A native of County Galway, Mark T Burke has been creating headwear from his Loughrea studio for the past three years.
At the 2010 Irish Fashion Innovation Awards, Mark claimed the prestigious title of ‘Accessory Designer of the Year’. Since then, Mark’s millinery career has gone from strength to strength. From ‘Best Dressed Lady’ at Punchestown Racecourse to the royal wedding of Zara Philiips, Mark T Burke Millinery has become a prominent feature in ladies’ fashion both at home and abroad. His creations are often spotted at Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Buckingham Palace and, of course, his native Galway Races.
What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
I had just finished my degree in Textile Design in GMIT
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
My love for the industry, the desire to achieve and the possibility of being able to work with my hands and make a living
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Start up costs were kept to a very minimal – I started in the spare bedroom at my home!
What was the biggest obstacle?
It’s a one man show, so I do everything, balancing time is probably one of the biggest obstacles.
Who supported you?
I had/have great support from my family and a wonderful team of aunts.
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
I had great media coverage locally and nationally in my first year, this really helped get my name out, after that I grew little by little. I always like to walk before I run.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
Flexible working hours is certainly an advantage but it also can prove to be one of the biggest drawbacks.
Where do you work from and do you have employees?
I have just opened a new studio on Fitzwilliam Street Upper in Dublin 2, I am based there most of the time. I still see clients in my Loughrea base though at least once a week.
At the moment its just me. Once we get into summer season I will take on a part-time worker. I also have a lot of very talented people come to me for work experience
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
I can’t say I have anyone in particular. I admire anyone who can get things up and running and keep them running. I always enjoy and take every opportunity to talk with other business people and entrepreneurs, you never know what could pick up.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I did the ‘Business Management’ course with the Galway Enterprise Board in Oct 2010, since then its just continuous learning.
What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?
Although you may not think it, Galway is actually quite the hub for fashion and design. There is a great little community and a very friendly and health business group. The Enterprise Board also offer great support to anyone considering setting up – certainly a must stop for anyone ‘looking west’.