A Faerly decent way to support makers and enjoy Hygge

Faerly.ie is a clever business created by a Kildare-based couple who aspire to the Scandinavian way of life with their respect for nature and their humble worldview.

Consumers who are keen to reduce unnecessary chemicals and plastics in their lives and invest in sustainably-produced gifts and everyday products will revel in newly-launched sustainable lifestyle store Faerly.

The brand new, wholly Irish-owned business is a considered collection of everyday items from small Irish makers and eco-conscious brands and is the brainchild of a Kildare-based couple who aspire to the Scandinavian way of life with their respect for nature and their humble worldview.

“The problem we’re aiming to solve is the huge amount of unnecessary plastic and chemicals in our lives, and the fact that 70pc of Irish online shopping spend goes to retailers outside of Ireland”

James Byrne and Eoin Houlihan used their downtime during lockdown to realise a long-time ambition and bring Faerly.ie to life.

Today, it’s brimming with over 500 sustainable essentials from bamboo toothbrushes and funky-coloured metal razors to solid shampoos and conditioners, collapsible, reusable coffee mugs, concentrated cleaning products, handmade candles and compostable sponge cleaning cloths.

“We’re passionate about supporting local and Irish makers and we’re inspired by the Scandinavian concepts of Hygge – life moments brimming with happiness, comfort, loved ones, favourite things, savouring the present moment and the good life – and Lagom – not too much, nor too little, just right,” co-founder, James Byrne, said.

“The problem we’re aiming to solve is the huge amount of unnecessary plastic and chemicals in our lives, and the fact that 70pc of Irish online shopping spend goes to retailers outside of Ireland,” said Eoin.

“We want to give people the choice to buy quality natural and eco-friendly products which as much as possible, are produced in Ireland.

The market for online shopping has grown enormously in recent months with Covid accelerating customer adoption of ecommerce across all demographics and age groups. Online grocery shopping in Ireland has grown +5pc to 15pc and is still rising (Kantar, Sept 2020).

Health and wellness

Faerly logo with products.

“Covid has also driven a marked increase in customer priorities around health and wellness, trust and empathy and sustainability and climate concerns,” said James. “We can see a real increasing appetite amongst consumers for products that come from small producers, ethical retailers or that are locally made.”

“Our online store www.faerly.ie offers a considered range of products to help people live a more eco friendly lifestyle. This includes things like handmade skincare, natural cleaning products, products made to last, products to help you cut out single use plastic and disposable cotton – like water bottles, reusable makeup remover wipes etc. All our packaging is plastic-free and we plant a tree for every order. We’re also influenced by Scandinavian design also so we favour products that are functional, beautiful and simple.

“The kind of suppliers we love are Organicules, a small start up where all the products are handmade in West Cork by the founder Susan in her own studio.”

A Lagom foundation

Three Hills Solid Shampoo.

Three Hills Solid Shampoo

Fairly was set up by Kildare-based couple James Byrne and Eoin Houlihan.

James started his sustainability journey living in Copenhagen more than 20 years ago when faced, for the first time, with what were to him completely foreign objects – recycling bins! He has aspired to the Scandinavian way of life, their respect for nature and their humble worldview ever since.

Eoin grew up surrounded by Irish bogland and spent his summers cutting turf, watching tadpoles grow into frogs and listening for the first cuckoo of the season. His passion today is protecting wildlife and biodiversity. Since learning they are the world’s greatest natural carbon stores, he now appreciates the bogs of Kildare even more.

“We started Faerly to do our part to help reduce unnecessary chemicals and plastics in the world,” said James. “We’re passionate about supporting local and Irish makers and we’re inspired by the Scandinavian concepts of Hygge (life moments brimming with happiness, comfort, loved ones, favourite things, beautiful places, savouring the present moment and the good life) and Lagom (not too much, nor too little, just right).

“Over the years we’ve made more and more sustainable changes in our own lives and it’s made us happier and healthier. We believe in helping others to make small, positive changes that are both life-enhancing and kind to the environment.”

Starting right

Orange coloured razor.

Shoreline Razor Orange

“We’ve had good support from the Local Enterprise Office in Kildare, the Start Your Own Business course was very helpful. Getting our company set up, bank accounts, vat registration etc. all ran very smoothly,” added Eoin.

“There’s a webinar for everything these days so we haven’t found it difficult to get answers to questions we’ve had. That said we did spend a lot of time doing our research on things like how best to structure our business before we started.

“Generally, people have been hugely supportive and encouraging and there seems to be a real appetite at the moment to support local businesses. In terms of specific start-up supports there are almost none that we found suitable for a start-up online retail business. The LEO and EI system is very geared towards service and manufacturing businesses with export potential or for established businesses so unfortunately we don’t qualify for most of their supports yet. We’re hoping to avail of the Trading Online Voucher but it’s not available to start-ups as you need to be trading for a minimum of six months.

The start-up uses cloud and SaaS technologies to stay nimble. “We use SaaS as an e-commerce platform which a start-up means we can control our costs,” said James. “We were able to build our website without incurring the cost of a web developer and we don’t have any large overheads to run the site. The trade off is higher than normal payment processing costs and we are limited to ‘out of the box’ functionality for now but that’s not an issue for us now in the early stages.

“Not having to worry about things like infrastructure and hosting means we can just get on running our new business. We use a social media scheduling tool so we can plan our content and spread it across the week and avoid being dragged into social media too often, which can be a real time sink. We also use marketing automation tools like Google Smart Shopping so we can have ‘always- on’ conversion ads running that don’t require a lot of management after they are initially set up.”

Life lessons

Faerly Iris Hantverk brush.

Faerly Iris Hantverk brush

James adds: “In terms of lessons, we’ll paraphrase some good advice from Martin McElhinney of McElhinneys.com who says to remember the rule of three when building an ecommerce website – it will take you three times as long as you think and will cost three times as much as you’ve budgeted for. That wasn’t quite the case for us, but we definitely underestimated the time would take to do certain things.

“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work in creating an online store that isn’t glamorous but it is important and this work takes time. Even if you allow say one minute per product to do something, say proofreading – across 500 products that’s eight solid hours of work. And that’s just for one quick job. It all adds up!”

Their advice to founders? “Pick up the phone,” said Eoin. “In our experience people are very willing to help out with an answer to a question or will point you in the right direction. We would have contacted some of our potential suppliers to ask them about the market, how it works, what margins are like, things like that. It helps avoid some surprises down the line if some of your assumptions are wrong.

“It can be a lonely journey at times, with the best will in the world your friends and family just aren’t going to be available to you all the time to discuss your business endlessly. Podcasts like the Entrepreneur Experiment with Gar Fox are great – it’s very motivating to hear from other entrepreneurs and what their pitfalls have been and this can be very encouraging when you’re having a tough day and you need a pick me up.

“Get all the advice you can get, but at a certain point you will have to make your own decisions and run with it. You can get caught up in seeking advice and conflicting advice can be paralyzing as well. Our motto, which doesn’t come naturally to one of us!, is ‘progress over perfection’ – half of your assumptions will be wrong anyway so get it out there and then work on it and make improvements as you go.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 20 October, 2020