Secrets to Success with Darren Kennedy: ‘Every day is full of little learnings’

Pic: Brian McEvoy

Ever wondered how someone makes it as their own boss? What it takes to run your own business? We here at VIP are speaking to some of Ireland’s top business people to find out the secrets to their success.

This week we’re chatting to Darren Kennedy, founder of Kennedy & Co grooming, about creating his brand, the effect of COVID 19 and managing the work/life balance.

So Darren, have you always dreamed of owning your own business?

I wouldn’t say so, no. It wasn’t like I set out to own my own business. But I probably realised very early on in my career that I wanted to work for myself. At first, I was an employee, then I went freelance, it was around that time when I realised, actually, I want to work for myself. I was never one of those people that knew from a very young age that they wanted to be their own boss.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?

There are always challenges along the way, any business owner will tell you that cash flow is a huge thing, as well as manufacturing. We manufacture all our products here in Ireland, which has been amazing in terms of the pandemic. Because the supply chain hasn’t been affected, like if you were sourcing your products from further afield. So we’ve been very lucky in that sense that we’re Irish designed and created. That really resonated with people during the pandemic as well with the movement to support local and shop local more which is great. But with manufacturing, a big challenge is that a lot of the control is outside of your remit. So delays and various different things can happen, and they do happen, that’s just part of life. You have to have a contingency plan, and just understand that they will happen. I think during the earlier days I used to get frustrated by this, but being more understanding and forecasting in advance really helps.

I don’t know any company that hasn’t been affected by COVID, obviously, there are some companies that have been affected positively. But with a lot of stores closed, that does affect obviously sales. Although we have seen a massive uptake in them in online sales, which is great. There’s definitely been ups and downs. Both men’s and women’s grooming habits have changed during lockdown, with people spending more time on their skincare, so that’s been a real experience as well.


How do you balance work/home life as a business owner?

It’s really tricky, and a lot of people are the same now, we all understand the blurring of the lines between personal and professional life. I think it’s really important to set boundaries for yourself, as in I try not to check emails after 6 pm or 7 pm but that’s not always the case. Even with social media, you’re much more connected to the consumer, which is great because you can respond and react much quicker. But at the same time, it means you can end up working all of the time if you’re not careful.

Do you find that you often bring your work home?

Oh definitely, particularly during the pandemic as each day just kind of blurred together, you could be working weekend days and not even realise. So one of the things for me was that I started having my cocktail of a Friday, to mark the weekend. Just having little boundaries helps, I’d love to say it works the whole time. If you’re not taking time to switch off, you won’t refresh and will ultimately end up burning yourself out.

What advice would you give a young person who wants to be their own boss?

I think if you want to start your own business, there’ll never be a ‘right time’, you just have to dive in and do it. Mistakes are inevitable, failures are inevitable, but I think it’s important to fail fast and move on. That’ll help you really find your niche in your area and the niche for whatever it is you’re trying to sell or bring to market. It is daunting, but if you really want to do it then the rewards are incredible. Especially in terms of freedom and being the master of your own destiny.

How important of a role does your team play in your business?

Oh, the team are amazing. I’m the Creative Director and Founder, but we have a full team in place to look after logistics and manage the whole manufacturing side of things, client relationships and stuff like that, which they’re amazing at. I would oversee things, or I would be very much involved in new products, the marketing side of things, the design and client relations.

Is there anything you wish you knew when you first started out?

I think understanding that things take time and the importance of having patience. That it does take a long time to build and establish a brand so to set your expectations. Also, something that brands that target men would know, that men are usually very loyal to products when they find what they like. We’ve built this great tribe of Kennedy & Co users and they love it. Oftentimes, that gets then shared with the women in their life and they become fans as well. But to encourage them and entice them to switch to try your product is really challenging, so that’s something I was always aware of but it just takes time so again it’s the patience.

What has been your biggest business mistake?

I think it was trying to run before I could walk. But also, I had a business before Kennedy & Co, an online magazine probably about 12 or 13 years ago. I learned a lot through that and in the sense that I probably should have scaled it up quicker. It kind of reached the point where I was like okay do or die. Eventually, it wasn’t right for me and at the same time my career had progressed but I think I didn’t get it to the scale that I could have. It could have done something else on its own two legs. That was a learning curve for sure.


What lessons did it teach you?

God everything, every day is full of little learnings. It comes back to fail fast and move forward. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. There are lots of little failures but there hasn’t been one colossal failure. But learning how to deal with failures, being reactive and having resilience is a big thing for me.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Oh wow, well, we launched Kennedy & Co in November of 2018, so just over two years ago and my ambition for it was to cement its place in Ireland and to expand into new markets. It’s been a great achievement to do that. We’re available right across Ireland, the UAE and Qatar, and we’re on Amazon now in the UK which is huge. International growth is coming so that’s been something that I’m very proud of. And the recognition of the products being excellent products that customers love and leave great reviews and they come back to buy again. So that’s been a great achievement.

What are your plans for the next five years?

To continue expanding world domination! I’d love to crack the US and big markets like Brazil, Germany. They would be the big goal of making Kennedy & Co a true global brand.

For more information visit kennedycogrooming.com


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