Backing Ireland's Businesswomen: Sophia McHugh of Oodlique 4 years ago

Backing Ireland's Businesswomen: Sophia McHugh of Oodlique

We think it's a crying shame that there are so many women doing amazing things in Ireland and not enough people know about it.

There are women at the helm of startups, women who dreamed up a new career while on maternity leave, women who went back to college after having kids, women who have gone into business alongside their besties, women who are owning it and with all this talent, we want to tell everyone about you and your skills.

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We put a call out recently, asking you to get in touch to tell us about your pal who's doing great things, or maybe it's your aunt or you know, maybe you've worked up the courage to explain why you are the success story.

Meet Sophia McHugh of Oodlique

Oodlique is a curated website where you'll find unique, personalised gifts, a trend that has exploded in recent times.

With that in mind, we chatted to Sophia to find out what inspired her to create her very own gifting space and it all started when she was a child.

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"Growing up, my Mother always bought us items with our names on it,where ever she could find them, usually on holidays in the States, as myself and my siblings at the time had names which were not very popular in Ireland, it was always a surprise to find our names on something, pencils, stickers, mugs, you name it! With that in mind, I always loved the idea of gifting personalised gifts and discovering something really unique that you would not find in your local gift store".

However, the start-up life is far from easy regardless of the type of business and so we talked to Sophia to find out about her experience thus far.

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"The biggest difficulty for us and probably with most startups in the online space was getting the word out there, getting people to know your business exists".

"It is a tough world online, trying to gain rankings on search engines, trying to carve your name out as the place to go to for a unique personalised gift, with limited marketing budget, it was difficult in our first few months of trading, but we have been blessed recently with being accepted to take part in the Google Adopt A Startup Programme in Google HQ, Dublin and our team of Googlers have helped us refine our marketing strategy and improve our targeting and we are certainly seeing this having a positive impact so far on growing our business".

Sophia says that a support network is key when it comes to building a successful business and she explains how achieving this has made a monumental difference to Oodlique's growth.

"Apply for some female entrepreneur acelerator programmes, I took part in the Female High Fliers DCU Ryan Academy programme earlier this year and cannot recommend it enough! The peer to peer support and learning is invaluable! There are other programmes like this across the country and they will certainly put you on the right track in developing a successful business".

When in charge of your own business, it's difficult to find that all-important work-life balance and Sophia shared her personal secret to switching off.

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"It is difficult at this stage of our business to unwind as with an online business, you have customers visiting and buying around the clock, it can be so tempting to leave the laptop on in the evening and deal with customer support emails, however, I try to limit this to no later than 8pm at night.

"My saviour is the gym and my pilates classes! I go to the gym 4-5 times per week which helps me on a personal level but also helps to give me time away from the laptop and to analyze tasks and get clearer vision. Walking our dog, Ruby is also a great way for me to unwind, get away from digital devices and get some fresh air".

This is Sophia's second online business and so we were eager to find out what advice she can offer anyone hoping to break into the eCommerce field.

Here are some of her top tips:

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"Apply for some female entrepreneur acelerator programmes, I took part in the Female High Fliers DCU Ryan Academy programme earlier this year and cannot recommend it enough! The peer to peer support and learning is invaluable! There are other programmes like this across the country and they will certainly put you on the right track in developing a successful business".

"Don’t waste any more time thinking, just get your plan into action! First and foremost, do your market research, I cannot stress how important this part of the plan is! Also, if the market is not big enough for you locally or nationally, go further afield. I would say 90% of our customers come from the UK, there is a massive world out there for you to take a slice of, think big, not just local!"

As well as toasting the big moments, the tough time and harsh lessons stand out too. Having asked Sophia if she had any regrets, she said she would do one thing differently.

"Start sooner! I am in my 30’s now and I only wish I started sooner, in my 20’s perhaps, but everything happens for a reason. This being our second online business, I believe we have the recipe right, we learnt so much from our first business, which gave us the best grounds to develop a leaner business model this time around with having learned from previous mistakes, its all part of the startup journey".