Ruth participated in the first Momentum program back in 2013. We were lucky to get some time with her to chat about her business now and what she gained from her training with The Entrepreneurs Academy. Watch the interview above, or read through below.
Tell us a little bit about what you do, because that’s the most important thing.
My business is called Danu Ceramics, and Danu was the Celtic goddess of Earth and water. I make jewellery out of porcelain and 22-karat gold lustre, I also create homewares as well. I design all my work in Dublin.
What’s different about what you do compared to other people working with ceramics?
Well, a huge point is the fact that we use really good quality materials like porcelain, but also genuine 22 karat gold lustre and sterling silver. So we use really high quality materials, but our price points are all very accessible. It’s about affordability as well as something that school quality and sustainable. Our price points would all be under the 50 euro mark. As well, our story to go with it and that it’s all made in Ireland.
You’ve always had amazing photography. I covet your work because it’s so well styled.
That would be a key part of our marketing. With our photography, we try to create an enchanted world. I think people really like to buy into that and have a little piece of that as well.
So can you remember back to when you started the Momentum programme with The Entrepreneurs Academy? It was 2013 – early days for you. Can you remember how you felt coming into the programme?
Well, I was a very fresh graduate from NCAD (National College of Art and Design) in Dublin. I graduated making ceramic sculptures. I was in a very different mindset. The kind of sculptures I was making were very conceptual and they would take about a month to make. I graduated in 2011. Then I spent a year exhibiting the work, which I really enjoyed, but it wasn’t a viable way to make a living. Then I saw an advertisment for a business course. The timing was perfect. I did the Momentum course with The Entrepreneurs Academy in 2013, so I was very green. I was very new. I had to learn the mindset. I was very nervous and I didn’t really know what to expect, at the beginning anyway.
On these programmes, we try to give people the skills they need. Give them the confidence they need and help them build a network. Was that your experience of the programme?
Yes, a big part of my learning, was how to do the market research, which is something that I didn’t quite know how to do properly. A big part of the course that got me out of my comfort zone was speaking a lot in front of people, but it was in a very supportive environment, so that was great. And then it’s very powerful when you’re kind of reading your ideas aloud to other people and getting feedback as opposed to being alone in a studio, because that’s what it would have been. It would have been very different. That was a big part of confidence building for me in a nice, slow, gradual way, while also being out of my comfort zone.
Most small business owners, when they start a business, the financials are kind of scary there, that it’s the unknown and they’re just terrified of getting things wrong and maybe don’t put systems in place and don’t really understand what they need to do to be compliant and to be informed and be strategic about how they will handle their business financially. Is that something you took from the program?
Part of the actual program was to write a balance sheet and cash flow and we learned how to do that. We had to submit that as well. There was somebody on the course who was in business as an accountant. He was a great help to us as well. I know that’s probably the most intimidating part for most people anyway.
You’ve mentioned the support of other people on the course. Was that your experience that the peer to peer support was valuable?
The peer to peer support was brilliant, because you’re getting so many ideas from different people and so many different points of view. They might have completely different business ideas to you. Like for example, they might be in the service industry, but they have a really good insight as well. So that was brilliant.
Have you continued to build your network and do you use your network much?
Yes, I do. I’m still in touch with people and giving feedback and seeing what they’re up to. That’s giving them support as well.
What advice would you give to people if they’re considering starting a business?
This is just advice coming from my own experience. It would be to take things slow, because I rushed a few things which ended all slowing me down a bit in the long run. For example, I make handmade products, so it’s a big challenge for people. Because you’re making everything, it is important to have a range that actually generates a decent income for yourself.
I use wholesale models, where I sell into retailers, so I get a fraction of the retail price. It’s really, really important for me to make sure that I have products that have a good profit margin. My business changes every year because I’m constantly refining my products, to make something that generates more income. Every year, learning how to make things more efficiently. At the start, that was that was very hard for me. And I would have liked to have considered that a bit more, and taken things a bit more slowly.
Don’t be afraid to take things slow. But then also another thing would be, to be very self-aware. Ask yourself, is your photography good enough or if you have a retail shop, is your interior design good enough? So, be really self-aware? And, if you don’t think it is, you can work on that and you can make it better. If it’s not good enough, then you can hire a photographer or an interior designer to make it better.
What was the biggest challenge you would say you faced? Was it around that productivity piece?
Yes, that was a huge challenge for me because I was working really hard and it is my passion. But then if you’re working too hard, you could almost resent it a little bit. But now, I’m at the stage where I wanted to be, which is great. I’m really looking forward to this year. Last year was good as well. But for the first couple of years, it was really hard to get the balance right.
As well, because I was very new, I always do what the retailers wanted me to do. Whereas I think it’s better make what you want to make, it’ll work out. Then they’ll see that’s what you want to make it, that they’ll actually take to it very positively. But don’t be afraid to kind of put your foot down.
So, it’s OK to say no.
Exactly. Which is something that I had a huge problem during the first couple of years, but that is a confidence thing, which comes with practice, too.
Anything else you’d like to highlight about your business? Is there anything you want to signpost people to?
If you would like to have a look at the website – Danuceramics.com – it tells the story of my business and my photography serves as inspiration as well. There are some travel photos there, as a lot of my work is inspired by that. If you’re curious, check it out at danuceramics.ie
Your visuals are so strong. Everyone should have a look at your website!
That’s been a huge achievement for us, the social media following has grown very fast.
You have kindly offered to give a gift for us to celebrate our 21 years in business and being part of our journey. To be honest, you’re part of the ‘why we do what we do’ at The Entrepreneurs Academy. Supporting people like you to get a foot on the journey. To celebrate that, you’ve offered a gift to share with our social media followers.
I’ve offered one of my necklaces. It’s a gold fern necklace.
Thank you so much Ruth! Congratulations on seven years of success and best of luck with the future!