Secrets to Success with Gillian Halpin: “Don’t be afraid of failure because that’s when you grow and learn”

Ever wondered how someone makes it as their own boss? What it takes to run your own business? We here at VIP are speaking to some of Ireland’s top businesswomen to find out the secrets to their success.

This week we’re chatting to Gillian Halpin, founder of fragrance brand Jane Darcy about everything from managing the work/life balance, to what inspires her daily.

Gillian, did you always dream of owning your own business?
Yes, I always wanted to own my own business. My dad was an entrepreneur so I spent every summer and any days off school working with him. I always knew it was something I wanted to do.

How did it all come about?
In my dad’s business I worked with a lot of clients, and they’d be much bigger than myself, who made the same products; candles, diffusers, home fragrances. It was the area that interested me the most. It gave me a clear idea of where exactly I wanted to go. Then I suppose what made me jump, was that I had two girls – well, one at the time and one in my tummy – and I felt with work I was travelling too much and I wanted to take time back into my own hands and spend some time with my girls and be at home if they needed me. What it does do for me, is that I’m able to pick and choose the time. If they have a school play I can definitely make it or if it’s a sunny day and as long as I don’t have anything pressing on, I can go home and spend the day with the girls. It’s such a privilege. I think they appreciate it too.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Over the last little while the biggest challenge has been Covid-19 and trying to grow during a time of such uncertainty has been very difficult. At the start of this pandemic, I was very worried. I’ve been so lucky and so blessed with the customers and followers we have. We made it through.

Would you bring your work home with you a lot?
Yeah! I always work in the evening. When come home, I don’t do any work and I put my phone away just to give my girls some time and my full attention, but once they’re down in bed, I’ll be back on the computer. I get through the emails I mightn’t have looked at during the day. It works for me. I like that I have the freedom to cut my day short if I want to go home at 4pm because I know I’ll be back on at 7pm.

Do you have any advice for young men or women who might want to follow in your footsteps and go into business by themselves?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is so much help out there. At the very beginning I wouldn’t have understood that. There are lots of people who have also called me looking for help and people are very kind, all you have to do is pick up the phone. If someone says no, call someone else. It’s no problem. I’d always say don’t be afraid of failure because that’s when you grow and that’s when you learn. I’ve had so many failures and made so many mistakes, and I’m only in business for just under two years. Loads of those mistakes I’ve been able to learn and grow from and ensure I don’t make them again by taking a different path. As well, I’ve made friends doing it because often when you’re in a pickle you call someone.

What would you say has been the biggest business mistake and did it teach you any lessons?
I’d say my biggest mistake is just not knowing I could ask for help. I’d have always thought I could do it all by myself and I am quite a perfectionist so I do like doing it by myself, but it’s better to ask for help.  During Covid, I had to ask for help because I simply couldn’t do it myself, it just wasn’t going to be possible. As soon as I asked, my friends and family were in helping me. In my house there was myself, my partner, my two girls and my dad, and we were packing during all hours of the day while everyone else was out sunbathing. I mean, it does just show you that it’s ok to ask for help – and to do it sooner rather than later.

What has been your biggest achievement so far with the business?
It sounds like a cliché, but being able to build a brand from the ground up. What pulls at my heartstrings is when my kids walk into a store and they say, ‘Mammy, mammy, look – Jane Darcy is on the shelf!’ I know the products are there, but they don’t and it just makes me so proud to show them that I’m working hard and achieve my goals.

Which women in business inspire you the most?
So many! I think in Ireland, we’re so lucky. We have so many boss ladies out there rocking it. If you look at the likes of Marissa Carter, Pamela Laird, Sonia Deasy…they’ve all built their businesses from nothing and now they own incredibly businesses and they are constantly innovating and developing. They’re constantly moving with what is going on in the market and I find it very interesting to watch.

Have you got any plans for the next few years? What would you like to see happen with the company?
Yes, big plans! I’d love to grow and develop outside of Ireland over the next five years. We’re launching new products in September which is very exciting. My goal this year is to get Jane Darcy on the shelves of Arnotts. It’s been a dream of mine for years.

Gillian’s new Intimate Moments range is available now!


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