I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Hyde of Henparty.ie and Kate explained about setting up the business, being on Dragons Den, raising a family whilst running a successful business and plans for the future. How long have you been an entrepreneur ? I launched the very first version of Henparty.ie from my spare bedroom in Waterford in February 2008. I had always wanted to create a business/brand and having been a bridesmaid 5 times I spotted nobody in Ireland was directly targeting the multi-million euro henparty market. So with a very small credit union account and a lot of late nights, Henparty.ie was born. By August 2008 I left my then IT job and moved into Henparty.ie full time. Needless to say this was a very frightening move as I was taking a big gamble giving up a secure job to work on something that had always been a dream. Luckily the gamble paid off and here we are three years later. I come from an entrepreneurial background and as a small girl my Dad would tell me all his business ideas and I guess the bug bit me way back then. I learnt a lot from my Dad watching him over the years and hearing all his ideas and dreams. I still love nothing more than sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house with Dad, and running through an idea one of us might have – pulling it apart, planning the launch and spending the millions in our heads! I have met a lot of entrepreneurs since I launched the website – and more often then not they have someone in their life that passed the entrepreneurial bug onto them What did you do before Henparty.ie? I graduated from University College Cork in 2006 with a Business Information systems degree and went straight into Pepsi on their graduate program, training to be an accountant. They were an amazing company to work for, but I really didn’t have the ‘accounting gene’ so I left after a year and went into IT and worked as a project manager for a software company. But again I was very restless and wanted more so during all this time I was on the look out for a business idea. But of course the more you want a business idea the harder it is to find one! However, as they say ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’, and it was after my 5th time being a bridesmaid I realised there was a gap in the market for a Henparty portal in Ireland. What is interesting is that the skills I picked up working after college really stood to be when I started to work for myself – putting processes in place, systems, documenting everything. And especially now as we are expanding, I am using skills I would not have had, had I gone straight into business myself after college. So I don’t regret that time I spent working for other companies one bit. In fact I think every entrepreneur should work for someone else before they go out on their own. You have a young baby, how do you juggle family life and work effectively? It’s tough! More that I realised it would be. By nature I’m a fairly determined person. If I want something to work I will generally use every resource I have to make it happen. But being a mother to a new baby and expanding a business has been a serious challenge. I have to be completely organised at all times and stay on top of everything. Easier said than done! Every spare moment I have has to be used productively. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband and I also have family nearby that help. The staff in my office are also excellent and having a good team and good systems in place makes the harder days easier. It really is very important to me to keep the business growing. But it is also very important to me to be a good mother and be there for my daughter. So it’s about finding a system that works so that the two are possible. It’s hard, but so far its working. Do you think it is harder for a woman in business ? I was brought up to believe there are no differences between men and women in business. I never tout myself as a ‘female entrepreneur’. I’m just an entrepreneur. I don’t expect any more praise or criticism because I am a woman, than if I were a man. Certainly once babies are thrown into the mix things get harder for women, as women are traditionally the primary care givers. But to be perfectly honest, if a child wasn’t an obstacle to growing the business, there would be something else. There are always challenges to overcome in business, every single day. And how you overcome them is how you succeed, whether you are a man or a woman. You were on Dragons Den and got an investment from two of the Dragons, what type of exposure did this result in? Going on the Dragons Den was one of the scariest decisions of my life. It was the first series of the Irish version and as I had always watched the UK version, I was extremely nervous applying. The plan of action, had it all gone horribly wrong, was that I would move to Australia and never come home! Ireland is such a small country and I felt I was taking a huge gamble appearing on the show. If it didn’t go well not only would my new brand be damaged, but my personal reputation also. Thankfully the gamble paid off and I got investment from Niall O’Farrell and Gavin Duffy. They gave me €15,000 each in return for 40% of the business between them. A lot of people thought I was mad giving away 40%, but to be honest at the time I couldn’t get finance from the banks. And going on the show was the cheapest and most effective method of putting my brand into every house in Ireland I could think of. And that was worth it. The ‘success’ of my pitch meant I received a huge amount of follow on press, including television and radio I could never have afforded on my own. So I didn’t just get €30,000, I got probably a quarter of a million euros worth of national advertising too. A small company starting off could never afford that. I also saw my turnover nearly double overnight because of my appearance on the show. I still run my own business and am still captain of the ship, which is important when you are an entrepreneur. But Niall and Gavin have been great and I’ve enjoyed their involvement in the business. What types of marketing do you find works best ? I have never paid for marketing or advertising. Not once. In the early days before Dragons Den I would write my own ‘press releases’ and email them to regional newspapers with pictures, and more often than not they would publish them. I also used chain emails when I was starting off. But the most effective form of marketing for me was and still is Google. Essentially I worked every hour god sent at the beginning on my SEO. I would come home from the day job and stay up until 2 in the morning many nights just working on my rank on Google to get to the top. This was the most successful form of marketing, aside from Dragons Den, as most of my traffic to the website still comes from Google searches. We get traffic, and online orders, from all over the world. Do you use Social Media for marketing? Not hugely. I have a Facebook page but I wouldn’t use it frequently for the business. Sometimes I think people become so focused on marketing and social media, that they forget to focus on making money. I made this mistake myself – I spent a lot of time on social media and going to networking events. But in the end I found when I stopped this and focused more on my bottom line, then my turnover increased. I think you can ‘over-market’ and lose sight of why you are doing it. What countries have you expanded into? I have launched a UK version of the website and also a Polish version. Right now they are just generating rankings on Google and once they are near the top we will focus on making them into money making machines. What’s next for Henparty.ie? With the downturn in the service industry here in Ireland it is getting harder and harder to sell advertising. Luckily we haven’t dipped yet, but the growth just isn’t there. The online store remains static in terms of revenue from year to year so I looked for a new revenue stream and found it in the shape of pre-organised henparty packages. Using the contacts we have built through the country we assemble low cost, yet quality henparty packages for women in Ireland. We piloted 3 last year and sold out with two of those locations over the summer. We will be entering the new Henparty season in 2012 with 12 of these packages, as well as Stag packages. It’s a very exciting time for the business and our pole position on Google ensures we will always be the first website women find when they are looking. Once Ireland is underway we will be focusing on replicating the process in the UK and mainland Europe. Thank you Kate for such an interesting interview. I believe you give many budding entrepreneurs incentive and belief that it can be done no matter what obstacles are in your way or how much hard work it takes. Good luck with the new Henparty and Stag Party packages and your growth in other countries.