My Career: Designs on the perfect job

In our My Career column, Avril O’Sullivan, tells us about her business, Couture Wedding Cards
My Career: Designs on the perfect job
Avril O'Sullivan Owner and Creative Designer at Couture Wedding Cards.

Name: Avril O’Sullivan.

Age: 46.

Lives: Cobh, Co. Cork.

Job title: Owner and Creative Designer at Couture Wedding Cards.

Salary bracket: Variable as I’m still building my brand.

Education background: My family moved from Cork to London when I was a teenager, I attended Secondary School at Marie Fidelis Convent School and was educated to A-Level standard and studied English and Art and Design.

Foundation course in Information Technology, Microsoft Office, E.C.D.L.

I have mutual funds qualifications from the Irish Institute of Bankers, Bids Financial Systems, Bloomberg, Swift, and SAP.

Diploma in Interior Design, from Regent Academy City and Guilds.

Hobbies: Yoga, Zumba, walking, cooking, water sports, eating out and travel.

Describe your job in five words: Creative, challenging, artistic, detailed and rewarding.

Describe yourself in five words: Positive, hard-working, perfectionist, energetic and calm.

Personality needed for this kind of work? Confident with good communication skills, along with having an open mind. Emotions can sometimes be high in the lead up to a wedding so being level-headed and calm is a key factor in this role. Some of my clients know exactly what they want, but other clients will need some direction so creativity is a must.

How long are you doing this job? Couture Wedding Cards is up and running three years, but I had started working on ideas for designs prior to this. When one of my friends asked me to design her mass booklets for her wedding, I jumped at the chance and haven’t stopped designing and creating stationery since!

How did you get this job? I’ve been working in various roles from 15 years of age, starting with weekend jobs. I’ve worked in customer service in cafes, a newsagent shop and I worked as a sales assistant in the shoe department in Harrods from 16 to 19 years of age, I think this may be where I got my addiction to shoes!

When I completed my A-Levels, I thought about going on to do further studies in Graphic Design, however my family made the decision to relocate back to Ireland. I decided to work for a while in Ireland before considering going back to further education. I got a job with Apple Computers and worked in manufacturing before being promoted to software testing. Once I started earning a regular wage it was difficult to return to being a full-time student.

While at Apple, I studied various computer courses and after six years was offered a redundancy package so I took this opportunity to gain more experience in other fields.

After just a few weeks of being out of a job, I interviewed for a job in a large multinational shipping company called Sealand and was offered the position. During this time I worked in the customer billing department and was given the opportunity to travel to Denmark to train for the job. Unfortunately, after only a year of operating in Cork, the company moved their shared services centre back to mainland Europe when they merged with another company.

Avril O'Sullivan Owner and Creative Designer at Couture Wedding Cards.
Avril O'Sullivan Owner and Creative Designer at Couture Wedding Cards.

Before the office closed, I was lucky enough to be offered a position within a financial and hedge fund services company also in Cork. I had zero banking experience but did have lots of enthusiasm and determination to do the job. I moved to Dublin to train for my new role in the I.F.S.C. centre for six months which was a fantastic experience. I relocated back to the Cork office in April, 2000, to work in the reconciliations department and advanced to the client services department. I worked in this company for six years. During this time I got engaged, and bought a new home with my fiancé and we planned our wedding for June, 2006.

In January, 2006, I joined Hertel, a leading international Industrial services company where I worked as a project coordinator/administrator in Conoco Philips Oil Refinery. It was a very challenging position and I was the only female to have worked in this role up to then. The job was fast-paced and consisted of a large number of responsibilities, however I settled into the role very quickly and enjoyed my time in the job.

At the beginning of 2014, I took a leap of faith and resigned from the role after eight years of service, to enable me to have a more flexible lifestyle, and to watch my two children, Robyn and Ethan, grow up. Like most working mums, I found it difficult to juggle a regular 9 to 5 job with a young family. I felt like I was on a hamster wheel that I couldn’t get off, constantly rushing to work every day and paying a small mortgage for childcare. The company kindly offered me a two-year career break, however, after making the decision, I felt there was no turning back.

