Irish Women in Business: Eva Power of the Ethical Silk Company
For the latest in our series of editorials focusing on Irish Women in Business, we’re talking to Eva Power, the founder of The Ethical Silk Company.
Eva, a native Dubliner, was inspired to work with silk thanks to an aunt in India and the well-documented benefits of the fabric for skin and hair.
Here, Eva speaks to Her.ie about everything from cash flow to blogs and Arts degrees to greatest achievements.
What is your background – where did you grow up, is there a history of entrepreneurship in your family?
I grew up in Terenure in Dublin. My mum has been a self employed reflexologist for 25 years now so I always saw the benefits (and downsides) of working for yourself and being your own boss.
What was your first indication that this would be the career for you?
It wasn’t until I began researching the idea of working with silk in 2009 that I thought I could make a go of The Ethical Silk Company. I don’t come from a fashion or textile background so I sort of went out on a limb and started things very cautiously.
Product line Spring 2014. Photo: Dara Munnis
Where and what did you study?
I studied Arts in UCD, Sociology and Greek and Roman Civilisation. I was pretty young finishing up and graduated when I was 20, still with no idea of what I wanted to do.
At what age did you first suspect you would eventually go into business yourself?
Probably around my mid twenties. I spent a lot of my twenties traveling, a fair bit by myself, and became quite fond of just having myself to answer to and account for.
Did you pursue other careers before launching your business?
I’m trained and work part-time as a cranio-sacral therapist. I’ve been practising this gentle hands-on therapy since 2008 and really enjoy it, although since having kids and with The Ethical Silk Company expanding I only work a couple of mornings a week at it. It’s something I’m reluctant to give up as I enjoy it so much but I know the decision will have to be addressed at some stage.
Why this product?
My aunt lives in India and has sent beautiful silk scarves home to us over the years so I’ve grown up appreciating the fabric. My mum always slept with a silk scarf wrapped around her pillow and encouraged my sister and I to do the same as silk is so good for skin and hair. I first had the idea of silk sleepwear and loungewear but then decided on silk pillowcases after becoming a convert myself. The benefits of sleeping on silk made it the perfect first product.
The Ethical Silk Co - Ivory Natural Silk Pillow Case with Pillow
What challenges have you faced thus far?
This may take a while....
There have been endless challenges from dealing with a natural fabric (especially when there’s a bad monsoon in India), quality control of both the fabric and tailoring, running everything remotely when the production is undertaken in Fair Trade units in India, marketing (especially the whole social / digital marketing now), cash flow etc...
I could keep going... Probably the biggest challenge is building a business without having any business experience. Just when I think things are going smoothly something crops up but I just keep telling myself "if it was easy, everyone would be doing it". This helps.
Do you think there are certain challenges that are unique to women who set up their own businesses?
In my own experience I haven’t found challenges in particular to being a woman, that could be in my area though. I do find that since having children it can be a case of juggling everything but you’ll have this regardless of setting up your own business or working in a company.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Starting a business from scratch during a recession and the fact that it is growing every year.
What is your favourite/least favourite part of your job?
Favourite: Product development. I’m working on a new line of loungewear at the moment and am really enjoying the various processes involved.
Least favourite: Writing blogs. It’s not too bad once I get started but it’s something I dread, I’m not a writer!
What is a typical working day for you?
I split the day around the kids so I usually work in the mornings when the boys are at playschool and then get back to it again for a few hours every night. I have an office and stock room at home so it’s handy to be able to get back to work in the evenings.
A typical day involves getting orders ready and shipped, packing and checking incoming stock, checking stock levels and placing orders for silk and tailoring quantities that I expect to need for the future. I spend a lot of time on Skype with and emailing my silk manufacturer and the tailoring unit discussing future products and weaves that we are sampling.
I’ll do one full day a week as well and usually try to get out of the house for that, the library is my haven then and I’ll focus then on social media and the website. Depending on the time of year I can otherwise be getting things ready for the craft fair or prepping for a photo shoot. Things can be pretty varied but it’s one of the things I enjoy about running a business.
Are there any other women in business that you look up to?
A good friend, Sara Banks, runs Steamline Luggage and she’s been a huge support and sounding board.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Watch your cash flow like a hawk.
What advice would you give to other Irish women who wish to get into business for themselves?
Be transparent. The digital age means all companies and their practices are open to the public. You’re accountable for every aspect of your business so only invest your time and energy into something you can truly stand above. Take advantage of the resources from your local enterprise board. I’ve had mentors from the Local Enterprise Office and have found them invaluable.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
We’re currently developing a sleepwear / loungewear line that is due to be ready in time for Christmas so that’s very exciting. We’re looking to stay in the sleepwear realm and expand to menswear and children’s wear working with different weaves of the mulberry silk. Another main objective is to expand internationally so I’m in the process of setting up a US based website with shipping from the US.
For more on The Ethical Silk Company, visit the official website here.