'We’re stronger together because amazing things happen when women support other women.'
Ahead of National Women’s Enterprise Day tomorrow, Donegal Woman caught up with Jenni Timony of FitPink Fitness, who has been selected as a Leading Light for #NWED by Local Enterprise Office Donegal.
Did you always dream of running your own business?
Yes, I have been self-employed since the age of 18, and I’m now 45.
Entrepreneurship and supporting other entrepreneurs through my work as Programme Manager of New Frontiers in the northwest is something that is in my DNA.
I founded FitPink in 2019 to fit a gap in the market for athleisure wear that is both functional – leggings that are high waisted and don’t slip down! – and comfortable.
We have been incredibly lucky to have received unprecedented support from the women of Ireland in the 13 months since we launched. We have around 1,000 verified 5-star reviews on our website and are currently growing at a rate of 25% month on month. We employ 3 people full-time and are currently planning our expansion into the EU in early 2021.
What characteristics do you need to be a successful entrepreneur?
You need to be able to manage disappointments and roll with the punches!
Before FitPink, I had a pre-packed sandwich company called Doolittles that employed 35 people full-time in Donegal and delivered fresh sandwiches from Donegal to Kerry and every county in between six days a week. Some of our key customers included Aldi Ireland (65 stores at the time), Aer Arann, Topaz Energy as well as hospitals and universities.
Unfortunately, the business was a victim of the last recession and went into liquidation in 2009.
So, as an entrepreneur I have known success and failure and have learnt from both.
Tell us about FitPink and your partnership with Plan International
FitPink creates a range of leggings, t-shirts and hoodies which is loved and recommended by mums, fitness professionals, runners, walkers and gym goers across Ireland and beyond. We deliver worldwide and have customers in Ireland, UK, USA and Australia.
We are a small business with big values and we believe in harnessing the power of business to improve the world in small but meaningful ways. We have partnered with Plan International Ireland to fight for girls’ rights. Girls in Africa and the Middle East are among the most disadvantaged people on the planet. For every item we sell from our range, we contribute to Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl Fund to support girls and women in refugee camps in some of the world’s poorest regions.
Supporting girls through Plan Ireland is a core part of our company values and a long-term commitment.
How have Covid-19 restrictions affected your business in 2020 and how are you responding?
During Covid, athleisure wear was in high demand, so we were extremely busy.
However, we had planned to run pop-up shops every weekend in different regions in Ireland but we only got to do Donegal, Athlone, and Cork before we have had to pause due to Covid restrictions. As an alternative, we partnered with various retailers to grow our presence around Ireland; our range is now stocked in Brian McCormick Sports in Letterkenny, McElhinneys of Ballybofey, and Ladybelle in Laois with more in the pipeline.
We have also been fortunate to have had the assistance and support of Donegal Local Enterprise Office to help us navigate through the challenges we faced this year.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received in 2020?
Build like the Romans. Focus on building a business for the long term. Sell or make high quality products (like the Romans) and find a sustainable and profitable niche to serve.
How are you planning for the changes that Brexit will bring?
We have built Brexit considerations into our business model in that, we do not bring in any of our supplies through the UK and we are not focussing on the UK as a primary market. We take the view that the UK handling of Brexit is too uncertain and clumsy to make any plans until Brexit is delivered and the situation has some clarity for businesses.
What does #NWED symbolise for you?
NWED highlights the best of women in enterprise. It highlights the resilience and ongoing can-do attitude of the many female led businesses in Ireland.
I hope it inspires other women to consider entrepreneurship as a viable option, because, according to Fitzsimons (2016), the GEM Ireland data shows that the average rate of early stage entrepreneurial activity among women in Ireland between 2010 and 2014 inclusive was just 4.5% of the adult population.
Initiatives such as NWED are needed to highlight the success of female entrepreneurs as a way of encouraging more women to start and grow businesses in Ireland.
We’re stronger together because amazing things happen when women support other women.
None of us have all the skills or the time to do everything; but together, by combining our talents and holding each other up, we can make it ALL happen.
National Women’s Enterprise Day takes place this Wednesday, 14th October with an amazing speaker line-up and lots of entrepreneurial advice and insight. Michael Tunney Head of Enterprise Donegal, says it’s about encouraging more women to plan and start ambitious businesses in Donegal: “National Women’s Enterprise Day aims to inspire more women to follow in the footsteps of entrepreneurs like Jenni Timony, helping them to develop the building blocks required to succeed.
“Female entrepreneurship is thriving in the county, and we’ve had a great response to our AMBITION pre-accelerator programme for female entrepreneurs, which we’re running in partnership with NDRC.
“Every year, we would usually host an event for NWED, but the programme is going online this year with a packed schedule of free virtual events. Well-known local and national entrepreneurs will feature in expert workshops, panel discussions and a virtual marketplace on the day. There’s also a series of networking sessions, which will take place online to connect more entrepreneurs with each other across the country.”
Register now for FREE at www.localenterprise.ie/NWED