Commercial pilot-turned-entrepreneur: The story of one Irish mum and her business
A former commercial pilot, Susan Furniss Radley decided to leave her career in aviation to start her own business.
Four years later and the decision has more than paid off with Dust + Rock, a line of handy wrist pockets, recently launching in Dublin Airport.
Undoubtedly a very full-circle moment for the Irish entrepreneur, she tells IMAGE.ie about the inspiration behind her product and how the uncertainty was worth it in the end.
Tell us about you/your business
I’m Susan, the creator of The Original Wrist Pocket, sold under my brand, Dust + Rock. The idea of The Original Wrist Pocket is to keep your phone and essential items TO hand but not IN your hand. The concept was very much inspired by my life, both as a commercial pilot and as a mum to three small boys. I’m based in Dungarvan, Co.Waterford, where we now have a new fulfilment centre from where we ship our online orders worldwide.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea of The Original Wrist Pocket came to me when I was backpacking across South America. I was wondering how I could keep my phone and valuables safe but accessible, without carrying a handbag… but no such product seemed to exist, so, when I returned from the trip I designed a basic prototype and had a local dressmaker stitch it together. Really, it was never about making a business from it, it was for my own functional use! The prototype would grab people’s attention when they saw it and everyone would ask where they could get one – that’s when I realised there was a market for The Original Wrist Pocket.
Why did you decide to leave your job as a commercial pilot?
After 10 years of flying, commuting for long hours every day and with two small children at home by that point, I knew my pace of life was not sustainable. Although I had no business or design experience I decided to take a risk and leave my flying job to bring The Original Wrist Pocket to market. It seemed unimaginable at the time that someone would leave such a good career behind but I haven’t looked back. I love working for myself and the flexibility that offers me daily having missed out on so much family time previously.
Was design always something you wanted to pursue?
I was always interested in functional products – anything that would make my life easier! From robot hoovers to the latest tech gadgets. I grew up in a really creative home where my parents had a huge appreciation of crafts. My father was a wood-turner and my mother made stained glass. When I look at a really nice handbag or pair of shoes, I’ll always wonder how it was made, what is it made from and how long it must have taken to create the piece. When you do this, it gives you a greater appreciation of the things you own.
How would you say the pandemic affected your business?
The first few weeks of the pandemic were a really uncertain time as a business owner. Thankfully, my business was primarily online so I was prepared for online shoppers and continued my social media campaigns as normal. People were ordering The Original Wrist Pocket for friends and family to have them sent directly as gifts. It’s a fun and different product to send to someone and seemed to brighten up those tedious days in lockdown!
Was there an uptake in interest given the popularity of outdoor activities?
The pandemic seemed to bring out a slower pace of life with people finding peace in the outdoors. As a result, I created a range of Wrist Pockets inspired by life outdoors here in Ireland. One of our biggest sellers is called “Toast My Marshmallows”, a fun and colourful design inspired by lazy evenings sitting around a firepit on staycation.
As a seasoned traveller yourself, are there any other must-have Irish products you love when on the move?
Having travelled quite a bit, packing a bag in a hurry is second nature to me!
I adore Jo Browne’s Facial Cleansing Balm. After a long day, it’s a really soothing experience to use with some cotton pads and because it’s a balm, it doesn’t leak which is always a plus when popping it in your suitcase.
My other go-to when packing is my kimono from Irish brand She Goes Rogue. It travels really well in a suitcase. It’s perfect to throw over shorts for brunch and quickly dresses up an evening outfit. I love anything that takes the fuss out of travelling. I travel really lightly with a suitcase and even pop my passport in my Wrist Pocket.
You can pick up Dust + Rock products on their website or in Dublin Airport now too.
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