Entrepreneur Siobhán Kiernan revealed to IIBN that she runs her own business called KookyPig, creating handmade beaded Jewellery.  Every piece is hand crafted by Siobhán in her studio in Connecticut, U.S.A. Most of the pieces are made using Swarovski crystals and Miyuki seed beads.  Each pair of earrings takes many hours to create from the first bead to finally attaching the metal hook.

You can visit the KookyPig website and see the collection here  www.kookypig.com

How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?

I have been making beaded Jewelry since I was a teenager.  I have sold at some local markets, family and friends for a number of years, but wanted to get KookyPig online so more people would get to see my pieces.  

Give a brief account of your education background. 

I went to St. Louis High School, in Rathmines, Dublin, Ireland.  After my Leaving Certificate I earned my Bachelor of Civil Law in University College Dublin (UCD).  Keen to travel and to grow in my career, I sat and passed the New York Bar Exam in 2006. My husband and I moved to the U.S. with our daughter and I began working in the tax department of one of the big four accountancy firms.

Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?

I have been creating art all my life.  I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t drawing or creating something. It started with a box of Crayola crayons and never stopped.  In the same way, I always wanted to share my art and designs with people and wanted to eventually make it into a business to sell my creations.

Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family? No, not entrepreneurship as such.  However, hard work and perseverance, two qualities that I feel are needed for entrepreneurship, were always traits instilled in me and my brothers by our parents.  

Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?

I may have been making jewelry and art for a long time, but I was not always sure how to sell my pieces and it is a work in progress.  I did some research and I have following and been influenced by other artists and jewelry makers. Family and friends have been very helpful in supporting me and I took any advice people would bring me.     

What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?  Previous to this I worked in the tax department of one of the big four accountancy firms. After more than ten years in that business, I decided to make a change.  I left my professional career and decided to spend more time with my children and take care of my health. This gave me an opportunity to focus on my true passion – art.  I believe my previous professional career taught me the importance of providing high quality service to clients, time management and also the importance of interpersonal relationships. 

How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc) 

The business was Self-funded and I wouldn’t have changed the method of funding as thankfully there was no difficulty.   

Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them? 

The individual components for the jewelry pieces are an upfront cost.  I did some research to find high quality and ethically sourced crystals, beads and silver findings at a reasonable price.  I have been able to source via the internet and also have my favourite bead store in NYC. Prior to selling at a pop-up shop or market I have to make a large number of pieces to ensure I have a good selection of colours available.  My more expensive pieces tend to be custom made, so I already have a customer before I have to make the piece.

What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?

My passion for art is a huge part of my life.  That coupled with my drive have been valuable in setting up my business.  

To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to? 

I am in the early phase of my business.  However, I do believe there is a niche for unique handmade jewelry.  People appreciate a bespoke piece of jewelry for a special occasion. I have had the pleasure of designing pieces along with my customers taking their input for colour and design.  Also, people have become more environmentally conscious and welcome a departure from “fast fashion”/ “throwaway fashion”. People would rather invest in a unique and quality handmade piece that they will keep for years. Also, a colorful piece of jewelry can easily jazz up any outfit.  My pieces can be worn for a casual or formal event.     

What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur? 

A professional network can not be matched.  It is a great way to get your name out in the market.  It is also a good way to meet like minded individuals. A professional network is valuable to getting advice and making long lasting friendships.  I have found Irish American networks, especially the IIBN network very helpful.

Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years? Entrepreneurship and successful entrepreneurship has been made easier over the last two decades with the internet and online stores.  Instagram and facebook is a great source for networking and also inspiration. It is wonderful to have resources at a touch of a button and this has proved valuable to creatives.  When people share your post, it makes a huge impact on your visibility and exposure. Also, the availability of online courses has definitely helped people learn skills easier and cheaper than before.  Providing these online courses is also a great way for individuals to earn an income from their own homes. Without the need for a brick and mortar store, the cost of selling a product or providing a service has been greatly reduced.  

Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?

As I mentioned before, I am in the early phases of my business.  I look forward to further growth. I have many more ideas for products and am working on expanding my range and I hope to add a wedding collection shortly.  If the right opportunity came along I would be delighted to expand to other areas and involve myself in other businesses and start-ups.  

If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?

Be brave, persevere, manage costs and follow your passion.  If you do something you are passionate about, you will enjoy it and you are likely to succeed.  I enjoyed my career in law, but I really enjoy pursuing my creative side. Always be open to others’ advice, both positive and negative criticism.  it is true that we learn most from our mistakes.