Printing the way to success
Lockdown has brought its challenges for us all but one local woman has made the most of it and launched what’s now become a hugely successful business.
Amanda O’Reilly uses a corner of her family home in Cavan Town to spread the Irish language across the world through graphic design.
Launched almost two years ago during the first lockdown, her company Scéal Beag, offers attractive prints using the Irish language.
“I was trying to prepare my then four year old for starting in Gaelscoil Bhreifne. We had never spoken Irish to the child so we were really worried about him starting,” says Amanda.
“In the hope of Irish being a bit more familiar to him we put a lot of post-it notes with Irish words and phrases all over the walls and countertops in the house. It was then, when they were up all over the walls, that it hit me how lovely the Irish language looked and what a shame it is that a lot of houses are filled with English language inspirational quotes and funny phrases when we could actually have all of these also in our own language.”
Ranging from a bright and colourful “Bród” flag to simple definitions of words like ‘abhaile’ or ‘aintín’, there’s a full spread of Irish options on offer.
Finding herself out of her job as a hotel receptionist in March 2020, Amanda decided to embark on the journey of making her simple idea a reality, despite not having anything to do with Irish since school or graphic design since college.
All is done from the family home, with Amanda designing, printing, packaging and posting all the orders. A bid to outsource the printing was quickly reversed when the quality of the finished products wasn’t of a high enough standard.
“When I set up I said ‘I’ll be happy if I sell four prints a week’ and within three or four weeks it was 40, 50, 60 prints a week and not only was it Ireland, it was coming from Irish people in the US or Australia.”
Lockdown saw many people cut off from their families, friends and loved ones and restrictions on travel meant many Irish people felt isolated abroad and missing home. In a way, it was the perfect time to launch such a business.
“I think it was because it was during coronavirus and lockdown and people couldn’t get home to Ireland and they were feeling a little bit homesick. We used to get a lot of messages from people who said it made them feel more at home, even though they couldn’t get home. I think the lockdown made people realise how much they missed Ireland.”
Amanda was recently successful in a business grant scheme run by Three Ireland, made up of a €10,000 bursary and mentoring advice from its team.
However, she says so far this appears to be one of the only supports available to her as she is a sole trader, with little on offer in terms of other grant schemes.
“The start of it was all my own money and since then it was sales. This is the first grant I applied for because, when I was looking through the grants, there always seemed to be a lot of aspects that my business was not eligible for because it’s only me. Technically it’s a sole trader business.
“I kind of thought there’d be more support for advertising or promoting the Irish language but again when you go into these grants and look at the fine print, none of them apply at all. The grants that are out there are quite hard to be eligible for.”
The grant now means Amanda can expand her operation and branch out into other products. There’s no shortage of plans:
“It’s opened up a lot of doors. Being up and running for a year and a half, I think it’s time to extend the range of products on offer and to maybe start considering wholesale, which is something I’ve never been able to do before because of financial constraints.
“Going forward hopefully we’ll have a range of new products in the next two or three months.
“Instead of just prints we’ll have cups, a framing service and larger sizes so hopefully there’ll be some new varieties around.”