As part of our partnership with iZest's One a Day project, we're shining a light on Irish businesses and projects that are doing things differently during the pandemic. This week, it's Dainty Bear, whose founder Áine McGurk is paying it forward to other small businesses
Finding great quality stylish footwear for babies and toddlers that are comfortable and easy to wear is a tough task. We all want to find footwear that is durable, looks the part and is well able to withstand the trials and tribulations of a typical child's day.
Dainty Bear is an Irish children's clothing business specialising in comfortable, high quality shoes for kids. Dainty Bear's founder Áine McGurk built the business when she had her own baby girl and noticed the lack of options for new parents who wanted the best quality for their kids.
IMAGE sat down with Áine to chat about her involvement in the One a Day initiative and how important it is for small businesses to stick together during the pandemic.
Tell me a bit about Dainty Bear and the ethos behind the business.
The idea for Dainty Bear was born when, as a new mum, I couldn't easily source good quality, stylish footwear for my daughter Annabel when she was starting to walk. While on maternity leave from my job as an IT manager, I launched the business in May 2018.
My ethos for Dainty Bear is about providing custom designed, timeless traditional shoes and accessories that are designed with children’s comfort in mind. I left my full-time job in September 2019 to concentrate on Dainty Bear 100% and it was the best decision I have ever made! It’s amazing to do what I love and have more time with my two daughters.
How have you had to pivot your business to stay on track since Covid-19?
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have found that fortunately my online sales have increased for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I’ve gained a lot of new customers that previously would have maybe bought their baby or toddler shoes in a high-street store but because they can’t travel they are buying them online.
To help parents select the correct shoes, I created a comprehensive size guide for measuring their child’s foot at home so they can rest assured they are buying the correct size. I also get a lot of direct messages asking for advice on what shoes to buy through my Instagram page @daintybear so I try by best to give whatever advice they need.
Secondly, I have noticed an increased request for baby gifts. Last month, I launched my custom gift box range which is hugely popular as each gift box can be shipped directly to the customer with a hand-written note. A lot of my customers are buying these to send to a new baby or as a first birthday present and I've also had grandparents or godparents buying items to be sent just to say they miss them.
I'm a big believer in listening to customer feedback and something a lot of people asked for was a gift-card option so I launched my gift-card range a couple of weeks ago. By adding these new additions to my business, I'm making up for some of the revenue I have lost from cancelled events and pop-up shops I was meant to do.
What is your best advice for other small business owners to keep going during this time?
My advice for small businesses during this time is to increase their profile online, either via social media, running more advertising campaigns or connecting with free initiatives that will help your business grow, such as One a Day. Take advantage of your Local Enterprise Office courses and funding that might be available. Speak to people that will inspire you to think differently about your business e.g. a mentor.
Listen or read a business-related podcast or book. I love “The Second Life”, a podcast about inspiring female entrepreneurs that have changed their careers. I feel it’s also a great time for reflecting on what is working and not working in your business. There is no better time than now to take the opportunity to tackle and change an area you feel needs a revamp.
You've been shouting out other business owners as part of One a Day - how important is it to support each other during the pandemic?
This is something that I am passionate about so the One a Day initiative was the perfect way to do it. I made sure I researched each business I was promoting so I could give an honest representation on their offering and I was delighted when I received messages back that my shoutouts generated sales and new followers for other businesses.
I think supporting each other is critical, especially in these uncertain times. I have built a strong network of support since starting my business, whether it be fellow small business owners, influencers or repeat customers and I can honestly say they are what helps make Dainty Bear a success.
OneADay is asking people and businesses like Dainty Bear to donate 1% of their time, platform, energy or money towards a cause. iZest see the campaign as a way to curb some of the stress and anxiety around the pandemic, and get people connecting in a new way.
How it works
If you like the sound of putting your newfound free time to good use, here's how the initiative works. If you're a business, you can register your details with iZest and let them know what your OneADay will be. It can be anything — use your imagination. Some great ways to lend your support could be:
- One Hour a Day – If you have the time, use one hour of your day to do some pro bono work for a company or charity that might need the extra help.
- One Call a Day — Give the time for one over-the-phone consultation per day with someone who needs some business guidance.
- One Shout-Out a Day — If you know a small business or someone who needs a signal boost, use your online platform to give them a shout-out.
- One Introduction a Day — Know someone who would be perfect for another company's opening? Use your connections to introduce them.
If you need the services of a company that's involved in OneADay, you can contact them directly and share your details, and why you think teaming up could help.
And if you're an individual who wants to get involved at home, that's great too. Your OneADay could be anything from posting One Workout a Day online to help other families who are cooped up at home to stay fit, or One Lesson a Day, sharing a skill with those who are looking for inspiration.