A young Donegal woman has returned to the classroom today with a wealth of experience and achievements after a hugely exciting week.
Katie McGloin, aged 16, was yesterday named as the winner of the Foróige Young Entrepreneur of the Year award of 2017. On top of the accolade this week, she had a life-changing meeting with her idol and took centre stage alongside Ireland’s most powerful women at a national conference.
The Bundoran teen established her business, K.T. Clothing Co. just last year, but has already made a big impact in the world of business and fashion.
K.T. Clothing Co. is set apart from the norm by the fact that the clothing is gender-neutral, not unisex, and so it is Ireland’s first completely gender neutral clothing company. The tshirts and sweaters have slogans that speak volumes with a message that Katie wants to be heard loud and clear.
“I think that there is an unnecessary stigma attached to clothing and labels. I believe that clothes are just clothes until we put male and female labels on them,” Katie told Donegal Woman.
Katie began designing her range last summer and was particularly conscious of the fit, colour, quality and slogans of her pieces. Emblazoned on the tops are two statements – I AM MYSELF and STAND OUT.
“Unisex clothing is more fitted to a male. My clothes are that bit more fitted to suit the style of a female as well as a male.
“‘I Am Myself’ is something that I had thought of for a while. I think it’s very personal to say that ‘I Am Myself’. It’s very expressive, particularly for young people as their personalities are just starting to come out.”
“The ‘Stand Out’ design was much the same thinking process, which means to say Stand Out, there’s nothing wrong with it. The colours really suited the way I wanted them to look because they weren’t blues or pinks or for any one gender.”
The designs are not exclusively for the LGBT community, but Katie has found that the statements have resonated with those young people.
She also used her business to support three charity groups – BreakOut, Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) and Link in Cork. This initiative was a contributing factor to her winning the Foróige award. “I sent the three charities a pack so they could make money from a raffle and they’d earn more than I could actually give to them,” she said.
Katie had to make a 20 minute pitch to judges as she competed for the Foróige award, but she had so much to say about her enterprise that she spoke for 45 minutes, she recalls.
The passionate young woman is in Transition Year at Coláiste Mhaigh Éne in Bundoran and has been using her time to focus on her business and other projects.
Her drive and dedication caught the attention of her idol, Minister Katherine Zappone, who invited her to Leinster House. Katie now has the letter of response she received from Ms Zappone framed on her wall.
To visit Leinster House this week and meet the Minister was a monumental experience for Katie.
“You can’t imagine how important it was for me to meet her. I’ve read all her books and letters and watched her on television. I was star struck,” Katie said.
“She said to me, ‘You can be a role model too,’ and that really struck me.”
— Katherine Zappone (@KZapponeTD) March 30, 2017
Katie is well on her way to being a role model already. Just last Friday she was selected as one of the top five finalists in a pitching competition at the Planet Woman Academy conference in Dublin. Katie was the youngest businesswoman to be considered among Ireland’s leading females of today.
Katie has her business teacher Ms Kim Igoe to thank for much of her success and is immensely grateful for her guidance. “I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. She has put in an exceptional effort into helping me in the last four years,” she said.
The student won’t be taking a rest after this whirlwind week of successes. She has much more to do with K.T. Clothing Co. as she plans to broaden the product range. She has also been part of a team at Coláiste Mhaigh Éne who created a powerful short film called Smarties, under the guidance of their teacher Mr. Reilly. Katie directed and edited the film which has now been shortlisted for three awards.
For now, Katie is still getting over the shock of winning the Foroige award. “It means so much to get recognised for work you’ve done and I’m a true believer of the social enterprise aspect of the programme.”