Working with my Mum: Louise and Paulette Egan from I-SPY
Our mums and the mom figures in our life make up so many important parts of our lives. Carer, therapist, advisor, friend, but what is it like when you add co-worker to that list? We spoke to Louise Egan of I-SPY clothing about working with her mum Paulette.
28th Mar 2022
In celebration of Mother’s Day on Sunday, we wanted to look at all the different kinds of relationships we have with the most important woman in our lives – including the working ones.
We spoke to 23-year-old entrepreneur, Louise Egan, who set up I-SPY clothing with her mum Paulette.
Tell me a little bit about you, your business and, of course, your mom!
My name is Louise Egan, I’m a 23-year-old entrepreneur and I run I-SPY Clothing alongside my mother, Paulette. We design and sell our own range of fitness and yoga clothing. I have always loved sports and Paulette is a yoga teacher so we had both seen issues such as see-through leggings and uncomfortable tops, to name but a few. We launched I-SPY in 2016 and we’ve been growing rapidly ever since. We’ve now sold to over 20 countries worldwide and we’re about to hit 15,000 orders since we launched.
How did you end up working together?
I was in transition year in 2015 and I was doing a ‘Start Your Own Business’ course as part of my work experience when Paulette came to me and suggested that we start our own fitness clothing range. Neither of us had any idea about starting an e-commerce business at the time but we began working on it and learned along the way. We finally launched in June of 2016 and we’ve never looked back.
At first, did you have any reservations about working with a parent? What were they?
No, I think Paulette and I have always had quite a good relationship so I didn’t think about it too much. When I look back on it now it seems as though we didn’t even think too much about starting the business either! It almost felt like a natural progression rather than a huge decision. There was probably a bit of naivety involved in that but at least it meant we started something we both love!
Has working together impacted your relationship in any way?
Yes I think so, it has definitely brought us closer together because it has given us an excuse to spend time together over the last few years. Especially in the early days, we spent a lot of time together in the car going to different events and training, which was great as we’d have time to talk which we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We’ve always had quite a relaxed, easygoing relationship and working together has definitely added another element to this but it’s been overwhelmingly positive.
Do you have a different dynamic at work compared to at home?
We’ve always worked from home since we started, which has made it tough at times to keep that distinction but we act the same around each other whether we’re working or not. Luckily we both love what we do so it makes it a lot easier to enjoy working together. If there ever is disagreements we’re always able to consider both sides and come to a decision that we both agree with.
Have you set any ground rules between your work and your personal relationship?
Not really, as I said we don’t really have that idea of “work mode” and “home mode” but it’s the same with both of them, we treat each other with respect regardless and we value the other person’s opinion. I think we’re lucky that we started out with a great existing relationship because running a business absolutely has its ups and downs. It would be so much tougher if our first instinct wasn’t to support each other.
There’s no doubt that we find it hard to have a conversation without the business featuring in it so it’s definitely hard to forget about work completely. Sometimes we have to make a point to say “No I-SPY talk” if we need to focus on other things or even if we need a break! And Paulette would probably say that it can be difficult working with me at times since I’m a bit of a perfectionist but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
What are the best things about working with your mum?
Without a doubt the time we’ve gotten to spend together and how much closer it’s brought us. Even at the moment, I’m living in Lisbon for a few months but it gives us an excuse to talk every day. And also just the fun we have. Anyone who follows our Instagram will know that we love to have the craic and we just bounce off each other constantly. After almost 6 years in business, there have definitely been some tough times also and I can easily say that we wouldn’t be here today had we not both been working together.
Are there any particularly cherished moments or memories you have while working with your mom?
So many to be honest but I think my favourite ever was sneaking out of school every Friday for 10 weeks in a row to go to a marketing course with the Clare LEO before we launched. I think the school got a bit suspicious when I went to my 5th “dentist appointment” in as many weeks! But it became a little secret between us and it was the start of me being fully immersed in running the business with Paulette. We still laugh about me getting changed from my business clothes to my school uniform in the car!
What would you tell someone/your younger self about getting into business with your mom?
I would say to go for it and don’t look back. Business can be a lonely place and it was only as we went through our journey that I have realised even more how much I value having Paulette with me on this journey. I definitely don’t envy solo entrepreneurs and who better to join you in a business journey than someone you know will have your back no matter what. I have cherished getting to work with my mam over the last few years and I wouldn’t change a thing.