A flurry of fashionable farm women from around the country can be expected after the launch of Pretty Bird at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, in September.
A new Irish fashion and lifestyle specialist for outdoor work wear and lifestyle products designed exclusively for women, Pretty Bird is the brainchild of Grace Roche.
She lives on a 110ac dairy farm in Kylemore, Abbey, Loughrea, Co. Galway, with her husband Ray and in-laws, Pat and Margaret – just a few miles down the road from her homeplace.
Ray and I both work full-time, but help out on the home farm in the evenings and weekends. We also have a 50ac rented farm for dry stock.
“The ‘outdoor principle’ is the business’ key unique selling point. We will be selling across three distinct but complementary sub-segments; farm, garden, and festival wear.”
Headquartered in Leitrim village, Pretty Bird is her first business. “Last year on my 30th birthday, I told Ray that as a gift to myself, I was going to spend some time developing the business idea.
“This year, on my 31st birthday – just a few weeks ago – I announced to family and friends that the business was set up and running.”
Clearly Grace is not a woman who allows the grass to grow under her feet. Through her day job at Momentum Consulting, Grace has supported hundreds of businesses over the last six years with winning marketing campaigns and sales strategies.
“My role as Head of EU Projects has opened me up to best practice from Europe. It has helped me hone my business skills, particularly in the last year, when I worked on developing learning materials for entrepreneurs all across Europe,” she said.
“A farmer’s only daughter, I have been immersed in farming and the outdoor life from a very young age. I worked alongside my brothers on the family farm from childhood right up until going to studying new media and English at the University of Limerick. I also spent time working in the horse racing industry.”
In 2011, she completed a digital marketing diploma with the Irish Internet Association, which led to a number of marketing internships before she joined Momentum the following year.
There, she works with businesses of all sizes across sectors such as: consumer products; food; financial services; natural resources; and tourism. “Being surrounded by aspiring and successful business people on a daily basis helped me develop a good business mind,” Grace said.
She will retain her role in Momentum and base her new business in its premises – husband Ray has assisted with market research and logistics.
“Pretty Bird has created two new jobs immediately and I hope to grow that to six jobs within two years,” Grace said.
A gap in the market
She has been working on the business idea since September 2013. “After visiting the National Ploughing Championships, I was struck by the very limited or non-existent range of women’s outdoor work wear in comparison to a huge selection of men’s work wear.
“On the drive home, the concept of Pretty Bird was born. We have collected an exclusive range of products from across Europe – Sweden, Norway and the UK. We are also designing our own range of work wear and farm fashion, including some really fun slogan t-shirts that we just love.”
The Pretty Bird collection is, she said, aimed at women who love the outdoors and who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. It includes work garb such as dungarees, work trousers and overalls, as well as footwear and lifestyle products.
“We haven’t found anything comparable in Ireland and we have searched and searched. What’s special about our work wear products, in particular, is that they are practical and functional, but also feminine and fitted to the female form.
“The range we are bringing in from Sweden is exclusive to Pretty Bird and we are poised to become the national distributors for retail,” she said.
I’m very keen to be an advocate for women farmers across Ireland. The lack of dedicated work wear for us up until now reflects the fact that we have been in the wings, not recognised, and undervalued.
“I look forward to working with the likes of the West Women in Farming group and others, to put a positive spotlight on women farmers.
“My unique position, being so well balanced between the business and farming, as well as support from key business mentors, will hopefully guide this new venture to success. We have export plans for our own Pretty Bird range, which we will roll out in 2018.”
A group effort
Funding to date has come from the couple’s personal funds and savings. “We also have the backing of one key investor, who has been a great support. We are looking into business start-up grants and other financial support, and our bank is keen to support us.
“We have got great support from my colleagues at Momentum in terms of brand, graphics design and business planning. Family have also been great. My mum, Bernie, and my brother, Michael, are putting in long hours to help get the business off the ground.
“We are all working towards a big official launch at the National Ploughing Championships. The range will be sold primarily online at www.prettybird.ie, as well as at trade shows and events.
We also have another avenue for sales up our sleeve but it’s a secret – you will have to come by our stand at the Ploughing to find out more.
Grace’s biggest challenge was, she said, summoning the courage to start the venture. “I couldn’t do this without all the backing I have received from friends, family, colleagues and everyone who has offered words of praise and support.
“Ray has been especially amazing. I come home every evening and say to him, ‘am I half crazy?’. His response is, ‘yep, that’s why I love you’. The feedback on our Facebook and Instagram pages has also been phenomenal,” Grace said.