cards at the local car boot sale. It was just something I was interested in. So when my business teacher said at the end of third year to get thinking about business ideas for the Student Enterprise Awards I got my thinking cap on! Throughout my childhood my parents had always taken us to craft fairs in Ireland and around Europe. We always purchased a Christmas decoration to remind us of our visit and when I got back I always thought – Why is there nothing for Greystones? So during the summer of 2011 Irish Baubles was born.

photo-11-150x150How did you raise the start-up funds you needed?I had some saving in the Credit Union from babysitting and of course my Communion money(!) and then my parents lent me the remainder I needed to place my first order!

What was the most significant lesson you learned in starting your business? Ask for help! The support I have received from so many people is unreal. Wicklow County Enterprise Board, my school, St. David’s, friends, family and local businesses; everyone has been so helpful.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read, business or non-business? I can’t say I’ve read many business books, my generation tend to find Twilight a more interesting read! I do however remember having a book when I was younger about a girl who had saved all her pocket money to buy something on the way home from the post office, and on the way had looked in all of the shops to see what was on offer. When they got to the post office her mom discovered she had left her purse at home so the little girl gave her pocket money to her mom. On the way back the little girl told all the business owners why she couldn’t buy their goods, and in return all the shop owners gave her the goods as a gift. To me that is a great way to build up relationships with customers and that’s the kind of business I want to run!

DSC01083-150x150Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most? When I was growing up we lived in Swords and I watched my next door neighbour grow his business from his dining room table to one of the biggest printing companies in Ireland, I think that is pretty amazing!

What have the biggest challenges in your business been, to date? My biggest challenge is defiantly juggling time, and that’s only going to get harder this year with the Leaving Cert. However I am so lucky to have my family 100% behind the business, they sit in cold craft fairs; they drive me all around the country and never let one bad bauble pass quality control. Who could ask for a better team?!

What has been the proudest moment in your business so far? Winning the National Student Enterprise Awards defiantly has been my proudest moment so far. Winning gave me the confidence to grow my business and also to take part in other opportunities such as Junior Dragons Den and Showcase Ireland.PV-071212-ENGAGE-131-150x150

What was the best piece of business advice you ever got? Never give up and follow your instincts - I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true! So many people that told me Irish Baubles would not work, but I just went for it, and I think that’s really what you have to do.

Can you recommend a good time management technique for other entrepreneurs out there? When my friends and family read this they will definitely laugh because time management is not my strong point. However I have, without a doubt, got better over the past year or two! I like to divide my day into sections and because when I’m dealing with China, an early morning is crucial. I wake at around 7am, check my emails and then head to school for 9am (I never check email during class!). At 11am I return any missed calls and do the same at 1pm during lunch. At 3.30pm I finish school and spend around an hour “Baubling,” then do my homework. When that’s done, I check everything is ok in baubles HQ, relax for a while and then bed!

What is your favourite film? I love comedies and Simon Pegg so it has to be Hot Fuzz!

What is your favourite ad? I loved the Ikea ad this summer with the gnomes, and it was perfect because we were having such good weather, it really made us brighten up the garden!

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business? Like I said earlier you just have to go for it, follow your instinct and don’t give up.

What do you like to do when you’re not running your business? I do debating in school which I really enjoy, but mainly when I have free time I like spending it with friends, relaxing and having fun!

Have you found the self-employed formula for a work/life balance? I’m not very good at finding any formulas – as my maths teacher will tell you! - but I suppose working in the morning and the afternoon works best for me, and if I’m out in the evening and I happen to get a phone call I really don’t mind. Turning off the phone is not really an option because you never know when an opportunity will come knocking!

Wicklow-Gaol-original-fran-150x150What’s your website? You can purchase baubles or find out more about my business on 

Do you have a Facebook page?

Are you on Twitter?

How has Wicklow CEB helped you and/or your business? Without Wicklow CEB God knows where I’d be, they set me up an excellent business coach, Young Biz Founder Jacqui Mc Nabb and gave me the opportunity to represent Wicklow in the National Student Enterprise Awards. Wicklow CEB also helped me secure a stand in the Enterprise Zone at Showcase Ireland, which has really helped expand the business worldwide.

If you could start up all over again, would you do anything differently? Honestly I don’t think so; everything has worked out so well. Of course I’ve made mistakes but I’ve learned from them. I remember someone saying before, hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all. Running a business is hard work, but it’s so worth


We wish Ciara the very best of luck in 6th Year and her Leaving Certificate. As with all students, whether you take the plunge at graduation or later in life, consider self employment as a career choice – we will be here to help you along the way!