The Derry businesswoman taking Instagram by storm

Ciara Mhic Cathmhaoil started her own business, G Gal Designs, in 2019 after making crowns for her sisters hen party led to a leap of faith that would change her life.

Ciara now makes embellished sunglasses and accessories and has a great following online. She has recently left her job to work on her business full time.

Ciara said: “My sister wanted a mermaid theme for her hen party and we decided to get crowns for us to wear. It would have cost a fortune to buy them so I decided I would make them, having never done anything like that before! I though ‘they couldn’t be that hard’ so I sat every night with my glue gun for months before her hen. That’s what G Gal actually stands for - ‘Glue Guns are Life’! I kept going on about how much I loved my glue gun on the hen so that was one of the running jokes on the hen party.

“I had three children under three at that time so my social life was nonexistent but I had spent months working on these crowns up to the hen and I didn’t know what to do with myself when it was over. So, I decided to make sunglasses for everyone for the wedding day and my sisters were encouraging me to put them online and put myself out there. I started experimenting, putting ‘Bride to Be’ on them and it all sort of exploded then.

Ciara Mhic Cathmhaoil is the owner of business G Gal design, which has become hugely popular on Instagram.

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“I started selling on Etsy in 2019 and that first year was quite busy. I thought it would be even busier the year after because I had been keeping an eye on other businesses on Etsy and it seems the busier you are, the busier you get. So I thought 2020 would be a great year but obviously the pandemic hit and it got very quiet for a few months. People were having Zoom hen parties so there were a few sales but it was still very quiet.

“I follow Jess Redden, an influencer, on Instagram and she was to get married to Rob Kearney, who played rugby for Ireland. She was talking about her hen so I messaged her to ask if I could send her glasses and she replied to say of course. So she posted a picture of the glasses on Instagram and I got loads of new followers and orders. From that, a sister of Maeve Madden’s, who is a fitness influencer on Instagram, got in touch to say she wanted a pair for her hen. I got a message too from someone to say her friend, who had a big following on Instagram, was interested in getting a pair. When I found out it was Kate Lawler I was jumping round the house with excitement and I sent her loads of glasses. It was amazing! There were news articles online about her hen saying Kate was wearing ‘funky sunglasses’ with my business name and since then I have been flat out.

“After having my children, I went back teaching part-time but I’ve just given up my teaching job now to do the business full time. I used to work a week on and a week off so I would have been sitting up before work and late at night to try get orders done and balancing that with three children was very difficult. The business can go as far as I want it to go and I have so many ideas but no time to do them so it’s the perfect time to take it to the next level. I have felt less pressure since I’ve quit my ‘day job’ and I’ve found that when the children are at school, I can work and I can spend time with them when they’re home. Before, I was feeling the pressure to work too much. I’m working from home so it’s so easy to work all the time or even to reply to messages on my phone. It’ll be far easier for me to distinguish between work and home life now, especially after summer and when the children are back at school.

“I joined the Derry Business Collective and that was really helpful to me. I hadn’t paid much attention to Instagram before I started my page but since the Derry Business Collective, I have started to sell a lot more locally. The Collective are holding a Local Business Pop-up in the Guildhall on August 6 and I’ll be taking part in that with 30 other businesses. It’ll be great for me because some people can be a bit weary about buying them online in case they don’t fit properly or suit their face and when they’re personalised, they can’t be returned. I haven’t ever done a pop-up event before so it’s great for me to get that experience and for people to be able to try things on and see all the items we have available.

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Ciara Mhic Cathmhaoil with her sisters wearing the mermaid crowns that started the business. The name G Gal comes from Ciara expressing her love for her glue gun at sister Aoife's hen party.

“For anyone who’s thinking about starting their own business, I would say to just go for it. I don’t think I would have been able to have this business when I was younger but being the age that I am and having children, I don’t care as much what other people think. I wish I had this confidence when I was younger. The support out there is amazing too. People want you to do well, they want you to succeed and if you have an idea, I would just put it out there. What have you got to lose?”

Ciara’s sunglasses can be bought on Instagram at @ggal_designs or at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GGalDesigns.

Ciara wearing her 'Kiss me I'm Irish' sunglasses.

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Instagram influencer Jess Redden who wore Ciara's G Gal Designs sunglasses at her hen party. Jess was the first of many famous faces to model Ciara's glasses.
Ciara Mhic Cathmhaoil with husband Nicolás and daughters Isibéal (7) , Orna (6) and Áinín (5)
The Derry Busness Collective will host a Local Business Pop-up in the Guildhall on August 6. Ciara from G Gal designs will be selling her sunglasses and accesories.