Irish Women In Business: The McGinn Sisters of 6 years ago

Irish Women In Business: The McGinn Sisters of

For the latest in our series of editorials focusing on Irish Women in Business, we’re talking to the McGinn sisters of

Opsh is built by online shoppers for online shoppers and brings consumers their favourite brands with just one account and one checkout.


The founders have shared with us, in their own words, how they came up with the idea and where they want to take the business in the future…

We all come from quite a diverse background so our interests are actually quite varied. What’s been surprising is seeing how those interests have collided to reflect what Opsh is today. Among the three of us, we’ve all had a shared interest in fashion since day one, though very much an insider-outsider approach. Outside of that, Jennie studied communications & journalism, Sarah marketing & broadcasting, and Grace architecture & technology. These backgrounds and interests directed the business forward at different stages - from understanding the product, to engaging with shoppers, to ultimately talking and positioning Opsh as a business where shoppers can shop across so many of their favourite highstreet brands using just one account. Now that ourselves, our team and the business have matured, growing and scaling Opsh is the singular unifying factor for us all.

What feels like many moons ago (seven years to be exact) we set up a fashion website called “What Will I Wear Today” - a website updated daily with our musings around what was happening in the fashion industry. But saying that, none of us worked in the field so really we were fashion insider-outsiders. It was our baby and our passion, and we worked incredibly hard on it for a long time. Because we worked so well together and felt we had ideas bursting out of us, we made the huge decision to focus on our passions full-time and began trying to monetize all the hard work we were doing. We were competitively selected to participate in the NDRC Launchpad Tech Accelerator Programme - and that’s where our second venture, Prowlster, came from. A site that allowed for e-commerce functionality through any of the content you were reading, without ever leaving the site. It was through Prowlster that we discovered about online shopping, the female consumer, and the overwhelming frustration that the online space wasn’t accommodating the consumer needs. That's where the idea for Opsh came out of.


Our aim was, and always will be, to make the online shopping space simple, inspiring, personal. We  listen to  the shopper and aim to give them what they want and need.


We quickly realised that - although hope, optimism and enthusiasm are instrumental in doing this - setting up a business is an awful lot of hard graft. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of relationships that need to built and managed, a lot of walls to break through and a lot of people to convince. There is definitely an appeal to building something out of nothing and setting your own rules, but that is a luxury much further down the pipeline. In terms of when a mentality shifted, and Opsh become more than just an idea, I think that happened when we started building up our team. The success of a business is very much a reflection of a successful team. We’ve grown our team from six to 15 over the last eight months and that’s been a game-changer. When you’ve got the right people who are great at what they do and understand the business inside-out, the impact of that is monumental.

It’s been an incredibly hectic journey. In 2012 we took part in the competitive NDRC Launchpad accelerator programme with access to three months of seed funding, mentorship and office space. That programme effectively fast-tracked ideas around writing a business plan, executing on a product roadmap, and preparing and securing funding, whether government or investment. After 12 months of building Prowlster (and a lot of great feedback from our readers), we realised there was a bigger opportunity in developing a single shopping cart for across the High Street landscape, and ultimately in August 2013 we sold Prowlster to Le Cool Dublin. With the monies secured from that sale (a modest amount), we built out the test version of By that stage our single and instrumental employee also decided to make the move with us to Opsh - I don’t think we’d be here without her! With the test product of Opsh, we secured the highly xompetitive Start Fund grant from EI (this took a few attempts). With that grant, we took on two new hires in design and marketing. We launched the platform in beta (test) mode in May 2014, and worked hard on our platform until our public launch in October 2014. With the launch, we set KPIs or goals to achieve by the end of December. We achieved them! During this time we also went into investment mode and spoke to investors here in Ireland and then in the UK. Just before Christmas we got confirmation from a UK investor to commit funds to Opsh. This was matched by Enterprise Ireland as part of the, again, highly competitive High Potential Start-Up Programme. Over the last 10 months our focus then shifted to building an amazing team across product, sales and marketing, and setting goals for that time, and critically executing on those goals. Which brings us up very briefly to where we are today.


There are a lot of romanticised horror stories around startups burning the midnight candle at both ends and plugging 80-hour weeks. At this stage in our business we are pretty adamant that that is not sustainable. Building a business is not a one-trick pony. It is very much a process and a long one at that. You need to remain positive, motivated and enthusiastic even in the darkest of times. Mostly we clock off at 6.00pm and try to keep our evenings and weekends free from work. Of course, like most offices,  we’ll have a busy few weeks and those hours go out the window, but it’s critical that we keep the work-life balance in zen.


I think we’ve realised that the biggest challenge in setting up your own business is holding your nerve. Things rarely work out the way you expect them. Setbacks, delays and rapidly-changing schedules are all pretty regular occurrences when you’re working in a small team with limited resources. Being part of a team like this, however, is all about being solution-based. Holding your nerve when things don’t go the way you had planned and working quickly together to get back on track. It keeps things exciting!

Over the course of the last year, there has been some extremely overwhelming and positive moments. Securing investment from Brett Palos (Sir Philip Green’s Stepson), which meant validation in bucketloads, as one. Growing our incredible team from the initial three founders to fifteen staff members (and they’re kicking ass) is another. The astounding support we have got over the past year from all the Opsh lovers - we wouldn’t have got where we are without you. Moving from our cramped, cold, attic office into a beautiful and bright office - and actually having a party to celebrate it. It’s really been an incredible first year in business and here’s to many, many more.


I think what’s been clear to us for a while now is that we don’t fit into any clear box. We’ve got big ambitions, big ideas, and by hook or by crook we’re determined to see it through. That really shapes everything we do. If there’s a hurdle, we’ll do anything we need to do to get over it, under it, or smash right through it (yes - sometimes it hurts). All of our team very much have that attitude too. They’re smart, determined, genuine, and sassy.

We are only on the cusp of where we want to bring Opsh to - we have so many exciting ideas of what we can do to improve the online shopping experience and new markets that we want to expand Opsh into - and we are focused on making this as successful as it can be. So as businesswomen, our main goal is to keep driving Opsh forward and focus our energies, always,  into what the consumer wants and needs from their online shopping experience. It’s going to be an exciting time.

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