Ahead of our next IMAGE Young Businesswomen’s Forum on Wednesday, March 15 at The Westbury Hotel, we sat down for five minutes with panellist Nicki Hoyne, founder of My Shining Armour.
Where did the inspiration for My Shining Armour come from?
Entrepreneurship is in my DNA so it was always something I would do. My Shining Armour niggled at the back of my mind for a long time. I have always been massively into accessories, quirky gifts and cool homewares. Coming out of college the job didn’t exist and websites cost a fortune. I’m a big online shopper and as technology and the Internet advanced I saw online stores open and I thought I can do that and I can do it even better. Now online is an even playing field, with a good site you can easily compete with the big players and with social media being so free and easy to promote businesses I knew I was onto something.
How did you finance the business initially?
I always put money away for my big venture. I didn’t know what that was for a long time but when it came to starting My Shining Armour I had built up enough for an initial investment and I moved back to Kilkenny to keep my living costs down. As a fashion start-up with no physical location, I wasn’t eligible for any funding. I started from my kitchen table and taught myself everything from coding to photography and graphic design. If you want to do something badly enough you figure out how to make it happen.
What personal skills make for a good entrepreneur?
You have to be hard working, willing to put in the long hours and you must be positive. If you get disheartened or dwell on the negative you’ll never get there and most importantly you won’t enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? You have to do it because you love it, anything else just wouldn’t be worth it.
Was there a particular ‘breakthrough’ moment for your business when you thought, ‘this is it!’
I was in business a year and a half before people started to recognise my brand. I thought the business would grow much faster than it did. I had good imagery, quality product and delivered a really good customer experience. The challenge was that the current market doesn’t really care about those things the focus is on fast fashion at the lowest possible price. I was focused on brand and strategy and had to play the long game. They say consumers need to see something 7 times before they will try it. So for Christmas 2015, we pushed hard on social media, we feature in British Vogue and Grazia, the Irish press really got behind us, we did a big Black Friday promotion, had a strong Christmas Gift Guide and we secured some key Irish blogger features. Suddenly My Shining Armour was everywhere and we had a fantastic Christmas. From then on we have grown month on month and so many wonderful things have happened.
What’s been the toughest thing about working for yourself?
My Shining Armour is so fun, anything can happy from getting emails from the jewellery editor of Vogue to trending on Twitter. I love to work and be productive. The buzz is addictive and so exhilarating. I am always on, trying to deliver the best customer experience for my customers whether it’s a Friday night or a Sunday morning. I wouldn’t change it for the world but I know it is not sustainable long term. What’s the point if you haven’t got a work-life balance and time for yourself, your friends and family? I try not to work on weekends and I have a personal trainer, which I find a great destresser. I’m coming out of start-up phase so I am going on a well-deserved beach holiday this year where I’ll completely switch off (well almost).
Describe your personal style?
Comfortable, classic and cool with a pop of colour, print or sparkle. I always keep my clothing pretty simple and love to find unique one-off pieces to make my outfit pop. I don’t feel comfortable if I haven’t a madcap accessory like a statement necklace, earrings, cool sunglasses, a statement bag or a massive cocktail ring. You’ll find me in the supermarket in my gold sequined ballet pumps. I don’t feel me if there’s not a pop. That’s just who I am!
What’s coming up next on My Shining Armour that we should look out for?
Where to start! Most excitingly I’m working on my own designs for a new capsule handbag collection to launch in late Spring. We just launched our funny disposable cups that we designed after I had a lightbulb moment in the shower. There will be lots more fun pieces like that. The new 2018 ban.do & Kate Spade Agendas land in late May. We have some UK activities coming up, Pop Up Shops in Kilkenny and Dublin and of course more new brands and categories.
Hear Nicki and fellow panellists Ruth Hetherington and Amy Buckeridge talk about their businesses and how they started up at our IMAGE Young Businesswomen’s Forum next week.
WHEN Wednesday, March 15
Drinks and canapés from 6pm
WHERE The Westbury Hotel, Dublin 2