How graduate plans disrupted by Covid19 gave way to the launch of ethical clothing brand Fódla

How graduate plans disrupted by Covid19 gave way to the launch of ethical clothing brand Fódla

Paul McGuinness, a recent graduate of DCU Business School, talks to us about his newly-launched ethical and sustainable clothing company, Fódla; how his studies have helped steer him with the business; and the social ethos of the company.

Paul you studied Business Studies and then did a Masters in Business Strategy. Were you thinking of going down the entrepreneurial route while you were studying at DCU? 

I’d be lying if I thought a little over a year from completing the Masters in Business Strategy that I would be charting the strategy of my own business but it is definitely an idea I flirted with throughout my time at DCU.  My dad is an entrepreneur so I grew up in a family business environment and I suppose that, coupled with my further exposure to entrepreneurship through the NED & Practicum modules meant that there was always the chance I would take the leap of faith.

What made you decide to start your own business?

I’m lucky Covid19 has not affected me or my family’s health but it has had a big impact on my work life.  Poised to begin a consulting graduate programme with EY in early September, the start date was pushed out to April 2021.  So I was left with a decision – look for a job that would keep me busy until next April or scratch the entrepreneurial itch.  Upon weighing up the pros and cons, I came to the conclusion that in five or ten years time when I am interviewing for a promotion or a new job opportunity, I want my answer to the question ‘what did you do during those crazy Covid times?’- to be that I started up my own business as opposed to, I worked an ordinary 9-5 job for eight months.

Have you been able to apply your business education to your business so far?

Very much so.  The learnings I took from the NED and Practicum modules in particular have proven to be invaluable.  The former equipped me with the knowledge to conduct feasibility studies and carry out accounting and financial planning.  The latter meanwhile, gave me a grounding in how to approach curating a brand story online, designing a user friendly and engaging website, planning and executing social media content calendars and working with suppliers and wholesalers.  A less obvious application is the belief and confidence both business programmes instilled in me.  Moving to Dublin from a small school in Co. Monaghan meant that I had little to no experience in standing up and presenting in front of a room full of people.  Fast forward a few years and now I feel one of my key strengths is my presentation skills.

Tell us about your company. 

Fódla is an Eco-Friendly and Sustainable clothing brand.  Fairwear and Peta certified, all our garments are ethically made using only organic cotton and recycled polyester.  Designed and printed in Dublin using water-based dye, our packaging is also 100% recyclable.  The name comes from the mythical story that Fódla – one of the three goddesses of Ireland, stood atop of the Slieve Felim mountain and requested the island of Ireland be named after her.  We feel strongly that the courage which imbued Fódla to stand on the top of Slieve Felim and declare the island of Ireland as her own, is the same courage we all need to face life’s challenges.

You donate some of the proceeds of sales to your charity partner, Inner City Helping Homeless.  Was it important to you from the outset that your company has a social enterprise element?

Hugely important.  I said from day one that the whole idea was a non-runner if I could not partner with a charity.  The idea of the social enterprise element came from, if you allow me to go on some what of a tangent, regular drives up and down to Cork.  My girlfriend lives down in Cork so that means 6+ hour round trip drives for me and during that time I often listen to the ‘How I Built This’ podcast by NPR.  Listening to the founders of such companies as Allbirds, Cotopaxi, Patagonia and Toms really inspired me to not only pursue the idea of Fódla but to also ensure that as a brand it stood for more than just profit and more than five letters and a síneadh fada.  Consequently, our Giving model was born.  For every 5 garments we sell, we gift a Fairwear 100% organic cotton tee to the Inner City Helping Homeless charity (ICHH).  We also donate 5% of each sale to the ICHH.

How can people buy one of your garments? 

Pre orders on our site – www.fodla.ie are now live.  The first 40 pre orders receive a complementary eco-friendly handmade soap courtesy of soapbycleo.  The site is officially launching on the 12th of October.  We hope to run pop shops across various college campuses as we speak to students about our story and the benefit of doing something different to make your CV stand out during these unchartered times but those times and dates are yet to be confirmed.  You can keep up with all our latest news and events by following us on Instagram and liking us on Facebook.

Finally, it must be difficult starting your own company during COVID-19.  How has that been for you?

It definitely has being a challenge but a lot of the best businesses in the world were started following the ’08 Financial crisis – Slack and Square to name but two.  I am in a privileged situation in that I am running Fódla whilst also simultaneously managing all things marketing related for my dad’s construction company so I have a steady income.  I also have a strong support network made up of family and friends who have given up so much of their time to help me get Fódla to launch stage.