Come and hear Chupi’s story

Ahead of Local Enterprise Ireland Week, EMMA CONNOLLY talks to business women who will be sharing their success stories at events in Cork.
Come and hear Chupi’s story
Chupi Sweetman

BE nice, work hard – and do it.

That could be be one of those airy fairy instagram quotes – instead it’s the real life ethos of one of the country’s up and coming jewellery designers, Chupi Sweetman.

Only five years in business, she has a team of 22 and supplies her pieces to 64 countries.

Before that she was scouted by Topshop and that designed women’s wear collections for them for six years – oh and did we mention she’s only 33?

Now you’re listening –and she’ll have a lot to say when she comes to Cork as part of Local Enterprise Week for a Craft and Design Seminar in Inchydoney on March 9.

More than 3,000 people will attend business events throughout Cork from Monday March 6 to Friday March 10 as part of the week which include conferences, workshops, seminars, networking, and business advice clinics.

It’s aimed at anyone thinking of starting a business, new start-ups and growing SMEs.

Chupi’s free event is expected to be a crowd puller as she’ll be talking about how to build a brand – or ‘tell your story’ as she says.

“People get intimidated by language. Starting your business is a scary road – like jumping off a cliff – and everyone has that story to tell,” she says.

Her own one is fascinating - she went from having her own stall in Cow’s Lane market Temple Bar, to being the youngest designers to work for Topshop at 21, to falling out of love with fast fashion and retraining as a goldsmith (prompted by her boyfriend proposing and getting a necklace belonging to her grandmother) and now running her massively successful business.

“Working for Topshop was terrifying, exhilarating and amazing but a time came when I wasn’t in love with it any more. It was an exciting challenge to retrain as a goldsmith– all the pieces I make have stories to tell and all are made in Ireland.” She feels that because she ‘still has so much to learn’ people who come along to the seminar will be able to relate to her.

“Success is a funny thing – I’ve lots more to do. I’m only a year or two ahead of where these people are most likely at so it will be all very useful and relative to them,” she explains.

Her advice is to avail of all the supports that exist through Enterprise Ireland and the likes – but to go with the intention of getting mentoring, and not money.

“I didn’t originally as I was so afraid I’d fail,” said Chupi who works out of Powerscourt Centre in Dublin city centre is now an Enterprise Ireland client.

And she’s a big believer in hard work – stressing that there are 24 hours in a day.

“All of us have a fear – the what if – but there’s nothing worse than being unhappy I was brought up with a rock solid belief that if you have something you love with your whole soul you can do anything.” Another interesting story audiences will hear during the week is that of North Cork based Siobhain CORRECT SPELLING THERES AN I IN SIOBHAIN Steele ceramicist who will speak at the Women in Business Conference on Monday March 6 in Springfort Hall.

After a career in nursing, Siobhan opted for a change back in 2013 and her unique hand made pieces are now massively popular world wide.

The mother of two boys did a ceramics course in Colaiste Stiofain Naofa, followed by a degree course in the Crawford but throughout was conscious of how her skill could translate into paid work.

“This was not just a hobby for me. During my final year in college I needed to find out what supports were there so I literally typed in ‘start your own business’ to the search engine and found a local enterprise course in Fermoy,” she said.

That equipped her with the skill to draw up a business plan which she says was useful to clarify what she really wanted to do – as well as being something tangible to bring along to the bank.

Starting out in her garden shed at her home in Kildinan, Rathcormac - which she has now extended – her motto is borrowed from American business guru: “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” But she says there has to be an element of practicality involved.

“The shed was where it was going to happen, and I made it happen; but you have to get up and go and do it. You can have a dream but you need a plan and an end goal; a one year plan, a three year plan etc to see if you are hitting your targets.” “In the beginning there are challenges - you’re the designer, the maker, the packer and the seller but the balance comes and it gets easier."

Siobhain feels it takes three years to really figure your business out and in the mean time to surround yourself with like-minded people.

She totally recommends doing a business course with a Local Enterprise Office.

“You might have a great idea on paper but it might now be practical. The course really makes you focus and clarify on what you are doing and come up with a concrete idea.” Her pieces include lamps, vases, unique messages in a bottle as well as specially commissioned pieces.

Among the other events being hosted during the week will be a female entrepreneurship conference which will feature a panel of Ireland's leading upcoming and established female entrepreneurs, a Taste Cork event for Cork's budding food businesses, and a Digital Conference focused on trading online on Wednesday March 8 with key industry experts in Rochestown Park.

Other events throughout the week include a Brexit Proof your Business seminar, a mystery “stage” coach for young entrepreneurs to meet some of Cork's leading entrepreneurs and experts, and a 'Shaping Ireland's Future' event for third level students in Cork Opera House on Monday March 6 with internationally renowned business speakers.

*Most events are free of charge and can be booked through Cork's Local Enterprise Office websites with early booking recommended. Follow LEO on social media or search #localenterprise.

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