It was our pleasure this month to connect with Áine McGurk, founder of children's brand Dainty Bear, wife and mother of two. We are delighted to have her contribute to this months My World series.
We launched this series to honour and introduce an inspiring group of mothers, entrepreneurs and friends of Mamas Hospital Bag. Each person featured is someone who motivates us with their shared values and determination to do what they love! Áine has developed a beautiful shoe and now clothing range for children, while being a busy Mum to her two daughters. Read on to hear how having children completely changed her career trajectory, what's next for Dainty Bear and her staycation recommendations.
Our conversation with Áine
Áine, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your family? I’m wife to Gary and Mum to two beautiful girls, Annabel and Robyn. I’m originally from Monaghan but I’ve been living in Dublin for over 16 years and I established the Dainty Bear brand while on maternity leave after having my first daughter, Annabel.
What is your memory of packing your first hospital bag? I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed, but once I had my list and I started packing, I enjoyed it. After the essentials, the most important things for me were a comfortable but pretty dressing gown and the babies going home outfit!
If you could tell your pregnant-self one thing, what would it be? Enjoy every minute of the first pregnancy as the second one isn’t as fun with a toddler!!
And how would you describe yourself as a mother Áine? I’m very loving and gentle with my daughters. They get lots of cuddles and snuggles but I also try not to let them rule the house, so I make sure they understand that ‘no’ means ‘no’. I teach them to be caring and kind to others and that good behaviour is rewarded.
To be a successful mother I need to……I don’t think there is a secret sauce to being a successful mother. I’ve personally struggled with the balance of motherhood and running a small business but I do know that I try my best and with a supportive husband, who is an amazing Dad to the girls, I think we don’t do a bad job.
Áine could you tell us about your path prior to starting Dainty Bear and did you always want to be an entrepreneur? My background is IT and I worked in the Software Industry for over 16 years. I worked for Microsoft Ireland for 7 years and more recently a travel software company as an IT Manager. When I had my first baby Annabel in 2017, I was taken by surprise at how much I enjoyed being a mother. A lot of people warned me about never sleeping again and being knee-deep in nappies but Annabel was such a good baby (we were lucky I know!). The first few months after she was born was honestly the happiest time of my life. Having Annabel made me realise that career wasn’t everything. I was always very much career driven. It was then that I decided to start Dainty Bear. I always wanted my own business. Combining my creative side and love of fashion, Dainty Bear was born.
It sounds like your career trajectory has changed quite significantly since you've had children? Yes, I have done a complete career pivot from a well paid corporate job to working solo as an entrepreneur, so it has changed immensely! In the early days of Dainty Bear, I continued to work fulltime in my IT manager role but in Nov 2019, my 2nd daughter Robyn was born. This was a very tough period for us as a family as Robyn was born with a condition that required life-saving surgery in Crumlin the day after she was born. She was in and out of hospital for the first year of her life and I knew that for her to receive the care she needed, the best decision would be for me not to return to work after my maternity leave. I wanted to be at home full-time so I could care for Robyn and work on Dainty Bear and make it a success. Sometimes life takes you on different paths and this is definitely true in my case. I’m delighted to say Robyn is 2 now and doing amazingly.
What is the part of building a business you love best? I love growing and developing my product ranges by seeing what customers love and what stays true to Dainty Bear’s signature classic timeless style. When I launched my baby grow collection last year, it really made me realise that this is what I love doing. I discovered early in the business that mothers and gift givers loved the occasion feel of Dainty Bear products so I try to develop future collections with this in mind.
How has your business changed in the last year? Are there any adjustments you have had to make to the business that you might keep- and others that you are dying to get back to the way they were pre-covid? Fortunately Covid really boosted my business as it’s exclusively online. I also used the pandemic as an opportunity to grow by tapping into my Instagram community more than I had previously and I really enjoy interacting this way with my customers. I moved my stock to a fulfilment company which means I have more time to work on my business rather than packing orders. This was a game changer for Dainty Bear as you can’t grow and expand unless you have time to focus on the business development and growth. I also invested in a full rebrand as I felt Dainty Bear had grown and matured as a business and I wanted my new branding to reflect this.
What’s next for Dainty Bear? Dainty Bear is currently knee-deep in designing the winter clothing and shoe collection which will be our most extensive range to date. I’m adding some exciting changes to the website to make it even easier for my customers to shop at daintybear.com and I’m also going to be stocked in more retail stores very soon which is so exciting!
Time for yourself is difficult to carve out as a mum; what do you do for yourself? Most people probably say I love to walk, run, do yoga but no sorry! I really don’t enjoy fitness, I wish I did! On a day to day basis I like cooking, reading, shopping, meeting friends and family. I recently found a lovely beauty salon near me in Drumcondra, Calm Beauty, who do a lovely massage. You get a robe and slippers at the door; it’s a little oasis. I’ve been twice since the reopening and I’ve felt great after it.
Where did you meet your husband? I met him while working for ESB as an IT consultant in the Mews behind Merrion Square. It sounds very romantic but it wasn’t really! My boss said you might know the new guy, he’s from Monaghan but we had never met. It turns out we did the same course at university, our mother’s worked in the same hospital and our fathers were both builders. The rest they say is history...
Do you enjoy traveling and where are some of your favourite places to escape to? I’ve been extremely lucky to have been able to travel with my previous job as I worked with airlines. One of my favourite places to visit was Beijing. It was so completely different to anywhere I had been, not to mention the shopping! My husband had the opportunity to work in India before we had children. That was also an unforgettable experience culturally. For family holidays, we have done lots of staycations, most recently Centre Parcs (highly recommend!) and West Clare which was so beautiful. When Annabel was 5 months we went to Portugal on the advice of other parents as she wasn’t on the move and we had a lovely memorable first holiday as parents. Travel is something we both love so next year we hope to go to the US and rent somewhere near the beach.
My definition of success is simple….Being happy, healthy and waking up knowing you enjoy what you do.