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Moms Doing It For Themselves: Amber Hennigan

Once an animator, now a businesswoman, Amber Hennigan started Primp & Style in 2015, when she saw a gap in the market for accessible luxury goods.

She now runs her business around her family, and her boys can still watch the cartoons she worked on!

Tell us a little bit about your business

Primp & Style is an online retail store that specialises in luxury Italian leather handbags, accessories and statement jewellery. We deliver worldwide and our HQ is in Dublin. One of the driving factors in setting up Primp & Style was for women to achieve 'affordable luxury'. I wanted a store where I could buy the look I lusted after on Instagram, but without the hefty price tag.

What was your motivation to start up your business?

Having worked in the busy Irish animation sector for many years I reached a point where the contract nature of the business no longer suited our growing family. I have two boys, now aged four and two. Working for 12 months at a time with long gaps in between just isn't practical in terms of childcare and a routine for the boys, never mind having a steady income. I knew something would have to change. I had often thought of setting up a business, and I went through many many ideas before looking at what made me happiest over the years, and that was working in luxury retail.

What is your background?

I studied art and design in Ballyfermot, and went on to do a Masters in Digital Media in DIT. I got my first animation job with Brown Bag Films, before going on to work for all the major studios in the city. I worked on so many animated series that my sons now watch, which is rather cool I think.

What have been the highs and lows of setting up your own business?

The highs are high and the lows are low. The highs most definitely are selling out of a product, seeing high volume of traffic to the website and seeing hard work pay off. That's real job satisfaction for me. Another plus is being at home with the boys, something that was a driving force in setting up the business. The lows are there though, a quiet week of sales can really make you doubt yourself, the niggly voice at the back of your head saying 'what are you doing?!' Usually I look at external factors first, for example September was pretty quiet, but then I looked at how much we as a family spent that month with back to school, winter coats and footwear. I then realised that most women in my demographic wouldn't have a huge amount to spend on themselves after that. I find after a quiet week I adjust some things on the website and implement small changes, it makes me feel in charge again.

What advice would you give other moms wanting to start up their own business?

Be prepared to work really long hours, most of the work I do is after the boys are asleep. It's hard to be motivated some evenings, particularly as my youngest is fairly spirited at bedtime. My husband is great at whisking the boys off for an hour so I can get some work done in peace. We definitely work as a team, and I don't think I could do it all on my own.

Do you have any tips for balancing your work and family life?

I'm sure most work at home mums will say the biggest issue is switching off, and it is. Being an online store, I use my phone a lot, fielding emails and processing orders, it's not ideal when I have the children. I try to have phone free time with the boys as much as possible. We do a lot of outdoor activities and I love to get out into the fresh air with them. Stepping away even for an hour really recharges the batteries.

What would you say is your next step for 2017?

2017 will be our second full year in business. I feel I have a much better handle on running an online store at this stage. I am still learning though, finding out how and when to push, how to use our social media feeds to drive sales more effectively. Being an online only store means you have to work for your footfall and that's something I am always looking at. I have set up pop-up shops at several fashion and beauty workshops in 2016 with the likes of Rosanna Davison and Lorraine Keane. These workshops give me the opportunity to meet customers face-to-face and to get our products out there. I will definitely look to do more in 2017.

If you were to be granted three wishes for your business what would they be?

  1. An extra hour in the day to clean my house! I feel I can't start work in the evenings until everything is clean and tidy
  2. For Primp & Style to be recognised as a 'go-to' website for affordable luxury
  3. My third wish would be for Primp & Style to grow enough to employ one or more people to work with me

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About the Author

Lucy Earley works as an editor in the beauty and pharmacy-retail industries. She's a delighted recent convert to the maternal side with the birth of her daughter, Lara, in August 2014.

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