Roma and Kevin McKenna are both primary school teachers and have two children, Connlaith and Saorlaith. They started their business ‘In The Moment 2021’ during the pandemic in order to better equip families for spending time outdoors.
Kevin explained, “We couldn’t get away anywhere because of lockdown so we had to look at other things to do with our children in the summer. We love getting outdoors and love getting to the beach so we started to go swimming more often. It was something to do that’s not very costly - you can do it anywhere there’s a bit of water. We had money put away for holidays that we couldn’t use so we decided to buy stuff that we could use to enjoy being outside - buying a robe, swimming gear, whatever it is. It was so beneficial to us and people were seeing our posts on social media and they were asking us about it and how they could do the same. A lot of our friends were in the same boat and needed a wee release at the weekends so it built from there. We thought, if it’s working for us, there must be other people who would benefit from the same to help focus and enjoy themselves.
“We didn’t want any excuses not to go out and we found that we wanted the right equipment. We were shopping around at that time - which was about a year and a half ago - and everything was massive money. We wanted something that was affordable, reachable and local to Derry and Ireland. We found that the main competitors were coming in from abroad and you had to pay £140-£150 which a lot of families couldn’t afford. So we decided to offer something that isn’t as expensive. Obviously we are making a bit of money from it but it’s not our goal to make ourselves wealthy from this. We have our own jobs and our own priorities but we just wanted to provide affordable equipment so that families like us could enjoy their time outdoors. It’s all about practicality and shopping local.”
Roma added, “We found that after a weeks work, it’s so easy to look out the window and think, ‘it’s a bit miserable, I’ll not bother.’ But I think if you have the right things - you know you have good cover and shelter with your coat and your hat and your flask, you can make a day of it still. If we waited on the weather in Ireland we wouldn’t get anywhere! Even in the summer, when it’s supposed to be warm and dry in July and August it can be tough. We were blessed this year with great weather but you still need warmth to sit out at night around the fire pit. We felt that this summer we could sit out a wee bit longer because we weren’t as chilly as we were before we had the equipment.
“You can’t depend on getting away on holidays and people aren’t willing to take the risk to fly somewhere so having the right equipment gives another option to holiday at home.”
The children and family time are central to the couples’ business. Their children go along for local deliveries and they can spend quality time together using their own products outdoors.
Kevin said, “We both work as teachers which is a highly demanding job and we have two children at home so we needed something that didn’t require as much effort to do. This means I can work on my relationship with my wife while we’re outside together, work on my relationship with my children and on my own mental health too. It’s taken from our perspectives as teachers because there’s such a lack of strategies being taught on how we can look after ourselves. So for me, it’s a de-stressor to do this business.”
Roma added, “It’s an enjoyable focus and it’s something we do together. If we wanted to go on a night out to spend time together, we would need a babysitter and when you’re dealing with a hangover, you’re not as focussed on your children the next morning. Doing this now, we can all be together to do something worthwhile. Our children love the deliveries and getting out and for us it’s a release from our busy lives.
“Our son Connlaith absolutely loves going to the beach. He loves the water and the cold doesn’t bother him at all. Saorlaith is not a fan of the cold, especially at this time of year but she loves being there with us and spending time on the beach.”
“We love to remind the children that when it’s cold, you don’t just sit at home and play computer games, you should get out and enjoy it. Connlaith is very active and he needs a really busy lifestyle so this is a way for him to get a release and get out of the house,” Kevin said.
Cold water swimming is becoming increasingly popular now with more and more people taking to the seas and lakes across the island. Kevin and Roma write a candid blog on their website talking about their own experience swimming in the cold water and giving information on how others can get involved.
Kevin said, “We want to answer some of the frequent questions people have - where can I get started, where are the locations and things. We’re not telling people to be like us but we’re offering advice and giving information and letting people do what they want with that. It might not work for everyone but for us and our situation, it definitely works.
“We’re so blessed here to have an amazing landscape. We have great beaches, hiking, mountain, hills, everything for us so we want to help people to get outside and take advantage of what we have. We share our story on our blog to inform people in a way that isn’t too ‘preachy’. At the end of the day, we’re not perfect and we don’t want to pretend that we are. We just want to show people who are struggling or finding things difficult that there are small steps you can take that may be of benefit to you.
“It’s so important that we all stay in communication as a town, as a community. We need to reach out to each other. People might want to do these things and not know where to go so we try to cross as many avenues as possible to get people out to reap the benefits like we have.”