I couldn’t stop thinking about doing something creative again and I knew I had an eye for beautiful details and loved designing, so with my background in Art and Design, Couture Wedding Cards was born. I felt that there was a niche in the market for luxury wedding stationery and wanted to create unique bespoke invitations, made only from premium cardstock and materials for couples getting married. Since then my invitations have gone worldwide and even as far as the United States and Australia.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience?

A flair for style, design and creativity are essential along with being able to think outside of the box, especially when working on bespoke invitations. The skills I have developed for the job are all self-taught through lots of experience. I feel a list of qualifications are not always necessary, if you have determination you can succeed at anything.

Describe a day at work: Every day is different, which I love, as I like the flexibility and not knowing what each day will bring.

In the mornings, after doing the school run, I grab a quick coffee and head into my garden studio to check my e-mails and respond to any queries from the day before. I usually then get stuck into working on existing orders, tweaking any current designs and sending out samples to future clients. There is nearly always some photography involved in my day, I spend a portion of my time styling and photographing my designs. I’m also very active on social media, so I regularly check my social media accounts for any queries and upload some designs from weddings that I’ve worked on recently. Like every job, there is usually some administration to do which includes corresponding with suppliers and invoicing.

Customer consultations are usually in the evening time, which I find suits my client couples and their working hours.

How many hours do you work a week? On average 30-35 hours a week but on a busy week this could be 40+ hours.

What do you wear to work? I work from my studio so work-wear is pretty casual but as my style is polished it’s usually a smart top, with jeans or trousers and a blazer.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: Usually, when a deadline is being met, the job can get stressful, but I try and be as organised as possible prior to this. I would say if I were to rate it, it would be a 6.

Do you work with others or on your own? I work on my own most of the time which can be isolating at times, but I do find the other suppliers in the wedding sector extremely supportive and I liaise with photographers, florists, and confectioners mainly who are also working also with my wedding couples. I feel it’s all about supporting and helping each other to be the best experts in our field.

Best bits: Meeting new people and creating beautiful designs from my couple’s visions and seeing how excited they are when they receive their stationery is fantastic. When I get positive feedback from my clients about how happy they were with my service and how their guests have complimented them, on how beautiful their invitations were and how much they loved their mass booklets, table plans, etc, this just makes my day!

Worst bits: When I’ve spent a lot of time on a design and my client changes their mind on what they want, this can be frustrating and really time-consuming. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often! Being self-employed means it’s not easy to switch off from the job, especially in the evenings or weekends, there is always a part of me thinking about wedding stationery and what I need to do next.

Advice to those who want your job? Start by designing wedding stationery part time if possible on the side before giving up your day job. Make sure to have some savings put aside for start-up costs such as equipment, materials and printing costs. I worked from my kitchen table for two years before moving into my studio, so it’s important to have a space to work from. Find your style and stay focused on your own work.

Any other comments? Couture Wedding Cards are based in Cobh, Co. Cork and specialise in creating bespoke wedding and event stationery. As well as creating beautiful wedding stationery, I’ve created invitations for fashion and influencers’ special events, which has been an amazing experience.

Last year I was a speaker on an expert wedding panel hosted by Aisling Kelleher of Polkadotdreaming (www.instagram.com/polkadotdreamingweddings) during a wedding clinic held in the Macdonald Kinsale Hotel. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet such a large number of future brides in a relaxed, intimate, afternoon tea setting. It was a great occasion to meet other wedding suppliers in the industry and to listen to their varied knowledge and different areas of expertise. To find premium wedding suppliers in Cork, check out the hashtag #corkweddingcrew on Instagram.

To view some of our previous and current designs on social media, go to www.instagram.com/coutureweddingcards and www.facebook.com/coutureweddingcards.ie or to our website at www.coutureweddingcards.ie. For any queries or to book a consultation please e-mail Avril at hello@coutureweddingcards.ie or contact us via our social media accounts.

More in this section

Sponsored Content