Artist Simone Walsh creates distinctive paintings, prints and homeware inspired by the Irish people and their favourite places and things, including Tayto crisps, Barry’s Tea, Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium.
Below, she speaks to House of Ireland about the importance of honesty and patience when running a business, her admiration for fellow Irish business woman Orla Kiely and why if you love what you do, it’s important to stick with it.
What inspired you to take that initial leap into starting your own business? How did it come about?
I have been self-employed since leaving college in my twenties, freelancing in graphic design and illustration, so when I began to exhibit my original paintings in 2000, it was a natural progression.
How do you balance the creativity and design element of running a business with day to day finance, sales and marketing?
My main love is the creative side of the business and fortunately my husband Joe looks after the financial and sales side of things. I also like to delve into the promotional marketing end of things. No better person to sell your own work, than yourself, I think!
Do you feel there is enough support for aspiring businesses in the design industry? How can this be improved in your opinion?
From my personal experience, I don't believe there is a great deal of support for artists. Therefore, upon our return to Ireland from living in New Zealand is 2000, we went out on our own. However, the Artist Tax Exemption is one very good thing this country still has to offer to up and coming artists. Also, inexpensive public exhibitions like The People's Art on St. Stephen's Green is a great way to start exhibiting your paintings.
“Keep the business compact and under control, stay on top of things, make good contacts and always be honest! ”
What is one thing you have learned as a small business owner (and woman in particular) that has served you well over the years?
Keep the business compact and under control, stay on top of things, make good contacts and always be honest!
What achievements are you most proud of? What challenges have you had to overcome?
To be able to paint images that people connect with emotionally is quite an achievement, I think.
I'm also very proud to have designed and manufactured a complimentary product range to sit alongside my paintings and prints. Finding suppliers was challenging and it took a leap of faith to output funds to establish the product ranges from scratch... but so worth the effort now!
How do you manage your wellbeing while simultaneously running your own business?
I work out every morning...no excuses...ever! Great for combating stress. Talk, talk, talk...and be honest with yourself! Also, be nice to yourself...do your best!
“If you have a good feeling and a feeling of excitement when you are creating, then that is what you are meant to be doing.”
What advice would you give to young women with similar aspirations?
If you love what you are doing, stick with it, even though it might feel like you are not making progress. If you have a good feeling and a feeling of excitement when you are creating, then that is what you are meant to be doing. Be patient and don't give up....it can take time! Being an entrepreneur and an artist is challenging and there may be difficult times, however persevere and stay positive. Rising to the challenge will make you successful.
What other Irish women in business are inspiring you right now?
Orla Kiely is very inspiring to me. Her brand is iconic and she has managed to make her designs work on so many products from homeware to clothing!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Always be honest and straight up with everyone from suppliers to customers.
From a creative angle:
It's all been done before...you just need to put your own spin on it.
And from a business angle:
If you are looking behind you and worrying, you are not looking forward and progressing your business.
What is in the pipeline for your business in the next few years?
I have new ranges of paintings and prints in the pipeline. Most exciting of all is that I have plans to start building a new purpose built gallery alongside my home in County Wexford. We hope to open later this year, or early 2019. My gallery will showcase my original paintings and my prints and products range.
Our large mature and very beautiful garden will also add to a visit to our gallery!