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Image / Agenda / Business

My Career: Entrepreneur Ciara Walsh


By Sarah Finnan
13th Jun 2024

Photo by Julien Behal Photography

My Career: Entrepreneur Ciara Walsh

At 19 years old, Ciara Walsh co-founded her own company – JUSTTIP, an Irish company specialising in cashless tipping solutions for the hospitality sector. Launching the idea in the midst of Covid, it’s been a steep learning curve for Ciara and her business partner, James Fahy, but the company has gone from strength to strength ever since. Here Ciara tells us more about her career journey to date.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
To be honest, no, I had never really seen myself as an entrepreneur. It was never really put forth as an option in school, but when the opportunity to pursue a great idea arose, I just couldn’t walk away. The thought of building something from the start up, excited me.

In college, I studied… I am actually still finishing my degree on the side in TUD where I am studying marketing.

My most formative work experience was… when my co-founder, James Fahy, and I started JUSTTIP by going door to door on the streets of Dublin asking people for feedback and selling. That was a very new experience for me – I learned that for every 40 “nos”, you will get one “yes” when you are starting out. That was a huge wake-up call for how much blood, sweat, and tears we were going to have to put into this. However, we still put in ten times more than I expected, even then! Another pivotal moment for me and James was hiring a team that inevitably would bring the company down instead of bringing it up, and we were left to pick up the pieces. That was a huge learning. 

My first real job was… working in Debenhams as a Christmas worker when I was 16. I loved it for the time. I then worked in hospitality for the next few years. 

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… that self-belief is half the battle. I think this is something women in particular struggle with. If you believe you can do something, you will find a way to do it. 

A common misconception about what I do is… I work in Fintech but in the marketing sector, and I am also a founder, so there is a level of fundraising, networking and sales there too. There are many misconceptions about what I do, as it is a mixed bag. The main one is probably that in marketing, all we do is design things and make things look good. That is such a small part of what we do, especially in a start-up with no big departments.

My main responsibility in work is to… build a brand identity that we can be proud of, and create and manage close customer relationships. 

Photo by Julien Behal Photography

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
We have a great group of advisors around us; as young founders, this is very important. But I wouldn’t say I have had one mentor as such along the way. I greatly look up to my co-founder James, his drive and ambition inspires me to keep going daily; so in our journey so far I would say he has probably been someone who has taught me the most.

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… I am still very early in my career, so it would have to be starting JUSTTIP in the first place. Taking time out of a traditional degree route to build something of your own can be intimidating. 

I wake at… 5:30am/6am on weekdays. 

The first thing I do every morning is… probably go on my phone, to be honest, but then I like to say three things I am grateful for in my head before I get up and make the bed.

My morning routine is… get up, make my bed. About three days a week I will have a gym class, but if I don’t I will be in the office early for about 7:30am. It is about an hour away so on the commute, I will definitely pick up at least one coffee. I usually bring breakfast with me to eat in the office, but I always make it the night before because even though I am up early, I am not a morning person. My evenings make my mornings possible!  

I can’t go to work without… having a coffee and checking my calendar for the day.

 I travel to work by… bus.

I start my working day at… 7:30am/8am.

The first thing I do at work is… plan my day for the first 20 to 30 minutes. 

I usually spend the first portion of the day… I prefer to do calls as early as possible, so If I can I will. If that’s not possible, I usually do the tasks I am dreading the most first.

I break for lunch at… different times every day, it all depends on my call schedule, and I usually have pasta with pesto, or I will go out with the team and get a sprout salad.

The most useful business tool I use every day is… Canva for decks and things. As I don’t have a graphic design background, it helps a lot. We also use Slack every day.

I save time by… time blocking throughout the day. 

The best part of my day is… having a bit of fun in the office with our great team is my favourite part of the day and this helps me look forward to work every day.

The most challenging part of my day is… getting up in the morning. It is something I have had to train myself to do repeatedly. I still find it very hard, especially in the winter. 

I know it’s been a good day if… I have had the time to get through at least most of my to-do list for the day. Calls often pop up throughout the day which can make this difficult. I also love finishing even one task I have been dreading. It gives me a sense of relief and pride that makes me want to continue working later. 

I usually end my day at… 8pm or 9pm, it depends on the day.

I switch off from work by… exercising. It is something I have recently found super helpful. Social events with friends outside of work are very recharging for me as a balance between work and personal life is something I am still figuring out. 

Before I go to bed, I’ll… make any lunch or breakfast for the next day, set out all my clothes, and pack a gym bag if I need it for the next day. Anything I can do in the evening to make my morning easier really helps. 

I often prepare for tomorrow by… reflecting on any KPIs or goals I have set for the week and working backwards to see where I am at. Once I am aware of where I am at, it is a lot easier to plan the following day.

After a long work week, I destress by… doing yoga, but I also love having a nice dinner or drink with family and friends. Both of these options are great, depending on the week that’s in it. 

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… my career journey, which began differently to most. My co-founder and I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. JUSTTIP which I started when I was 19 has become a labour of love as we are making a positive impact in the lives of employees that use the system. The platform which began with an idea has processed over €2m in tips to over 7,500 employees, increasing their living wage in three countries. Internally we have 14 employees, and our team continues to grow. 

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… know where you want to be. Understand what the end goal is and work toward that as a North Star. Being an entrepreneur and first-time founder has its challenges and the path to success is not linear. With this North Star, you can get through the tough days one step at a time. 

I’ve just finished working on… a PR campaign and raising funding with my co-founder. At the moment I’m working on a UK launch. 

Imagery courtesy of Ciara Walsh