The Irish Fairy Door Company was started four years ago when two married couples, sat around a kitchen table, suddenly had an idea. Co-founder Niamh Sherwin Barry talks to ThinkBusiness about growing a business in the face of adversity.

How did the business come about?

The Irish Fairy Door Company started as a wonderful idea but with absolutely no money to make it happen. Having been hit incredibly hard by the recession, we were all facing imminent emigration. We knew that our idea was good but there was simply no capital to invest. That is when my mother stepped in and gave us €8,500. Apart from really wanting me to stay in the country, she also believed that we had a really great idea and wanted to be part of it. The business was launched on Facebook in August 2013 and we have not looked back since. We have sold over 500,000 Fairy Door products in Ireland and around the world. We have distributors in Australia, the U.K., Mexico and North America.

“In my opinion it’s all about making the emotional connection with your customer.”

The Irish Fairy door company

How long did it take from having the idea to selling the first fairy door?

The idea is quite simple, but I think that is the charm of it. The original idea was in June 2013 and we sold our first fairy door on August 282013. Very quick really. Just shows what you can do when you really need to make money.

Looking back, would you change anything about setting up the company or bringing the idea to market? 

Not really. But I suppose knowing the difference between an ‘eager amateur’ and an actual expert would have helped along the way. Lots of people contacted us telling us what they could bring to the table. Some were fantastic, while others weren’t so great.

You have a huge social media following, how did you grow this?

By connecting with people on an emotional level. Plain and simple. You need to hone your content. Whatever you may be selling, you need to stop that finger from scrolling. In my opinion, it’s all about making the emotional connection with your customer. I think that has had a massive impact on our social media following. The early stages of our growth were easier as Facebook was completely organic. It was much easier to reach our own followers. We used and still do use a lot of user-generated content that has always worked very well for us.

“Helping to put a smile on a little person’s face is our biggest achievement.”

How did the company get its big break?

Our first big break was when our little doors were featured on The Late Late Toy Show in 2014. We instantly moved to a different level. Word of mouth after that was a massive factor too.

“Being selected to take part in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme this year was a major achievement for us.”

What is the company’s biggest achievement to date?

Helping to put a smile on a little person’s face is our biggest achievement. I know it may sound a little predictable but it is true. We get so many heartbreaking stories of little people who are being helped by their little magical friend. Life changing stuff. We are very humbled by lots of the feedback we get. Also, being selected to take part in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme this year was a major achievement for us. To be now part of this amazing alumni is something we are very proud of.

The Irish Fairy door company

Christmas must be your busiest time of year, so when do you start planning for the festive period?

We start planning for our Q4 in March and April. 70% of our marketing spend is used between November 15 and December 15. Most of this budget is spent on online advertising.

The toy (and fairy door) market has seen a huge growth recently. What do you put this down to?

We are delighted to have started the fairy door craze, not just here but around the world. Although there were fairy doors around before us, we were the first company to commercialise the concept. We are happy to take the credit for that.

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