My Career: Kata O’Donovan, Owner and founder of Cotton Caterpillars
Name: Kata O’Donovan
Lives: Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Job title: Owner and founder of Cotton Caterpillars
Salary bracket: €0-20,000 and growing!
Education background: I originally trained as a dental technician and I also have a diploma in manicure, pedicure and acrylic nails, as well as seven years of customer service experience.
Hobbies: Crafting, cycling, baking.
Describe your job in five words: Fun, creative, making connections, experimenting, solving problems.
Describe yourself in five words: Flexible, impactful, persistent, reliable, driven.
Personality needed for this kind of work? Ideally be easy going, up for a challenge, open to criticism, also you need to be creative and be skilled on the sewing machine.
How long are you doing this job? I launched my own business, Cotton Caterpillars after my first son was born in 2013.
How did you get this job? I graduated in Budapest and worked as a dental technician for a couple of years. I enjoyed making braces and dentures.
I was bullied in high school and that continued afterwards until one day I decided to leave the country and basically ran away! I came to Ireland for a week long holiday in June, June. I immediately fell in love with Ireland and the Irish people. Everywhere I went people smiled and said hello, and I felt welcomed.
I had to go back home after a week, and I started to make a plan for my return to Ireland. I quit my job, but I finished the language course I was attending, and in September I came back to Ireland. I will never forget that day, I had travelled by ferry, it was rainy and windy and the ferry struggled at the harbour. After a month I had a full time job, in a factory, then a couple of years later I got a job at the local supermarket, where I worked until 2013.
I started to pick up crocheting while I was expecting, my grandmother taught me how to crochet when I was young. I made cardigans and hats in vibrant colours.
I had a baby in 2013 and loved seeing my little guy wearing funky and multi-coloured clothes. Then I started to move on to sewing.
Do you need particular qualifications or experience? Yes, you need to have a considerable knowledge and experience in dressmaking and pattern making. Adeptness on the sewing machine is the most obvious skill you need to be a successful dressmaker. You also need to be creative and inventive to come up with new pattern ideas and to develop clothes that grow with your little one.
Describe a day at work: My day starts at 6am, I like to do some kind of exercise (walking on a dry day, or kettle bell indoors), then I have a shower, get dressed, and if I’m lucky I have a first cup of coffee before my children wake up!
Around 7.10am I get the kids dressed, and start making breakfast, getting their lunches ready too. We then walk or cycle to school.
I’m home by 9am, and replying to emails for about 10-15 minutes. Then I move to my sewing studio, where I start to work on orders, cutting fabrics, sewing, and creating beautiful pieces with love and passion.
At 1.30pm, I walk to school to pick my youngest up, we have then have a bite to eat, and then we collect his older brother at 2.30pm we walk home, do homework. Then they play Lego.
If I’ve to go to the post office, we do it in the afternoon together, and after that we start cooking together, we have dinner and bath time, and story time.
How many hours do you work a week? Between 30-40, depends on the season.
What do you wear to work? I wear 3/4 sleeves organic tops from Cotton Caterpillars and jeans. My favourite piece is a raspberry pink Sherpa jumper that I made for myself. It’s comfortable and cosy, perfect for working in.
Is your industry male or female dominated? The garment industry is and has historically been one of the most female-dominated industries in the world.
Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: It can be stressful, preparing for the Christmas season, or showcasing my products virtually to national and international buyers. But on a normal day it is not stressful at all.
Do you work with others or on your own? I’m the only designer and maker at my company. I am planning to expand the business in the near future.
When do you plan to retire or give up working? I love what I do, and hope I can sew for as long as possible. I will retire but never give up. It is my passion.
Best bits: Bringing my vision to life. Working with beautiful soft fabrics, adding extra steps to make sure each and every piece is unique and up to high standard. Receiving pictures and messages from customers after they received their order always makes my heart melt, seeing that my creations brings so much joy to others.
Worst bits: When your thread runs out in the middle of stitching a large baby blanket!
Advice to those who want your job? Have patience, knowledge, skill, and passion for it
Any other comments? I’d like to mention my handsome boys who are very involved in the business. They are also the models for Cotton Caterpillars. And I’d also like to say a huge thank you to my biggest supporter, my husband, Gerry.