My Career: Wrap up in Ireland... wherever you are

In our My Career, in WoW! today we talk to Jamie Monaghan, founder of Loominations Irish Throw Blankets.
My Career: Wrap up in Ireland... wherever you are

Jamie Monagan with one of her creations.

Name: Jamie Monagan 

Age: 62 

Lives: St. Luke’s Cross, Cork City 

Job title: Founder, Loominations Irish Throw Blankets 

Salary Bracket: €20-€30k, but way down in 2020 due to Covid-19.

Education background: I’m an American who has lived in Cork for 20 years. I have a BA in English Literature from Smith College in Massachusetts.

Hobbies: I’m on the committees of Cork Cine Club and Midleton Hillwalking Club. I enjoy spending time with my ‘little sister’ from Foroige’s Big Brother/Big Sister programme, but unfortunately, we haven’t been able to meet very often since March. My two raised beds keep us in homegrown veggies.

Describe your job in five words: Entrepreneurial, challenging, multi-faceted, sometimes exciting and sometimes disheartening.

Describe yourself in five words: Positive, hard-working, creative, curious, loyal.

Personality needed for this kind of work? As a sole trader I handle everything: design, buying, sales, marketing, social media, shipping, and accounts. You must be self-motivated, tenacious, a jack-of-all-trades, and always willing to learn new skills.

How did you get this job? I didn’t get this job – I created it. I started Loominations after I had a ‘light bulb’ moment. For almost 30 years I’ve owned a cotton throw blanket that weaves in landmarks along the New Jersey Shore, where I spent my childhood summers. It’s been machine washed and dried countless times and has held up incredibly well over the years.

In 2014, I was sitting in my living room in Cork with it thrown over my lap when I thought, ‘Why does nothing like this exist in Ireland?’. That was the beginning of Loominations Irish Throw Blankets. I started with a Map of Ireland throw blanket and have been expanding my range ever since.

In addition to running Loominations, I programme the concerts and comedy in Ballymaloe Grainstore and do freelance theatre publicity. Obviously, Covid-19 has brought the curtain down on that work. Previously I spent ten years in Cork Opera House, and before that, I worked in the arts/non-profit sector in New York.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? I had no qualifications or experience to start a throw blanket business, except for an idea I believed in and the gumption to act on it.

Describe a day at work:

Marketing and selling are crucial to Loominations. Some of my best-selling designs are aimed at international visitors, but they are a rare species these days, due to Covid. Sadly, it’s possible that people won’t be able to travel home for Christmas - including my daughter in London and son in New York - so I’ve been contacting loads of publications and influencers to get the word out that my Map of Ireland throw blanket is a lovely gift for family and friends living away from home. They can wrap themselves up in Ireland no matter where they are in the world.

In response to Covid-19, I have added new throw blankets designs that are for the Irish domestic market rather than visitors to Ireland. A lot of research and consultation went into making the choices. I’m especially excited about my new ‘Museum Masterpiece’ line. Famous works by Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and others are woven into cotton throw blankets. I’ve licensed these designs which are which are available in Ireland and the U.K. exclusively from Loominations.

I’ve also adapted to Covid by shifting my efforts to online. With business down hugely in the shops that carry my throws, it has been a matter of adapt or die. I’m about to launch a new website to showcase the new designs and offer a more sophisticated and user-friendly e-commerce platform.

Social media takes up a huge amount of time. I’m on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Please, no more platforms – I’m not a digital native!

My garage is my warehouse, so every time I receive an order, I haul out the throw blankets, add labels and swing tags, print invoices, box them up, and contact my courier service. It can be quite physical work but no pain, no gain.

How many hours do you work a week? It varies but at the moment, too many.

What do you wear to work? I worked from home even before Covid. I wouldn’t be entering myself in any ‘Best Dressed’ competitions.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: Running Loominations is a challenge, but I thrive on it rather than finding it stressful.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work entirely on my own. It’s brilliant to be able to make my own hours and take my own decisions, but there are times when another brain would be so helpful.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? Never.

Best bits: I’m proud of finding my ‘inner entrepreneur’ – I didn’t know I had one! Loominations has given me the excuse to travel the length and breadth of Ireland. I’ve met so many great people and forged some true friendships.

Worst bits: Accounts. I like making money, but not keeping track of it!

Advice to those who want your job? If you have a good idea, contact your Local Enterprise Office.

The Cork City LEO has been incredibly helpful.

Any other comments? Shop local! If everyone spent €20 a week in small Irish businesses in the months and weeks leading up to Christmas, it would boost our economy by €875 million.

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