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Creative Entrepreneur: Tríona O’Donnell, Jewellery Designer TRíONA

TRÍONA is a new Irish design brand encompassing a life-long appreciation of Irish craft and design, and a commitment to quality craftsmanship.

Inspired by life along the Northwesterly edge of Ireland, where the beauty of rugged landscapes and seascapes dictates her daily musings and adventures, TRÍONA works with a community of like-minded designer-makers, creative trailblazers and collaborators to bring you designs du dernier cri.

Founded by Creative Director Tríona O’Donnell, a keen linguist and educator, the Sligo native has spent time travelling the globe to far-flung places like South America, Africa and Europe, collecting inspiration and ideas.

In early 2013, O’Donnell founded popular blog modafix.ie to share her creative pursuits, her style and interest in design, as well as documenting the stories of some of the creative people she met and admired along the way. Her blog led to writing for local media and appearances on TG4 and RTE – giving her a national profile.

In her latest collection, Silver Linings, O’Donnell partners with goldsmith Soraya Ricalde of Leitrim Sculpture Centre and sculptor Marion Fink of Counties of Ireland Jewellery to create her delicate, resolved designs. Each piece is handmade in solid sterling silver, 9ct gold and rose gold at the  Leitrim Sculpture Centre..

TRÍONA designs have been described as memorable and modern, feminine and refined, skilful design.

We were delighted to speak with Tríona O’Donnell about her experiences of setting up her creative business in the West of Ireland.

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Hi Tríona. Can you tell us where you live now and why you like it?

I live in Sligo town. I love how I can walk to my favourite eateries and how close we live to Sligo’s beaches at Strandhill and Rosses Point.

Before settling in Sligo, I lived in Dublin, Seville and Bath, but I missed living by the sea so much.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

I started my business TRÍONA late October of this year (2017). I have always loved design, accessories and fashion. Blogging at modaFix presented so many wonderful opportunities, but teaming up with Counties of Ireland Jewellery and seeing my own very collection realised has been the highlight and has made years of blogging worthwhile. I always wanted to create something of my own and put my name to it… so I did!

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

Well, when I began the collaboration with Counties of Ireland Jewellery, I had no initial start-up costs as such – only my time. I was getting a designer’s percentage per sale. When I decided to take things more seriously, take it to the next level and set up on my own – then came the costs of building a website and online shop, developing my brand and logo, photography (product shots) and of course buying all the stock. Sligo’s LEO (Local Entreprise Office) was very helpful in terms of helping me get set up online. They offered an Online Trading Voucher – i.e. 50% of costs for setting up my shop (website, branding, photography). And they gave me mentoring hours with Denise Rushe of Starling & Co. This was the incentive that gave me reassure and that extra push to go for it.

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Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?

My market is mainly customers in Ireland, but we have shipped to the UK, the States, Canada and Australia. I use social media: mainly Instagram and Facebook, and Twitter to a lesser extent.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

I used my summer holidays from teaching to work on my shop and branding, but it took about 6 or 7 months in total – until the launch date.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?

I think blogging really helped me. I was writing online for years, generating content for free. I gained a following and people’s trust. I learned to use social media effectively and communicate with my audience. I learned what people liked and disliked. Before I sold jewellery on bytriona.com I used to sell my preloved clothing on Depop. I gained customers through my blog, learned how to take images that would grab people’s attention and I loved packaging my garments to ship off to others. This gave me a sense of what it would be like to have my own online shop.

How do you promote your business?

Via social media mainly, but also through local media (newspapers, radio) when I have an event.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I think we always learn by doing and through the process and experience.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

I love doing things my own way and at my own pace. Of course there are drawbacks and risks involved too. You can worry about finances of course – that you’re overspending and perhaps underselling. You worry about longevity. But, I think if you’re passionate about something, you just have to give it a go! Otherwise, you’ll never know.

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What should happen in the West of Ireland to support self employment / entrepreneurship?

Perhaps regular networking and mentoring events to help promote our businesses here.

How does the cost of living in Sligo compare with where you previously lived?

When I did my PDE in Trinity, I lived in a tiny apartment behind Screen Cinema. My room could just about fit a single bed, a very small desk and and a wardrobe. I paid €550 per month and so did my flatmate. I then lived in Dromahair, Co. Leitrim in a 3 storey house with 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms (full furnished) and our rent came to €400 per month in total – that’s €200 each – per month!

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of relocating / living in the West in terms of working and living?

I just love the quality of life here. I love the sea air, the lack of traffic. We can live very healthily here. In Sligo, we have great cafés and restaurants and beautiful beaches. I love how our streets are full of character and characters! I like how our stores are independent and there are very few chains. There seems to be always something novel going on and innovative events. I can’t really think of any disadvantages, only that when I visit Dublin, which I love to do on occasion, I enjoy the choice of clothes shops there. But, that in itself is something I like to look forward to.

How do you find accessibility to where you live and access to public transport / road networks / airports?

I live right beside the train and bus station. I can’t really complain.

Why do you love Sligo? What are your top tips for any visitors to where you live? 

If visiting Sligo, I would suggest hiking one of our many mountains or walks (see Sligo Walks site), enjoy a coffee or a meal at our best cafés and restaurants. Walk on the beach. Enjoy a drink at our oldest pubs and check out our weekly music scene – there’s something for everyone.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West?

Definitely consider it. I don’t think you’ll look back. Friendly faces, fresh air, freedom.

Shop online at bytriona.com :: @ByTRÍONA / Shop / Journal