The first ever Irish SME Awards have published their nominations list, and I cannot wait to ring my mom and dad in Seattle to tell them that their grand-business has been nominated in 3 categories including: Best Under 30's Business, Best Online Retail, and Best Startup. My 30th birthday is tomorrow, so this is my last chance to prove I'm some sort of youthful, business wunderkind before I start getting old, fearing technology, and ultimately become unattractive to investors.
Time is rapidly running out as we approach midnight, so let's take a look at what I've accomplished with Sex Siopa over the past 2 years...
I never would have dreamed in my early 20's that something I founded would help push a national conversation about sex and sex positivity in Ireland; that I would get to speak at Electric Picnic, Kilkenomics Festival, and at talks around Dublin, including the Made-It series for budding entrepreneurs; that I'd win the Realex Fire Web Award for Best Ecommerce in Ireland in my first year; or that I'd be presented an award by a Government Minister.
When I look at my list of Media Appearances I have to pinch myself and remind myself that these actually happened, from my very first appearance in Totally Dublin, to so many others like Irish Country, The Sunday Business Post, The Irish Times, Newstalk's The Right Hook and Today FM's Sunday Business Show.
What I'm most proud of however is that I've created something totally unique in Ireland. From the very start, I wanted a sex shop that stocked only bodysafe products and toys that people would be proud to own. This obviously means that my selection would be a heck of a lot smaller than the vast majority of shops out there who rely on the sheer number of items they stock to make sales. I'm a crap salesperson. I can't sell something I don't believe in, so I made sure to only stock sex toys that were truly well designed and good value for money.
I research the design of every toy and brand before they make it to my shop. I read reviews from customers, bloggers, and sex educators. Then I buy in 1 of the toy I'm interested in to have a look at it, to feel the material, and if it's a vibrator, to see what the vibrations are like and how it functions. I then go through a checklist to determine whether or not the toy reflects good value for money. I do carry some products for over €100, but I only stock them if they represent a good investment. This way I can make sure that no matter what people buy, they'll know they are getting something awesome.
I also make a point to take good care of my customers. Ireland is a country of small businesses, and one thing that really stuck with me when I first moved here is how loyal people are to their favourite shops. They know the shop owners and love to have the chats with them. For something as intimate and personal as sex toys, I felt it was so important to have that welcoming vibe reflected in my online business. I also gift wrap all my orders whether you like it or not (much to the disbelief of Sunday Business Show host, Conall O Móráin).
I would of course love to win all 3 awards that I'm nominated for, but even if I don't win, I'm proud of the fact that I'm running a business that I think is unlike any other in this country, and I'm doing it well. Now if you don't mind, I'm off to celebrate my impending 30's with a glass of wine in my pyjamas like an adult.