In our new series of case studies LookWest.ie Upstarts we interview some of the West’s latest and greatest who have gone out there and done it for themselves. Kicking off the series is Adrian Devane, creator of the award-winning Irish speaking teddy bear Bábógbaby.
Bábógbaby was founded by Adrian Devane after moving back to Galway following 13 years in film and Television production in Dublin. Adrian’s three-year old daughter Robyn is the voice of Bábógbaby. BB teaches toddlers and children 33 words of Irish, while the company’s other products include a Bábógbaby app for the iPad, iPhone, iTouch and Android.
This summer TG4 will broadcast BB Agus Bella, the all-Irish animation series based on Bábógbaby’s creation, aimed at pre-school children who will have lots of fun learning through Irish. Adrian now has his eyes firmly fixed on the Irish diaspora in the US market.
What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?
I was working in film production. I had worked on feature films, television productions, commercials and music videos. When I started off most of the work took place in Dublin so I moved there from Galway. When my wife and I started a family we wanted to return to Galway and film work was slow so I decided to go start a new business in Galway.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
I stared Bábógbaby in April 2010 after we found our that all the toys out there either spoke American English, French or Spanish, and we wanted something Irish for our children. And so the Irish BB bear was born.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Our start up costs were high. They included legal, company registration, website, rent, wages, design, prototypes, research, Insurance, trade marks, copyright, patents, printing, stationary, vehicle, product purchases, packaging, distribution. We got a small business loan of €100k from Allied Irish Bank to start up. We used it to pay for start up costs and order our first 10,000 bears.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Finding the money to get started.
Who supported you?
Allied Irish Banks and Údarás na Gaeltachta
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
From idea to research to design to launch it took about six months.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I love going to work everyday knowing that I am doing is for me and my family and that more work I do the more we will all benefit personally. The drawbacks are that I have to deal with it all myself and don’t have a whole division to bounce ideas off like the larger companies.
Where do you work from and do you have employees?
I work from my office here in Moycullen and it is just myself that the company employs. We use the services of about seven companies so we contribute to employment indirectly.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
Yes I certainly do. President Michael D. Higgins is a huge inspiration to me and from the business world, Pat McDonagh from Supermacs.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
You learn by listening and thinking, planning and executing. You do the good things again and what doesn’t work, you tend to discount. Constant training and reading is key to keeping up. Add all that with a good dollop of common sense and you are well on your way. To continue to grow and learn you must keep up with trends, read the news and reinvent. Publicity is key to the business so it is important to be out there selling and promoting.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Budgeted better. No one ever tells you all the costs that are there to start up and sustain a business. I underestimated them a bit, but I am learning. You have to make some mistakes to learn. it also make you stronger.
What is your best selling item/service?
Our award winning world’s first Irish speaking toy, BB Bear.
How have you been promoting BB Bear to Irish people and gaeilge speakers abroad?
We are targeting the US market at the moment and trying to reach the Irish diaspora by having our bears distributed to the Irish Gift shops over there. We have done advertising in Irish International magazines and had newspaper editorials in Irish publications. We gave BB Bear to all the international press who arrived [in Ireland] with US President Barack OBama, so that was a good way of spreading the product and brand back to the states and beyond.
Are you a LookWester and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?
I am from Galway, I moved to Dublin 15 years ago and came back 3 years ago. The West is a cheaper place to live. It is more artistic and certainly more beautiful. Being around family is very important too and all most of our families are here in Galway.
What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?
Stop looking and get here. You have all you need here. So come on, “Just West it”!!
Above (top right): Adrian Devane, BB Baby
Above (right): Robyn Eliffe-Devane, the voice of Bábóg Baby