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International Women’s Day Grace McGinn is co-founder and Head of Product at up and coming fashion brand, Opsh. Here, the budding business owner reveals what inspired her to start a new venture with her sisters

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race and her older sisters, Jennie and Sarah, first launched a fashion blog seven years ago and what started as a hobby soon developed into a roaring success story. Despite having no formal background in business, merely a strong interest in fashion, Grace and her sisters discovered they were good at building an engaged audience and creating valuable content. And so opsh.com was born, which allows customers to shop across multiple stores and brands, from River Island to Kurt Geiger, on one site using one checkout - putting a stop to an endless amount of opened tabs on your laptop. While these high street brands are simply sought by one click of the mouse, developing the business is a different story! “We have been developing Opsh for more than two years,” says Grace. “My background is in architecture and design, Jennie’s is in communications and PR, and Sarah’s is broadcast-

Celebrating

women in business ing. Beginning a start-up is hands-on, so we were all willing to help across all boards. Overtime as we developed and matured, we began to upskill our roles. “I oversee the developing team which includes managing technical aspects and design. You need to be honest about your own skillset, particularly when you’re in a leadership role but when you’ve gotten so far, you have that bit of confidence that you must be doing something right.”

SUPPORT Opsh has experienced significant growth in the last year with currently 12 on the team, 30 retailers on board and 150,000 active users. The company also expanded to the UK, with approximately 30 per cent of sales there. But how is support in Ireland for female start-ups in terms of funding? “Ireland as an early-stage investment market is fantastic,” says Grace. “There’s a lot of opportunities for seed funding and we’ve seen a

massive acceleration of our business. However, the challenge that we feel is actually moving out of that early initial funding and into the expansion capital, to scale a business. “Some recent figures have shown that on average at Series A level (scaling a business), a fully female-founded Irish team raised around ¤500,000 while a male-led team raised an average of ¤5 million. I think the numbers show that women do face a bigger challenge in raising the funds that they need. From the get-go, you need to raise enough to see out your goal or execution plan.” LOOKING FORWARD What’s next for Opsh? “This year is about building out our marketing team, and focusing more on the UK. We’re hoping to achieve about 500,000 active shoppers at the end of the year and increase our retailers to about 60. “My advice to women who are considering a start-up is to research and reach out!

Getting the right balance “Overall in Ireland, we have a good reputation with regards to diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” says Dr Kara McGann, Senior Labour Market Policy Executive at Ibec. “However, the lack of women in decision-making positions and senior executive roles in large companies is still an issue. Women account for only 10.5 per cent of board members among Ireland’s largest public limited companies, compared to an EU average of 18.6 per cent.”

Kara McGann

Kara says that the causes for this under-representation of women stem from traditional gender roles and stereotypes, the lack of support for women and men to balance care responsibilities with work and the prevalent political and corporate cultures, among other reasons. “To address gender balance in organisations we need to raise awareness and engage both men and women in the need for change. One of the major biases around gender balance is the myth that we are not biased. Where possible, performance needs to be measured by results rather than hours at work. We need to consider both men and women as having caring responsibilities whether for children or elder care and not see this as an obstacle to career progression. In fact, assumptions about what women or men want from their careers generally need to be checked.”

“Recruitment and promotion processes need to be addressed to ensure they are fair,” Kara continues. “Ibec and the 30% Club have collaborated with a number of recruitment and executive search organisations to develop a voluntary code of conduct which will launch in April. The code will encourage employer and recruitment organisations to look at areas like job descriptions and candidates shortlisted for positions, to see if any unconscious or structural bias is present and to ensure selection of the best candidate whether male or female. “Leadership that addresses gender balance as a strategic imperative is key to success. Smart business leaders know that profits alone are not enough to sustain organisational growth over time. It is the people within an organisation, its behaviour and its culture which affect the company brand and legacy.” For more information, visit www.ibec.ie

Understand your sector, research accelerator start-up programmes and speak to Enterprise Ireland for advice. Our biggest asset is our team, second is the advisors and mentors around us we’re very active in reaching out to people and hearing what they have to say. It takes time to grow a business into something of value so embrace the process!”

Grace McGinn


International Women's Day - Celebrating Women in Business