#MakeAFuss: One retail entrepreneur on trusting bloggers and being a working mum
If you've been on Facebook or Instagram recently, you'll probably be familiar with Oh Hello Clothing.
For a brand that sells clothes online in 2018, social media is everything.
That’s why Kimberley Lee, its founder, was so disappointed the first time she worked with social influencers to help promote her business.
The brand, which Kimberley started in 2015, was in its infancy when she paid for sponsored posts with a number of big UK-based bloggers.
"I’m not going to name names but they weren’t in Ireland and we would pay them to post something and you wouldn’t get the return," she tells us.
"I only noticed this when we worked with an Irish blogger – the reaction was amazing, we got loads of followers and sales and the other ones didn’t work as well."
She did a little digging and realised that some of the people she had worked with had bought followers on the platform, meaning the brand was reaching an audience of bots.
"I thought, 'There’s something wrong here' and you would go in and look at their followers and a lot of them have no profile pictures and they’re following like three people, which is insane because it’s fraud, in a way."
The experience was a lesson for the young entrepreneur.
Oh Hello started life as My Celebrity Closet, a Facebook page where Kimberley would sell dresses she sourced from suppliers as far off as Australia.
Originally from Brighton, she had recently moved to her husband's native Sligo with their young daughter and was working part time in a phone shop.
She was looking for something to wear to a wedding and saw there was a gap in the market for dresses unlike what you could buy from other stores here or online and so she started selling pieces to other women.
"It got to the stage where I was earning more money from my part-time hobby than my wage in the phone shop and that’s when I decided to leave."
Nowadays, Oh Hello has a combined Facebook and Instagram following of over 317,000 people across Ireland, the UK and Europe but still aims to offer its customers something that bit special.
"I would get dressed up and I would feel like an eejit."
In the three-plus years that the business has been around, she's really gotten to know Irish women's style.
Those of us in Ireland outside of the capital prefer a more casual look for nights out than women in Kimberley's native UK, she explains.
"Being from Brighton, when you go out it’s very dressy – it’s a dress or a dressy bodysuit and trousers and heels whereas here it’s more causal.
"In Sligo, I would get dressed up and I would feel like an eejit but you’d go to Dublin or a city and everyone is dressed up the way I was dressed up."
In contrast, Irish women like to go all out for a special occasion, which Oh Hello aims to cater to.
"Our styles are unique, it’s very girly," she says.
"We’re quite dressy, it’s not casual at all and the reason is we’d be competing with the likes of Penneys and you just can’t."
Kimberley says she looks to celebrities for inspiration for her stock, particularly one TV presenter who's pretty popular on this website.
"One of my favourites is Holly Willoughby. She’s so relatable and normal and everything she wears is affordable."
Rather than simply following trends, she also keeps a keen eye on what her customers are wearing themselves for inspiration, meaning Facebook and Instagram are a great resource to her when she's buying.
Juggling it all
The business's success "wasn't an overnight thing," Kimberley says.
She plugged away, learning what customers wanted, finding new suppliers and working with factories and a designer to come up with unique styles, all the while bringing up her young daughter.
Kimberley admits that she fits the cliché of the working mum juggling a business and family life, saying she thinks there is still an expectation on mums to do more at home.
"She was around 18 months when I started the business. It’s really tough because you want to spend time with them so it was really hard, she was in crèche full time.
"People think because you work for yourself you must spend loads of time with your child but it’s the opposite, you’re trying to survive and keep going and learning new things.
"I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but time flies, especially when you work for yourself."
Oh Hello is now a small but busy team of three in a warehouse in Sligo.
Growth has been organic and intentionally slow and steady, says Kimberley, who wants to walk before she can run.
Having worked in banking in the UK, entrepreneurship was something very new to her, though the ability to manage both money and time are skills that have stood to her.
"I still make mistakes but it’s great learning from them.
"I don’t have a mentor as such so anyone that does is just so lucky."
This solo approach has meant she's done everything from Enterprise Ireland workshops to online courses to help her get ahead.
"I didn’t have a clue of anything about business, like about how to set up your taxes and making sure you’re not spending money on stupid things so you learn and now I’m very disciplined."
"If I can, anyone can."
Looking to the future, Oh Hello aims to not only pop up on your phone screen but also in your local boutique.
Kimberley is looking into the wholesale market, providing dresses for shops that want to add a new label to their selection.
Other than that, her plan for growth is to simply make sure her customers are happy and that they keep coming back.
"They like our stuff and our quality, it’s consistent, the customer care is there.
"You see so many new companies coming out now so it’s really competitive but we’re just going to stay true to who we are."
Having taught herself everything she knows, what would she tell someone else starting an online store?
"Manage money right, don’t overspend. Look at what people aren’t doing rather than copying other businesses and just do your own thing. People are going to like you because you’re unique.
"There are women who think ‘oh I can’t run a business’ but if I can, anyone can."
We know that Irish businesswomen are a force to be reckoned with so here at Her.ie, we're making a fuss of the ladies who’ve made a fuss on their journey to success.
We want to celebrate the grafters and the risk-takers, those who’ve followed a passion or spotted a niche, those still forging their own path and those who are at the top of their game.
In our new series Make A Fuss, we’ll be talking to inspiring Irish women in business about their careers, what they’ve learned along the way and where they’re going next.
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