We were delighted to speak to Caroline O'Neill about her fabulous Childrenswear boutique in Tyrone and how she manages to juggle family and work life when she runs her own business.
1. Tell us about your company
My company is called DIGG Childrenswear and it opened in Dungannon, County Tyrone in 2008 - which to my amazement means I have been in business for almost 10 years. Time certainly flies when you are having fun. Where did that ten years go? DIGG stock amazing kids clothes from newborn to age 16, boys and girls and stands out in the world of kids retail for many reasons. One is the customer service and styling we offer to all our customers. We specialise in occasion-wear for kids, so we can dress the whole family all going to a christening, wedding, communion or confirmation. DIGG is known all over Ireland for dressing kids to “stand out from the crowd."
2. How did you set it up initially
I married Gerard in 2009 and when we decided to start a family a few years later children didn’t come as easy as we had hoped. After a few emotional years we welcomed Pearse to the O’Neill family and 17months later we were overjoyed with the arrival of Darragh.This was when the fun really started. I then realised the reality of self-employment. I didn’t have the luxury of 9 months off which people reminded me I would have had if I had stayed in my old job. On returning to work just before Christmas, three weeks after Pearse was born, I remember standing behind my counter thinking, did I really just have a baby a few weeks ago. Physically, I was still recovering, however, the demands of my business in the Christmas period required me to be there. Thankfully, I have an amazing husband and family. Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to cope with the early return to work and the recovery after childbirth. It’s not an easy time those first few weeks and months and there were tears, don’t get me wrong. That's only natural though, and once I got into a routine I found the transition back to work with a baby manageable. Then came baba number 2. Wow. Now, this was when the real struggles began.
3. What are the challenges you face
Two babies close in age is not easy. I often talked to mums who would say, sure they are great company for one and another. Being honest, I found the first few months of Darragh’s life quite stressful. I found it hard to make it into work for 9am with two babies to wash, dress and feed and strap into the car (I’m sure every mum knows this task is not easy when you are on a time schedule for work). Getting up no later than 6am and having all clothes, breakfasts and my clothes ready the night before was a necessity. I had to learn to delegate in the workplace more effectively. Something which I was never very good at. I soon began to realise I couldn’t do it all. As soon as I realised that, things became a little easier and I started to see a routine becoming visible.
Challenges I face are on a daily basis as I'm sure every mum can vouch for. Leaving the boys at their granny's or with childminders while they cry their eyes out as I drive off. It takes until lunch time for me to recover emotionally from that. Even though my fabulous childminder will text me to say they stopped crying before I even got to the end of the drive.
Tiredness hits me at almost some stage every day, whereby espresso is my saving grace. I knew I needed a day off recently when one of my members of staff found me having a nap in my office with my head on my laptop. It was all the runs up and down the hall the night before putting Darragh's dummy in that had caused the damage.
4. How do you get the balance right between home and work life
Achieving a balance between home and work life is difficult. Especially since I launched my website earlier this year www.diggchildrenswear.com. Technically, I have opened another shop and therefore am twice as busy as I used to be. Thankfully my husband is so supportive and makes me that cup of tea each evening when the boys go to bed while I upload new stock to the website and write a blog post on the latest trends, as well as keeping all my snapchat followers informed of what Team DIGG is up to. He said to me the other day “Are you like one of them, bloggers, now". Ha, I said 'Do you know what, Gerard - I think I might be.'
5. What advice would you have to other mumpreneurs
If I had to give advice to other Mumpreneurs it would be - don’t beat yourself up about working so hard. We are all only trying to build a good life for our kids. Even though I work tirelessly in DIGG to make it the best it can be, my boys still run to me in the evenings, give me kisses in the morning when they wake up and are happy little chaps. My husband has embraced my world of chaos and constant social media and with the support of those around you, I really feel you can conquer anything.
We wish Caroline all the best with her juggle!