AIB Backing Brave Content Series: How Trad Time started a new kind of Irish tourism business
10 Feb 2016
Posted in: Business Support
From sweeping coastal scenes to lively villages, the Wild Atlantic Way has much to offer visitors. And with the addition of new “Irish Crafts” store to Doolin Co. Clare, tourists can now source a memorable memento of their adventures along the picturesque route.
Starting a Business in Tourism
Founded by husband and wife duo, Natalie and Aiden Fitzgerald, Irish Crafts is a project that’s close to the duo’s hearts. With a lively trade amongst visitors to Doolin – with 70% of custom coming from tourists – the store has also attracted attention from locals. And it’s easy to see why.
Aiden explains: “Our tagline is ‘A little piece of Ireland’ and that’s what we believe in. It’s about giving people who visit here the opportunity to take home a piece of Ireland.”
“It might be something simple like soap. But that soap will come with a backstory. You’ll know about the people who made it and that the natural raw ingredients are sourced from the West of Ireland. It is genuinely a true piece of Ireland and that’s what we want to deliver.”
Taking a Brave Leap
An exciting approach to the craft industry, breaking away from the tried and tested model of selling more typical souvenirs came after the duo researched the market.
“We looked into the types of visitors that come to Ireland and how that has changed over time. What tourists want is moving away from the 1980s and the 90s when it was all leprechauns and shamrocks. That’s not really what they want anymore,” he explains.
“For the type of market we’re in, there’s a proven history of being able to sell souvenirs like t-shirts and hoodies. All those expected items have a safe track record. But our bravery was in going with a more bespoke, handcrafted offering that is higher in quality but more expensive as a result. That was a risk to take on,” Aiden confirms.
Happily, the couple’s vision has been realised. Now in full swing, Irish Crafts is a firm part of the bustling Doolin community.
“We spend time finding out what our customers have been doing, where they’re heading off to,” Aiden explains, “and we give any advice we can on touring the local area and pointing them in the direction of other things they can do.”
“It’s not all about the sale, it’s about making sure your customer’s expectations are met. They may or may not buy something but we feel it’s a job well done if they leave with a good impression of our local area and of Irish people in general.”
Adapting For the Season
With the experience of starting a business from scratch under their belts, the duo are emphatic when it comes to the importance of having a good relationship with your bank.
Aiden explains: “I think having a personal relationship with your bank is important. Physically being out here on the site, knowing it was more than just a field and being able to see the potential is important.
“Our shop is based in a tourist region so we probably have an 8-9 month window and that’s something where the local knowledge of the relationship manager really comes into play,” he adds.
“They’re used to working with tourist-based businesses and they understand the need for flexible repayment structures and a business overdraft across the low season. They’re aware that some benefits are seasonal and they’re helpful in adapting repayments and support around that calendar.”
Céad Míle Fáilte
The future plans for the store are to leverage Doolin’s reputation as the traditional music capital of Ireland. Aiden reveals: “The overall company was initially set up to build and operate a traditional Irish music visitor experience.”
“Our hope for the future is to head back to where we started with the visitor experience and hopefully within the next five years that will be developed and opened as well.”
Trad Time’s advice to Start-ups is to not be disheartened by challenges involved in setting up a business. “Nothing comes easy. You will go through some stressful hard times and you have to keep perspective. If you believe in your business idea or your product, whatever it may be, you need to stick to it. Do what you have to do to make it happen. Don’t leave any stone unturned because if you do, you may have regrets.”