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Donegal mammies are leading the way in business world

Amanda McClintock and Gillian Hamilton who started Chiq Maternity when they realised that pregnant women were struggling to find something to wear for special occasions.

Amanda McClintock and Gillian Hamilton who started Chiq Maternity when they realised that pregnant women were struggling to find something to wear for special occasions.

THE term ‘working mother’ has taken on a whole new lease of life with the phenomenal rise in ‘Mompreneurs’ starting businesses from their kitchen tables and Donegal mammies have been leading the way with some fantastic enterprises springing up in recent times.
Twin sisters Charlene McCarron and Ciara Mhic Cathmhaoil decided upon Bibby Love, their Buncrana-based bib-making business when they couldn’t find a bib that suited the needs of their babies, but the primary school teachers admitted they really just started out with a dream and a sewing machine.
Interestingly, in a county once famous for its textiles industry, clothing cottage-industries are proving to be very popular with working mums.
Chiq Maternity (St. Johnston) and Pretty Baby Hair Accessories (Manorcunningham) are just two of many others now in the county and all three mompreneurs, along with many others, will attend this Sunday’s Bump and Beyond baby event in Letterkenny’s Mount Errigal Hotel.
Maria Rushe, from Newtowncunningham, a teacher and mother of two – who organised that event when she discovered that mothers were struggling to find information on a whole range of parenting topics – said there really is a growing trend of mothers taking action when they spot a gap in the market.
Two of those mothers are Amanda McClintock and Gillian Hamilton who started Chiq Maternity earlier this year after doing a Start Your Own Business Course with Donegal Local Enterprise Office.
“Our children are all of the same ages and our youngest both started school together and we found we had some spare time and thought we could put it to good use. We decided to open an online shop for maternity wear as we had huge problems ourselves sourcing special occasion wear when we where both pregnant. We talked to a lot of other mothers who said exactly the same thing.”
For now Amanda and Gillian are sourcing labels from Paris that are unique to Ireland for their online business, but the plans are to get some of their own designs and products on sale further down the line.
That’s something that both Bibby Love and Pretty Baby Hair Accessories are already doing with Pretty Baby Hair Accessories now selling to over 50 countries.
Former economics and business studies teacher Leona Barron who started Pretty Baby Hair Accessories, explained that she had also created something to fill a need before realising it had business potential.
“When Grace (who is now aged 6) was born, she had a beautiful full head of black hair and I was looking for clips to keep the hair from her eyes. The only ones I could find in stores were metal ones that were too harsh to put on a newborn’s head, so initially all I did was wrap the clips in some pretty ribbon to soften them against her head.
People started asking me then where I got them. I started making some for friends and family members.”
At that point it was very much a hobby, but it grew quickly and Leona left her full-time job to concentrate on her own business.
Since October 2013 Leona has watched the orders increase hugely on her website www.prettybabyhair.co.uk. To date the business has shipped thousands of orders to customers in over 50 countries around the world. And with this extraordinary growth of Pretty Baby Hair Accessories, new plans are already in place for the business.
Bibby Love operate from Derry as well as Buncrana, and while the business is only eight months old, their tale bears striking similarities to Leona’s.
“The inspiration really came from our children and not being able to find products on the market to suit our needs. Charlene had begun taking a sewing class as a hobby to be able to make decorative things for around the house and to make pretty things for the girls. Ciara had just had her second baby and suggested that they look into making bibs that were more absorbent than any we had as she was struggling to keep the baby dry during feeding.
It was then that we discovered the wonder fabric that is bamboo cotton and all the amazing properties it has for babies and mammies, both practical and beneficial. We began with the intention of making them only for ourselves and as gifts for friends, but after using them we decided that other mammies could benefit from our products too.”
Having watched her business bloom, successful Mompreneur Leona says that she would encourage other mothers to seize the day and go for it.
“I knew nothing about any of this, but I saw a niche in the market and after doing some research I went for it. I didn’t have a huge outlay but I did work hard and was determined to make it succeed if I could. There are thousands of women around the world who are at home developing their own business ideas in between changing nappies and doing the school run. I would encourage anyone with a good idea and something to sell, to seize the opportunity. Who knows where it might lead them!”

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