MUM of two Jessica Power has had quite a few curveballs thrown at her throughout her start-up, but she’s an excellent example of the great things that can happen when you go with the flow and say yes to every opportunity.
In short, she had a baby girl and planned a wedding shortly before starting her own side business on maternity leave. Now she has two kids and opened a store, Jessica Loves, on North Main Street, Youghal, to accompany her one-woman online shop and blog.
A love of art led Jessica to study at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa with her friend Esther, with plans to start a graphic design business following graduation. But their joint business plans never came to fruition.
“Esther had her first beautiful baby boy and later became a hair stylist, while I went on to study business administration and management at Cork College of Commerce.”
After that, Jessica took on various roles in accountancy, loss adjusting, engineering, banking and recruitment.
“I acquired a lot of the knowledge I now need to be running my own business. While I was on my first maternity leave, I started making soft baby headbands for my own baby. Esther had her third baby, a girl named Darcy, around the same time I had Eva, so I also made some headbands for her. Of course, we were posting pictures of our new baby girls all over Facebook, as proud mamas do, and people started asking where did we get the headbands.
Without any real thought, I quickly set up a business Facebook page one evening in October, 2013, using that very first jesterdesign logo. I wasn’t really expecting anything to come from it, so I was actually very shocked to see messages coming straight through for headband orders.
“When I added some photos of the hand painted jute tote bags I made for my own wedding, the orders were flying in. I was inundated with orders that Christmas, so decided to set up my own website in January, 2014.”
These steps propelled her on to become her own boss, but it made her sick with nerves.
“I was really worried what people might think of me and also what if my designs weren’t good enough.”
Even more daunting for this young ingenue was starting the brand’s accompanying blog last November.
“I was really putting myself out there now and not just my designs. The blog is definitely driving a lot more traffic to my website, which is leading to more sales, so it is worth showing a bit more of my life. I still have that constant worry of what people might be thinking of me but thankfully I have not come across any negativity or trolling to date.”
Despite the knowledge and skills behind her, Jessica says her confidence comes from being a mother: “I want my kids to be proud of their Mama. I want to be a good example for them and show them they can do whatever they want with their lives if they are willing to work hard. You only get one shot at this and you need to be happy in your everyday work, as that is where we spend most of our lives.”
How does she balance it all?
“I think it’s all down to being organised — and never sleeping,” she laughs. “Having a new baby and a new business at the same time was tiring, I won’t lie, but they nap a lot at that age, so that’s when I worked.
“I did not take any maternity time off from jesterdesign, as I did not want to lose the momentum and it paid off because I did not have to return to work after my second baby. I had my second baby 15 months after my first, so that made things a lot harder but without the help of my husband Eoghan, my mother Jean and Agnes from Momma’s View Creche, I honestly could not do any of this.”
After Jessica’s first maternity leave, she took on a permanent part-time position so she could keep working on her side business and because she didn’t want to go back to work full-time with a baby at home.
“I’m sure most mothers can relate to this. So I was delighted with my three-day week work/life balance until, six weeks into the new job, I found out I was pregnant again.”
While on her second maternity leave, Jessica wondered how she could organise two babies and get to work on time as well as continue with her “side hustle”.
“I sat down with my husband and we went through the figures, the cost of childcare with two babies now, diesel and lunch, and it just didn’t make any financial sense to go back as I would barely be breaking even on a three-day week.”
So she had a choice to make between full-time employment or taking a chance on her own business prowess.
“The latter is what I decided to do. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief and start enjoying the fact I was actually going to be my own boss! To tie in with my blog I recently decided I wanted to add a new range of gifts and homewares to my online shop, so I could offer my customers the option of purchasing all the things that I love to buy myself.
“I then had the notion of doing a pop-up shop style launch for one week, so people could come and see the new products in person. This then snowballed into me thinking, why not just open for the summer, and before I knew it I was signing a 12-month lease on a prime premises on Youghal’s North Main Street )for the newly renamed Jessica Loves…)!
“I’m still on the rollercoaster of ‘this is a great idea’ one minute and then ‘what the heck am I doing’ the next. It’s the biggest, most terrifying leap for [Jessica Loves…] to date but I feel I have to at least give it a try to see if I can make it work.”