Cork-born accountant, Claire McCarthy is restless by nature. From Dublin to London and back again, along with her ‘settled’ day job as an accountant, she has had a lot of side hustles. After years of juggling, she took a timeout in Central America to regroup and while she says she didn’t “find herself” she did finally take the plunge and start her own business, TheBash.co a bespoke party planning service with a difference.
The “aha” moment
Growing up, both my father and grandmother had their own businesses and I always knew it was what I wanted too. During the summers, I played “Doral Enterprises” with my brothers and cousins which was our make-believe company. We did it all – ran golf courses, were architects and had our own newspaper. We were highly successful!
I dabbled with a few small business ideas over the years. At one stage I had a customised t-shirt business and I also had a blog for newbies in London. In 2012 however, my real “aha!” moment came when I was sitting in a meeting in the London firm where I was working. I should have been listening to whatever the partner was saying but my mind was wandering. I had been looking for ideas for a friend’s hen party and there was nothing that offered that point of difference in the hen party world online. Everything was pink, loud, tacky and impersonal. There was something missing for those who wanted to approach hen parties a little differently. That’s when I set up thehenplanner.com blog for stylish, personal and fun hen parties. Working on TheHenPlanner I was getting inquiries from people for party ideas and different things to do. They found it hard to find the right activity or venue for their event. This inspired me to research creating a platform which would enable these women to find, connect and book directly with handpicked businesses with no hassle. I realised that this would be valuable to planning any group event from birthdays to baby showers and even communion lunches along with hen parties. This led to setting up The Bash @ TheBash.co
I ran TheHenPlanner part-time for four years while still working full-time as an accountant. When I worked through The Bash concept and decided to go for it, I knew I had to commit to it 100% in order to bring it to where I wanted it. The hardest thing to come around to was saying goodbye to my guaranteed pay cheque, pension and maternity leave – which never would have been a consideration for me before, but you definitely think about these things in your 30s. I am very lucky to have a very patient and supportive husband who encouraged me to step out. I also secured a place on the New Frontiers phase 2 programme with DIT Hothouse in July 2016 which definitely made the move easier. The first 6 months were filled with mentoring sessions and workshops which really helped to focus the business and refine the value proposition for both consumers and our business customers.
There hasn’t been one been one big fail but I have made lots of mistakes along the way. I try to step back and learn from them as much as possible. Something I wish I had done sooner, however, is put myself out there. I hid behind emails and social media accounts for years. Part of the reason for this was that I didn’t want my day job credibility to be knocked. I was worried how it would be perceived working in finance and having a business that is all about parties and fun, on the side. In hindsight, this all would have been fine and I’m sure the company I was working for would have understood and been supportive.
I get up at 7 am and go to reformer pilates – Oh sorry, no I don’t! That was before I had to say bye to my pay cheque! Unfortunately, the startup life doesn’t enable these luxuries anymore. I try to go for a run in the morning to get myself going (as long as it’s not raining!) I don’t like to take too long so prefer a fast 3km to 5km depending on my day ahead. I come back, shower and have a coffee. I used to always buy my coffee out but now I use Nespresso every day. My days vary and I work between my desk in Hothouse in Grangegorman DIT, my home office or 3fe. Saturday is my day off. Sunday is my planning day and I like to take a few hours to plan my week ahead. I have a small team who work on graphics, content and marketing but as a business owner, you oversee everything. My time is spent out meeting new businesses that want to sign up to TheBash.co, looking for investment, working with developers on our platform and marketing and content planning. Each week, we also try to get out to experience different Bash events as, with Bash, we are handpicking our business partners so that our users can trust in our business 100%. Last week we did a barista session with 3fe, hat making with Aoife Harrison and then axe throwing with Axe Club.
It’s easier said than done but my advice for anyone who feels unhappy is don’t put pressure on yourself to figure it out as you can’t force these things. I saved up and took a sabbatical for 6 months before returning to Dublin. I traveled around Central America on my own. I wanted a timeout, a life challenge and I probably thought I would come back and life would all just fall into place. I had a great time but I didn’t “find myself”. When I came back I moved back home and lived with my parents in Cork for a few months and took a part time job while I figured out my next steps. I was very unhappy. I had just turned 30 and felt like I was 16 again. I had started thehenplanner.com but it wasn’t making money. I then took an accounting job in Dublin and settled into life with my now husband who moved back from London also. I stopped putting pressure on it and over time, things fell into place.
The most important advice I would have is that if an opportunity to make a change in your life or your career presents itself, TAKE IT. Even if it doesn’t work out you’ll feel better for having given it a go rather than staying in the same job that you know doesn’t make you happy. For me, this was getting onto the New Frontiers Programme.