As part of our empowering Mum series, we talk to the very inspiring Ciara Crossan of Wedding Dates:
- Tell us about your journey
I started the company aged 25 with a rough idea and lots of youthful enthusiasm! I really had no clue what it took to build a business, but I had lots of support and encouragement from my family and I was very lucky to get a place on the Genesis programme in the Rubicon Center very early on. This gave me a great foundation in terms of business training as well as some grant aid and very importantly an office to go to every day and a network of fellow entrepreneurs to surround myself with. After 8 months after incorporating the website went live with paying customers. The business grew very organically after that and I travelled arouond Ireland meeting hoteliers and signing them up to the service. My first employee after year 1 was my brother who had a degree in Computer Science so he was in charge of growing the website traffic and all IT development. After 3 years trading and gaining traction we expanded to the UK and the rest as the say is history! We now have a team of 13 – 3 sales people working remotely in the UK and 10 based in the HQ in Cork.1.
- What is your business
WeddingDates provides web-based software and online marketing to wedding venues and suppliers across Ireland and the UK. We assist wedding venues & suppliers increase their wedding revenue by filling unsold inventory. Operating with top wedding service providers across Ireland and the UK, the WeddingDates system provides real time revenue reporting and competitive benchmarking for their sector. In business since 2008, we have a well-established and passionate team. Our customer success stories speak for themselves and exceptional customer service is a core value of the company.
- What was the main reason you wanted to work for yourself?
Initially it was all about the challenge. I was young, no commitments and I wanted to see if I could do it. I genuinely felt that I had nothing to lose and so just jumped in head first!
- Did you have a coach/mentor when you were starting out, and was it helpful
I’m a huge advocate for mentoring! My very first mentor which was provided to me by the South Cork Enterprise Board was Colette Quinn who owns Real Insights a market research company. Colette helped me figure out how to tackle my market and structure my research. As a female entrepreneur herself she was a real role model for me and we have gone on to do some projects together for the business and are now friends as a result of those mentoring sessions!
- What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt?
Trust my gut. I think women generally have very good instincts. When things feel too good to be true they usually are and some of the worst decisions I have made is because I went against what I knew to be true in my heart of hearts. I think it is about having the confidence to stick to your guns when something is telling you no.
- What has been the biggest challenge when it comes to balancing career with home life?
My twin boys were born early at 31 weeks. It was a big shock and to say I was unprepared is the understatement of the century! Not only was the business not ready for my immediate departure (I was still working on my maternity leave handover) but I didn’t even have my hospital bag packed!! That was a massive challenge for me personally but also for the business and I remember sending emails from beside the incubators. The boys were in the neonatal unit for 6 weeks and I took breaks from CUMH to pop down to the office (which was in The Rubicon in Bishopstown at the time) to have planning meetings with the team. My stalwart staff really kept the show on the road for those couple of months when I wasn’t fully present. Now I balance home life with career with A LOT of planning! I have a live-in au pair which is perfect for helping with the boys before and after school. I travel a fair bit over and back to the UK for work so I have to be super organised to make sure that everything runs like clockwork when I am not here. I am a solo parent so my Mum & Dad are a massive help, when I am away they overnight with the boys to ensure that consistency. The boys have a really special relationship with my parents which is a joy to see.
- What advice would you have for people who are stuck in a rut and afraid to leave their current job situation?
I am a dive-in head-first type person so I would say “just go for it!”. If you have passion and an incredibly hard work ethic then I truly believe you can be a success in whatever you put your mind to. Life is too short to do something that doesn’t fulfil you. But nothing good comes easy and you still need to pay the bills (!) so I would also add – be laser focused on revenue and how your business can get paying customers and make money from day 1.
- What motivates you?
I am really motivated by growth and self improvement. I have personally evolved so much over the years in the course of the business and am still on such a journey – I can’t wait to write the rest of the story. The growth of WeddingDates and being able to provide employment to 12 people gives me a huge sense of pride and I am so driven when I get feedback from our customers about how our service has helped them. That makes all the hard work worth it.
- How do you relax?
I took up yoga a few years ago and it is a wonderful way for a fast-paced person like me to slow down, reconnect with myself and relax. I also love spending time with my parents & friends; poking fun and laughing heartily!
- What’s the best piece of advice you were given?
“If you never tell a lie then you never need to remember anything” – my Dad has always taught me to value integrity over all else. At the end of the day, all anyone has is their good name. And nothing is worth sullying that for.
- Have you any regrets?
Not a one. I never look back – every decision I have made has brought me to where I am today and has shaped me as a person. You have to walk the hard yards to learn resilience.
- The person that inspires you most?
That is tough as there are so many people who influence me on a daily basis! I am particularly inspired by strong women – I come from a long line of them! Last year I was selected to participate on the Global Ambassadors Program for female entrepreneurs from around the world for a week long residential training and mentoring program working on our businesses for triple bottom line improvement – People, Profit, Planet. I found this hugely inspirational to consider the true purpose behind our businesses had how we can have a real meaningful impact. I
- When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A hotelier! Both my parents grew up in hotels and I desperately wanted to own a hotel one day. It is so funny to me now that I work in the industry that has always held such fascination for me. I love the hospitality sector – I think it is in my blood.
- Five things you will always find in your handbag?
Phone, lipstick, hand cream, pen and notebook.
- The app you use the most is ..
WhatsApp, Gmail or Instagram. Very hard to choose just one!
- One thing most people probably don’t know about you is ..
Probably not much – I am an open book and quite the over-sharer! However, I used to sing (I was in choirs right throughout school and was in the Choral Society in UCC) and while on my internship in Boston I got up on stage and sang a duet with Damien Rice. The reviewer in the Boston Globe newspaper called it the highlight of the night 🙂
Ciara Crossan owns and runs Wedding Dates
WeddingDates provides web-based software and online marketing to wedding venues and suppliers across Ireland and the UK.
Employmum makes the list!
The Sunday Business Post list the 100 Hot Irish Start Ups every year. We believed we could and we did – I remember looking at this list last year and wishing we were on it – and here we are today.
Delighted for the whole team at @Employmum for this accolade – we recognised that there was a need for a #flexible recruitment service and we worked hard to make it happen – even more proud of the fact that we are self funded to date.We are making the difference to so many lives too.#Flexiblework is the #futureofwork and not just for Mums and parents#workthatworks #sundaybusinesspost