We spoke to owner Nadine Kearns about why she went into self-employment, what she is currently working on, what she particularly likes about being based at IF and her ambitions for the future of the company.
How did you start Champion Designs?
It was an interest and a talent that came together that just seemed to make sense. I was an Irish Dancer myself from the age of six and then worked in a company that made Irish Dancing costumes for eleven years. In that time, I managed to build up my experience and skill base by getting involved in all aspects of the business. I then found that more and more the customers were asking to deal with me
specifically which was obviously great for my confidence. I always knew I was artistic and very strong creatively and I really wanted to concentrate on my key interest which was design of the costumes. I felt the time was right to follow my own ambitions and vision, so with strong family support (especially from my mum) word got out and here I am today.
What are you working on at the moment?
We have just finished several dresses for the Ulster Championships in October and are currently working on quite a few dresses for the Leinster Championships at the end of November. We then have to get prepared for the All Ireland Competition in February which are followed by the World Championships in April. So, as you can see it is a constant cycle and we are always working within a very busy calendar. Usually it takes about six to seven weeks from the initial measurements and fittings to the final costume, so a lot of work goes on behind the scenes before we see what the dancers perform in at competition.
What do you like about the Innovation Factory?
There is a very good atmosphere, and everyone is helpful and friendly. I think it is because even though we are working in different businesses sometimes need to let off steam and it helps that we are all in the same boat and on the same wavelength. Also, we must put out a big shout-out to the staff at reception who are a great help with greeting our customers and making them welcome. This is very important as it helps us to make a good first impression.
What are your ambitions for the company?
I obviously want to be successful and grow further, but I want to grow in a controlled way. We want to remain bespoke and focus on the personal touch regarding design and service. If we grow too much, we would become just a factory churning out “off the peg” dresses. We want to get our name recognised locally, nationally and internationally. Over the next business quarter, we will hopefully be investing in some new machinery and taking another seamstress so I can concentrate on what I really enjoy most – designing costumes!