Anita Elliott of Clover Rua brings the richness of Irish culture and design history to the forefront through her range of giftware including prints, greeting cards and tea towels.
Below, she speaks to House of Ireland about the importance of trusting your instinct, never giving up in tough times and the excitement of opening Clover Rua’s first studio shop!
What inspired you to take that initial leap into starting your own business? How did it come about?
I have always been a maker and felt very connected to the history of Irish Design Culture - living in Australia heightened this connection. A number of strands from my career path in art, design, lecturing and mentoring came together and I was propelled into setting up Clover Rua in the autumn of 2013. I saw a gap in the gift market for a new audience that are both proud and confident of their heritage and looking for a more modern design to celebrate it.
How do you balance the creativity and design element of running a business with day to day finance, sales and marketing?
The logistics of business have become more creatively satisfying than I might have initially imagined. Problem solving is a daily challenge whether visual or procedural and balancing all aspects of business has become easier with time and practice. I find that from the helm I get to see all the intricate pieces of the business jigsaw and fitting them all together is so satisfying.
“It’s very easy to get caught in the day to day and lose sight of how far you’ve come. My advice is to stick with it and don't be put off by the inevitable disappointments along the way.”
Do you feel there is enough support for aspiring businesses in the design industry? How can this be improved in your opinion?
I think there is support for business, the difficulty is accessing it especially when you are running a ‘successful’ small business. Time becomes a huge issue, grants and supports require a huge time commitment and lots of paper work. When you are juggling to keep your business going, it becomes a catch 22. I think it would be really helpful if studio and workshop visits became a mandatory part of decision-making, so panels could see for themselves the operation behind the scenes.
What is one thing you have learned as a small business owner (and woman in particular) that has served you well over the years?
There are many things but learning to trust my instinct has been very important. The more grounded I am, the better it works - I find my best decisions are made instinctively.
Whether this is a female trait, I’m not entirely sure, I think everyone can hone instinct!
What achievements are you most proud of? What challenges have you had to overcome?
There have been a lot of highlights along the way; winning the Best Product Award for our Liffey Bridges Screen Printed Irish linen cushions at our first ever Showcase in 2014 was a phenomenal boost for our fledgling business. Following on from that, building brand recognition has been such an exciting journey and seeing our designs stocked in the countries premium stores is always a thrill. We now have stockists in the USA, Japan and the UK which is absolutely wonderful!
“There are many things but learning to trust my instinct has been very important. The more grounded I am, the better it works - I find my best decisions are made instinctively.”
I get a huge buzz from meeting our customers, especially at in-store events - it’s one of my absolute favourite parts of business. I’m at my happiest chatting and hearing stories about where our designs are going, and to whom, and what the connection to a particular design is for someone. Knowing that our designs are in homes all over the world is such an amazing honor. We were recently commissioned by Harrods to design a new collection which was a remarkable experience. I’m excited to see it in store for Autumn 2018.
How do you manage your wellbeing while simultaneously running your own business?
I am very interested in nutrition and health. Mostly, I ensure I have healthy snacks and lunches prepared to keep me going through the day. I love my nutri- bullet and have a blend of healthy green slop with me most days! I do yoga and love getting walks in nature at every opportunity. If I miss my yoga class, I find classes on YouTube fantastic.
It’s very easy to get caught in the day to day and lose sight of how far you’ve come. My advice is to stick with it and don't be put off by the inevitable disappointments along the way.
What other Irish women in business are inspiring you right now?
There are so many amazing Irish women in business, it’s difficult to single out a few. Tara Hammond of Slated, Susannagh Grogan and Gosia Sobkowicz of Candella have all made a big impression on me. I don't know any of them personally, but I watch in admiration on social media as they design and grow their businesses and I am in love with their products.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I think the best piece of advice came from a lovely Chinese lady I knew in Sydney. She was incredibly wise and had amazing insight. It’s very simple, “Never Give Up”.
What is in the pipeline for your business in the next few years?
It’s interesting to reflect on the business so far; we have established our market presence and I’m really proud to have reached this point. We are now at a stage of growth and development that's more intentional than reactive to the market. We are also very excited to be looking at strategic development for the future. In late spring we are over the moon to be opening our first studio shop, which will launch a whole new phase for Clover Rua!