In the current economic climate it may seem that it is the worst possible business environment to start a new business, but two young women have bucked the trend and the business they have started in Clonmel is already proving to be very successful.
Clonmel woman Gemma Coady, in partnership with college friend Aisling Hanby from Dublin, made their plans to start a design company while they were away from Ireland, travelling the world. The Ireland they arrived home to last year was very different to the place they left, but they were undeterred and in the last few months they have seen their company, Koh Creative, grow from strength to strength - proving them right to go for their dream!
Just this week the girls were proud to be involved in the announcement of one of the biggest leisure and entertainment developments ever proposed for county Tipperary. The Tipperary Venue which will include a super Casino, a five star hotel, a replica of the White House, an all weather racecourse track, a greyhound track, a signature 18 hole signature golfcourse, an equestrian centre and designer outlet shopping. The size of this development has not been seen in Europe before. Koh Creative has been chosen to create the logo and brand identities for the development.
Gemma, who is from Clonmel, met Aisling when they both attended Waterford Institute of Technology. A few years later the two girls are firm friends and business partners with their graphic design firm Koh Creative, which has now been up and running for four months.
To people who haven't heard of the girls' company their work has been very much in the public eye in Clonmel recently, as they designed the colourful new logo for the Clonmel Chamber's Style Festival. More examples of the girls' work can be see on their website www.kohcreative.com.
The company is currently dividing its work between Dublin and Clonmel, the homebases for both of the girls. Naturally, when they set up earlier this year, they expected the capital city would be the main target for new clients, but both Gemma and Aisling have been surprised and delighted to find that their business has really taken off in Clonmel.
Their success story began when Gemma and Aisling studied graphic design and visual communications at WIT. From there Gemma went on to study at the University of Wales and Aisling pursued further study in London. From there they both worked in the field of advertising for a few years, Aisling in London and Gemma in top Irish agency Irish International Proximity, who design advertising for top Irish brands including Guinness. Aisling also worked there for a time and at The Square advertising agency.
While the work was very good experience for them, they found it was also a stressful environment. Aisling said she also realised they could make more money working on a freelance basis and they knew they were capable of account management. Both the girls were entrepreneurial types and they had worked together in college, so they said they knew they could work well together again.
But before they launched into the world of running their own business Gemma and Aisling went travelling. It was on a beautiful Thai beach that they hit on their business plan and the name of their company. The beach was in Koh Tao, and they took the name, that sounded like the start of both their surnames, as their company name.
When they got back from their travels the girls saw the changed Ireland but decided 'let's do it' anyway.
Travelling gave them time to reflect on where their lives were going, Aisling said. Their time away also helped them define the type of company they wanted, Gemma told The NAtionalist. They also used it as an opportunity to see how graphics work is done in other countries.
Their arrival home could have been the worst time to set up a business, Gemma admits, but they turned the recession to their advantage. According to Aisling the recession gave them even more of a reason to set up their company, because now people are more open to cutting their costs. So while Koh Creative has the experience of working in some of the biggest companies they do not have their overheads, or costs.
In a way, Gemma said, the recession has been in their favour because people are looking for more value for their money.
The girls are confident that they offer the same quality of work as the bigger agencies.
At first they defined their roles in the company clearly as managing director or art director, but after a few months of operation the girls have both realised that they are both good at the two roles and share the tasks. This helps when they have offices in Clonmel and Dublin.
Another advantage of their company being small is that clients directly brief the person who will be creating the work for them, and their ideas won't get lost in a hierarchy of a larger office. Gemma pointed out that they listen to the clients and they do the work.
Both are surprised how well their business has taken off. After a few months in business they are now seeing a lot of clients coming to them thanks to the recommendations of past clients. Word-of-mouth is working well and each client has lead on to another client, Gemma said.
The hardest thing for a new company is to prove themselves to clients, Aisling added, but they are doing that because they are getting referalls from happy customers.
Koh Creative can work on everything from designing a logo for a new company to business materials, flyers and business cards.
Working with Clonmel Chamber has been great for the new company, the girls say, as has getting involved with the Dublin City Enterprise Board and the Business Network International. They have a new business mentor who is helping them through the first months of their company, and through Clonmel Chamber have worked with Eddie Shanahan, which they say has been great.
Gemma and Aisling are enjoying the work of their new company, the variety of the work and the new experiences it has brought them.
They readily admit that they threw themselves in at the deep end but they have no regrets and say that setting up Koh Creative has been a great experience.