Innovative Irish toy company, based in Donegal proves success is possible outside the big city!
Donegal: National Geographic's Coolest Place on Earth 2017
Lottie dolls was launched in 2012 by founders Lucie Follett and Ian Harkin, the business needed funding so Harkin decided to sell his London home, buy out his business partner and return home to Donegal after 14 years living in Sydney and London. Donegal at the time had still not recovered from the recession in 2008, suffering largescale unemployment and emmigration.
Believe it or not Donegal has a tradition in Doll making, Crolly Dolls which first operated in 1936 and had a peak employment of 150 people created premium Porcelain Dolls that shipped worldwide from a factory on the remote Wild Atlantic Way.
5 Facts about Donegal:
- Donegal is Ireland’s most northerly county with its most northerly point, Malin Head, playing host to Star Wars in 2016.
- Letterkenny, home to the Lottie Dolls office, boasts the longest main street in Ireland.
- Tory Island, 11 km / 7 miles off the coast of Donegal is the only place in Ireland which still has a king!
- The fifth biggest town in the county, Ballyshannon is also the oldest town in Ireland.
- Slieve League are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe, three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher.
Finding the ideal office
Lottie has her home in the grounds of the LYIT in building known as the Co-Lab. A supportive and stimulating office centre in the heart of Letterkenny, the Co-Lab plays host to many up and coming and established local companies and in 2016 was even visited by Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall!
Lottie and Letterkenny – the perfect match
Letterkenny and indeed county Donegal itself is a very closely knit community. Despite it's scale, this really is a place in which 'everyone knows everyone'. The Lottie office settled in perfectly in 2012 has built up strong friendships and working relationships with the local community since then.
As well as providing employment for fifteen people, the Lottie office also plays host to dozens of visiting students who come to Ireland to as part of their third level education.
Running a big company in a small town
The costs of developing dolls meant that the Irish business needed to focus on an international market from day one. When it comes to toys, there are several key dates in the business calendar – Hong Kong, London and Nuremberg in January quickly followed by New York in February.
Lottie in the Austrian Alps!
Lottie founder Ian Harkin notes that these are our ‘key selling periods’ so outside of that, location doesn’t really matter. Not even an Irish doll can be in four places at once! Successful sales and marketing campaigns are what it’s all about and they are readily available in every town in Ireland, as are finance and design.
Lottie Managing Director Ian Harkin
Advantages of being an Irish company outside a city
Being based in Donegal has huge advantages! You are never more than thirty minutes from one of our thirteen blue flag beaches and escaping to the countryside doesn’t involve sitting in long queues of traffic. Donegal is one of, if not the most creative place in Ireland. We have an incredibly strong traditions in craft, storytelling and design so you are never short of sources of inspiration. Talked about less often perhaps is our strong sense of competitiveness. We’re often seen as the underdog and this Donegal doll really loves to win!
Hayden Geraghty: small town boy making BIG headlines!
The inspiration behind our upcoming addition to the Lottie family is eight-year-old Hayden from Limavady in Northern Ireland. An hour's drive from Letterkenny, Limavady has a population of just 12, 000 people. That hasn't stopped Hayden from making headlines or from meeting his heroes:
Brilliant to see you presenting the BBC news with confidence Hayden! Lottie doll made it to space too :) pic.twitter.com/AIM8Z6rhOK— Tim Peake (@astro_timpeake) September 6, 2018