Hi Everyone! My name is Bróna Carty, a Bundoran native currently living in Dundalk with my partner and two boys. I design and make jewellery and I’m in business a year this coming June.
Growing up, I never really knew what I wanted to do or be. I knew I had a creative side but I never thought I’d pursue it, foolishly believing it was not something I could apply to a career. I was a total magpie; always mooching in car boot sales for hidden treasures, or staring into jeweller’s windows anywhere I went, looking for those unusual pieces. In my teenage years when my friends and I used to go shopping to Sligo, they could be found in all the clothes boutiques while I had a path worn to one of my favourite shops ‘The Cat and The Moon’, enthusing over the latest pieces of jewellery, paintings and ceramics, in absolute awe of all that was there. Martina Hamilton, owner and jeweller, was and still is one of my favourite artists. My dad had a great eye for jewellery, buying my mum some really nice pieces over the years, my favourite being ‘Waves of Tory’, a piece by jeweller Geraldine Hannigan based in Letterkenny, which I loved so much he bought me one to stop me taking mum’s all the time.
Leaving school, I didn’t look at my career path as something I could enjoy; I looked at it as a necessity to get good job that would help me pay my way and allow me to travel. So at seventeen, I did a Medical Business Studies course and got a job in a Doctor’s surgery. I then did a Special Needs Assistant course and worked in a primary school and kid’s camps. I went from that to doing a Fitness/Swimming Instructor & Lifeguarding course and working in a Leisure Centre. I then moved to Cornwall where I began my 8 years as a Boots Pharmacy employee, living between there and Ireland, while also taking a year out to travel. Travelling in 2008 was the most eye opening experience of my life. I worked as a Medical Secretary for the Head of the Amputee Clinic, and the Head of the Infectious Diseases Unit in Melbourne; also for a Bariatric Surgeon, and for the Hospital Building Services Department in Brisbane.
I never regret the educational path I chose when leaving school, because even though it took me a while to find what I love, it led me to some of my greatest experiences and I learned invaluable life lessons along the way, while meeting some of the most amazing people on my journey. Without these jobs I don’t believe my mind would have been opened up to the lives of children with intellectual and physical disabilities; people with serious drink, drug or food addictions; people with incurable diseases; amputees; and the professionals who cared for them. I learned so much about what people go through, how incredibly strong people can be, how short life is and how people, especially those who are non-verbal, have some of the most amazing thoughts and beliefs. I learned that people can have opposite polar beliefs to me and still become amazing friends for life. I learned so much about myself by learning about others. I’m incredibly grateful for all the places my life has brought me, and the people it has brought to me, both good and bad.
My main role for Boots was Sales Plan Co-ordinator, and in later years training as a Healthcare Assistant. Although I enjoyed my work and gained a lot of experience there were no opportunities to move on in the company, and travelling from Bundoran to Letterkenny became extremely difficult, especially after having my first child in 2009.
When I was offered voluntary redundancy in August 2011 I took it, hoping to find something closer to home, but instead finding out a few weeks later that I was expecting my second child. Eeek!
My partner Pádhraic was just starting his fourth and final year as a mature student in DKIT, studying a degree in International Business Management. We had planned to move to Dundalk after the baby was born because opportunities in the North West were so few and far between for new Graduates, and the long distance relationship was becoming harder and harder. We enrolled our eldest in playschool in Dundalk and were ready to make the big move the following year. Pádhraic had got a job with PayPal as an analyst in Dublin and we were all set.
Unfortunately, the following year, my dad (who was my best friend in the whole world) passed away and I couldn’t bring myself to leave Bundoran. I just needed to be home to heal, and I spent the following two years trying to do just that. It was really difficult for Pádhraic, but he remained supportive and strong for me throughout that time. I found that time stood still; I was going about day to day with no interest in my own life. If it hadn’t been for my boys I’d have had nothing to get up for in the morning. I struggled so much with the loss of my dad, and in May 2014 I started counselling. By the August I felt I was ready to move on and give my own family the attention they deserved.
I’d had Brendan, our eldest boy, enrolled in both Dundalk and Bundoran schools, and although I still wasn’t sure about a big move to the wee country, I knew I had to try. We moved into Pádhraic’s cousin’s little cottage and things started to fall into place. We were together, and that’s all that mattered. The New Year brought new hope and things to look forward to. I knew my Dad would want me to just be happy, so I started to focus on myself. Pádhraic found me a jewellery-making hobby course (something I’d always wanted to do) in Dublin, and I ended up accepting a full-time apprenticeship that September. I made some wonderful friends and ignited a passion for designing and making jewellery. I take inspiration for my pieces from the coast, nature and Irish folklore.
I now have my own range of jewellery and also take orders for bespoke pieces. My most popular pieces are the ‘Big Wave, Little Boat’ pendant and the ‘Children of Lir’ pendant. My favourite piece I have made is the ‘TEN OR 11’ pendant, which was a fishing boat my dad owned with three of his best friends, all local Bundoran men. I broke down when I finished it because it was such an important piece and evokes so much emotion to me. I exhibited my pieces at the Art Hub in Naas after a very successful time at the National Design and Craft fair 2016. The pieces I look forward to making most in the future are my own and Pádhraic’s wedding rings. The best part of my job is giving someone a piece and watching their eyes light up; knowing the hours you spent designing it on paper then creating it at the bench was all worth it.
It’s a business that I am growing slowly but steadily. I’m still quite new to business and it’s difficult at times, but I keep learning and pushing myself. Local Enterprise courses are wonderful for people like me, who have a creative side, but when it comes to marketing and spreadsheets are completely lost. Time Management is something that I’ve learned is crucial in the jewellery business; not just for getting orders out in time, but for the surges and declines of sales throughout the year. You learn to have your Christmas stock started in September and your Valentines stock started before Christmas, while keeping an eye on bespoke birthday and anniversary orders. When bench work is quiet, then it’s time to work on marketing. It’s not in any way a non-stressful job. You can have bad days where nothing goes right; you might melt part of a piece you spent hours on, polish off some engraving, or your castings come back full of corrosion after you spent hours cleaning them. Some days you just have to walk away, take a breather and start afresh the next morning. Those are the days I actually love working for myself, having the freedom to do that. There’s so much flexibility in working for yourself. I work when the kids are at school and in the evenings. If they are ever sick, I have the freedom to keep them off school without needing a babysitter.
For me, being a woman in business doesn’t seem daunting, simply just being in business is daunting. There are so many risks and ways you can fail. There are so many obstacles to overcome. There are even people who want you to fail. All these things can knock your confidence, but only if you let them. It’s much better to learn from them. Focus on the positive, and soon it’s all you will see. I’ve met some amazing crafts people in this field and other creative fields. It has opened up a huge network of wonderful people to me.
I am currently setting up a website, which will be going live within the next couple of months, but for now I am contactable through my Facebook business page. http://fb.me/bronacartyjewellerydesigns.
If I had any advice for people thinking of setting up their own business, I would say to do your research, ask for help from your local enterprise office, do as many courses in the field as possible and learn all you possibly can. And then, if it still seems feasible and you’re still hungry for it, then go for it!! It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it, because the days aren’t long when you love your job. You’ll inevitably make mistakes, but look at those mistakes as opportunities to learn from. Be open to change, be open to get the hell out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you. It’s then that you’ll see things happen; you will grow as a person and as a business, and more and more opportunities will open up to you. This life is short… So Be Brave!
As Erin Hanson’s quote goes… ‘What if I fall?’
‘What if I fall?’
‘Oh! But my darling! What if you fly?’
Check out Brona’s designs on her Facebook by clicking the link here.