After working under Irish business mogul & billionaire Denis O’Brien, Carol Anne Leyden was ready to take the plunge to set up her very own business venture, CA Design. A love for design and a combined background in interiors, gave Carol Anne the confidence to launch back in 2012. Fast forward nearly four years and CA Design has become the go-to store for architects, designers and mid century furniture addicts alike.
Understanding the importance of customer focus paired with a carefully curated collection of stylish furniture, has ensured CA Designs customers are never disappointed. Here, Carol Anne talks to us about work life integration, entrepreneurship, motherhood & the power of Instagram.
1. Watching your journey since you launched CA Design, the business appears to be going from strength to strength. Was having your own business always a dream of yours and did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit?
Since leaving college I always worked in start-ups or rollouts so it was the natural progression to start something of my own! Having returned home from working overseas for 10 years I found myself increasingly thinking of ideas that would translate into a business where I could be my own boss. I had been working for Denis O’Brien’s Digicel in Honduras and had been dealing with a lot of suppliers in Asia so I found myself heading in that direction in search of ‘The product’. After extensive research and spotting a niche in the Interiors market, CA Design was born in July 2012. The business model was originally online only but after several pop up shops and a permanent showroom, we are celebrating almost one year in our first flagship store on Dunville avenue, Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
2. You recently became a Mum, congrats! What do you find the most difficult aspect of running a business & being a mum?
To be honest it’s probably been the best 3 months, we’ve been so busy and I have a great team in the shop and behind the scenes that have kept it going and really wouldn’t have been able to do without. I’m getting back into it more now though, you can never really fully switch off which is probably the most difficult part but I truly love it. Conall jokes that I was doing my VAT returns while I was in labour and taking orders from the hospital bed….which is true! The business is my baby, my first baby but now I have Robyn and obviously goes without saying the most important baby, it is challenging juggling the two. I don’t have the traditional maternity leave that other women get which I do envy but I’m lucky I get to work from home doing what I love, while Robyn isn’t far away and long term I have the flexibility that a lot of girls don’t have the luxury of. My schedule has changed though, I work while she’s sleeping and tend to be more productive with my time, which is so precious. I work well under pressure!
3. What is the best piece of advice that you have been given?
To go with your gut and keep your customers happy!
4. What has been your biggest learning curve since opening your own business?
To follow your client base. The move to Ranelagh a year ago has turned the business around. We were based in Ringsend before that and even though it was only a few miles down the road, we had no footfall and no front door. Being in the thick of it in Ranelagh with a good shop window and right where our customers live has been phenomenal for the business and brand.
5. Your biggest inspiration?
My parents. Seeing them both succeed from a young age along with their work ethic always inspires me.
6. What is the first app you open in the morning?
I love Instagram! It’s perfect for our business in that we can post photos of our interiors and get an immediate reaction whether it’s a conversion into sales or new enquires. It definitely works better for us than twitter and facebook. I love following different architects and interior brands too from around the world. I love the way you can connect so easily with a brand in New York or Sydney within seconds…..the world of sharing! It’s great for reaching out to companies in Ireland too.
7. What advice would you have for other woman thinking about starting their own business?
I would say if you really love and are passionate about your idea and willing to work hard then go for it don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. I would also say don’t over complicate your idea, keep it simple! Another good piece of advice – and an obvious one – is to keep your customers happy. They are your business at the end of the day and customer loyalty and retention are what we strive for every day. My last bit of advice is to outsource as much as possible to focus on the core objective of the business – in our case, delighting customers with quality furniture at the right price.
CA Design are now celebrating four years in business and one year in their new store on Dunville Avenue, Dublin 6.