How do you begin and end a successful and creative day?
I wake around 6:30am naturally and to set myself up I turn on the radio, read the news feeds on my phone and have some breakfast. It takes me a while to settle into making and that can be helped by numerous cups of tea. If particularly successful in my endeavours, I will celebrate with having a beer and watching some TV show like Fast & Loud or something like that.
How do you advertise your business? What tactics have and have not worked for you?
Everything and nothing. There is a lot of trial and error in the design and making, and so it is with promoting my work. A lot of recommendations come by word of mouth. I exhibit quite a lot, plus I enter a lot of competitions. In the art and ceramics world that is quite a good way to get my name out there.
In the pottery world, taking a stand at showcase and getting editorials from recommended papers and magazines and using tools like Facebook and Instagram are vital to establishing my product as a household name. Having high profile clients like Meadows & Byrne, Cronins of Kinsale and the likes of Cork Craft & Design, Mill Cove Galleries Kenmare, An Draíocht in Adare and the Hunt Museum in Limerick, along with a host of other high end craft and gift shops really helps with spreading the word… with this Charlie Mahon is back and making again!
How do you define success?
Like anyone else really; repeat orders and securing new clients and having money in the bank!
To what do you attribute your success?
Hard work and team work, trial and error in design, mentoring, networking, making the right contacts, making sure the product is relevant to the marketplace and getting orders out quickly. Marketing and branding are essential and also a good photographer. Our clients showcasing my product correctly is imperative too. Positivity is essential. Viewing failure as a learning curve is one of the hard things to do but it really is the only way forward, as nobody gets it right the first time!
How do you work through a creative block when it is your business and not simply your hobby?
Normally I am so full of ideas it doesn’t bother me. Only occasionally does it interfere and then out comes my sketch book and an excuse to get away for a day or weekend. I also look back on my other sketch books of which I literally have a library of. Cooking new recipes, discussions with friends and family – sometimes a change is as good as a rest kind of thing is necessary.
What are your hidden inspiration sources?
Everyday things, seeing something and wondering how I can interpret it in my creative output. Cooking, I really enjoy that. Also life, history, travel, art exhibitions, having ordinary everyday experiences, humour and colour. Everything really!
What is your favourite aspect of working for yourself?
The meeting of my ambition with my business aims and my desire to create. I love creating and making!
How did you raise funding for your original venture?
The Mill Cove Gallery came along and bought out all the stock in my studio in the height of the recession and really encouraged me to continue making. That money went into getting the kiln up and running and new tools and so on. Also Cork Craft & Design, a brilliant organisation, which runs like a co-op and therefore making it affordable to do market research. Going to the Local Enterprise Board for funding Showcase 2017 and 2018 was integral to the success of my wholesale business.
What do you wish you knew in the beginning about setting up your own business and working for yourself?
The importance of marketing and design, how to publicise both me and the product and brand, how to choose the right stockists. To complete market research on your product, as what you think is brilliant might not suit your target customer. To research and know your target market. To be careful of what grants you apply for. That you have only a certain time limit to get funding.
What is your ultimate goal?
To work for myself full-time and to have a retail premises that is somewhere people would like to come visit. Have an online shop that supplies the world and to have Charlie Mahon as a household name. I’m nearly there!
What would you do with your business if you had unlimited resources?
The above. Also, really establish my brand through a successful marketing campaign. This takes major investment and long-term planning. Having an online shop in all countries and get into other aspects of the giftware industry, as a complement to my work.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and what would you hope to learn from them?
Not really one person; it’s a movement called the Bauhaus in Germany in the 1920s. They wanted to bring about a new way to design. They setup something that was new and it encompassed all the creative endeavours. Some of the prime movers behind this were Walter Gropius, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee. I would love to meet these people!