This week we met with DCU Business School graduate, Female Entrepreneur and Founder of Jane Darcy Gillian Halpin to chat about her favourite DCU memories and what inspired her to start her own business.
Can you tell us a little bit about your time at DCU Business School?
Well, firstly, I love DCU – everybody knows that. I came to DCU three years ago for the MSc in Marketing, which has now been replaced by the MSc in Digital Marketing course. I had such an amazing time here. My background was in Philosophy, which is obviously really different but I think it lended itself very well to me studying marketing and business. Philosophy teaches you how to think outside the box and come up with your own ideas, which I suppose is what developed my thought process and strategy for my company. I did also have a background in business though as my family have worked in the manufacturing of gifts, souvenirs, toys and those types of products for all my life.
It’s great you had such a positive experience at DCU Business School. What makes it stand out for you?
DCU has really helped me in loads of ways. I made such great friends here, not just people on my course but also my lecturers. Everyone is so brilliant and amazing, from the teaching faculty to the canteen staff. The course itself really helped me to develop the confidence to know what I was doing and also learn practical skills, like how to create a marketing plan or formulate a strategy. I didn’t have any marketing experience so I needed to learn quickly. We did everything from sports marketing and strategy to event marketing and digital marketing. One module I did as part of the Masters was NGM – Next Generation Management – which was unbelievable. Graduates from DCU are known to be quicker off the ground because of subjects like this and the focus on practical skills.
You also did work experience as part of your Masters. How did you find that?
The work experience was hugely beneficial as it allowed me to see how other companies do things. I worked with BYOS Jewellery, the local GAA club, on an SAP coding event… you get to do such a broad range of things. You have room to figure out what you like and what you don’t like, what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s not just about the modules in that way, it’s about the extra things that you have going on
When I left DCU, I also did an internship at a PR company, Fleishman Hillard. That was an invaluable experience to me. Now that I have my own company, it’s so important to know how to deal with the media. Everyone asks me how I get so much media coverage and it’s literally because of that internship. It has meant I know how to do it for myself, which also saves me money.
Moving on to Jane Darcy, your company. Can you tell me a little about it and the motivation behind it?
The one thing I’m always asked is where the name comes from. Jane Darcy is a combination of my two daughters’ middle names. The idea behind the company is to encourage people to treasure the simple moments in life…the moments that matter the most. In the past, I found that the small bit of time I had with my family I wasn’t really spending with them. I’ve been known to watch Love Island, cook dinner and send emails all at the same time! Obviously I was doing none of these three things! I wanted to take time to really enjoy my girls and encourage other people to take a moment for themselves too.
Work can be very full on, we’re all expected to be on 24/7. I wanted to make something really beautiful and luxurious that encouraged people to take a step back and make time for themselves. Our candles are 100% natural soy wax, no harsh chemicals or preservatives, natural cotton wicks and no alcohol in the diffusers which means they last much longer. There are currently three collections – Zesty Lemongrass & Bergamot, Kaffir Lime Basil and Blood Orange, and French Lavender and Lovage. We went for the highest quality, we didn’t want to cut any corners.
We’re celebrating Women Entrepreneurship Week in DCU this week. Do you think that there are specific challenges facing female entrepreneurs?
I think generally it is an issue still but it’s changing. It’s definitely worse in some industries, especially those that are very male-dominated. When I worked with my Dad, often I would be the only woman in the room and that’s hard because your opinion isn’t always trusted. I don’t know why that is but it is a struggle sometimes. But I do think it’s changing. Even in places like the Middle East that we might not view as being very progressive, there are female entrepreneurs doing brilliant things. People are beginning to trust women, believe in women and understand we can do an amazing job.
And finally, if you have one piece of advice for someone thinking of starting their own company, what would it be?
You need to be brave and believe in yourself. Everybody is so afraid of failing but what does it matter? I’m not saying to be reckless, you follow your dreams but use your head too. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, how is anyone else going to? You’re always going to face challenges and adversity, you’ll always have knock-backs. But you just have to take the good with the bad as it comes. I was afraid of failing for years and it’s only through age and experience that I’ve decided it doesn’t actually matter what other people think of me. If I fail I’ll learn a really big lesson about what not to do next time.