This week to celebrate International Women’s Day, we have been profiling local female entrepreneurs. It has been so encouraging to hear about what inspired them to start their business and to see the courage they have shown despite the challenges they have faced being a woman in business. Last up in this series is Zara McLaughlin.

What prompted you to start your own business?

I always had a love for Art at school. When I was around 16, I took part in a work experience programme where I spent a few days at the fashion and design hub in derry. I met a lot of young female entrepreneurs who were running their own fashion business independently and I just loved the sense of freedom, ownership and pride that came with building something for yourself that I knew I wanted to make a career out of something that I loved to do too once I left school! It wasn’t until I went to Ulster university to study Ceramics that I fell in love with pottery. My business started at the beginning of lockdown when I set up a small studio space in my garage to make and sell pottery online. Two years have passed now since I started, and I have now opened my very own studio in the Acorn Centre in Ballymoney!

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’ – can you share any experiences you have had of gender bias or prejudice?

 I am very lucky to have not faced gender bias in my workplace yet and I feel really privileged to be able to acknowledge that as I know a lot of other females have not had the same luxury. 

In your experience what are the main challenges faced by women in the business world?

As a woman I feel like the main challenge for me is being taken seriously but as a young entrepreneur (being only 23) I feel that could have more to do with my age than my gender. I do try to actively surround myself with other female entrepreneurs and collaborate with female founded organisations. I think one of the challenges surrounding my gender is that there is this narrative that we can’t work together. However, I have found with the women I surround myself with; That they are all actively working hard on changing that narrative. Championing each other and raising each other up. At least that’s how I feel in my local community.

What advice would you give to other women who were considering starting up their own business?

My one piece of advice that I give to everyone is ‘Just Start.’ If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If it’s not, you will find an excuse. The truth is nobody really knows what they’re doing, whether they want to admit that or not, but I will always support the voice of any female founder as If they are my own big sister. We have a voice now. It’s using that voice and feeling empowered enough to use it to fight for a life you can’t wait to wake up to.

Zara is an award-winning Ceramic Artist and Maker based in Ballymoney. She enjoys making work for the gallery space but also creates bespoke functional ware for the home. Zara has built a huge following on Instagram where her ceramics sell faster than she can make them and most recently Zara won the Future Makers Award: 2020 Design & Crafts Council Ireland (DCCI).

If you have an idea and need help to bring it to life, get in touch with us here at Enterprise Causeway