April and the Bear Blog
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On the 28th of February 2024, April and the Bear will have been in business for TEN YEARS. A FULL DECADE. Absolutely mad Ted.

And I’m gonna warn you right now, I’ve been reminiscing HARD – things are about to get fierce nostalgic, sentimental and maybe even a bit soppy.

We have had quite the journey over the last decade, full of ups and downs, lessons and opportunities, wonderful staff, awful landlords (not our current one!) and gorgeous, gorgeous customers.

I started the business back in 2014, just before I turned 30 and to be honest, I was at a place in my life where I wanted more say in my career, and more control over my path and direction. I thought, if not now – when?

The first iteration of the April and the Bear website + our first stamp!

The store was started as online only – I had ZERO capital and starting online meant that we didn’t have to worry about overheads like rent/ staff/ insurance etc. I was so nervous and to be honest, didn’t have a clue what I was doing but when that first order came through (I’m looking at you Roberta Carroll!) – it was incredible. The THRILL! I felt such a rush and sense of pride. Yes I had sold products before in my previous jobs but this sale was ENTIRELY mine, it was my creation and someone had deemed it good enough to buy !! It felt so good.

The first 3 years were a S L O G. I physically did everything myself, I wrapped every order, replied to every email, shot every product, wrote every product description and I didn’t earn a penny – any money that the business made was invested back in so that we could continue to trade. I couldn’t have survived or done any of this without the support of my bear/ husband – Jamie. His support made my aspirations possible.

We opened several pop up shops in the city center, our first one was on Dame Lane and it was absolutely brilliant. Jamie and my friends and family were tricked into helping out with the build of the shop and my pal Nikki C. who is one of the BEST sellers I’ve ever seen in action, came and helped out during the pop up run. I have such fond memories of that space and time, it was so exciting to meet our April and the Bear customers and see and hear about their enthuasiasm for the store because up to that point, all of our customer interactions were online.

Nikki and I at our first ever pop up in the Fumbally Exchange on Dame Lame

The Fumbally Pop Up

Our festive Pop up at Castle + Drury

After that I knew there was an appetite for a physical store but we continued to focus on online sales which was a fairly new concept at the time believe it or not! And we did more pop ups and markets – we popped up in Portobello ( where Brindle cafe is now – with THE BEST coffee in Dublin just to say) and on Castle Market Street.

And then the cool + sweet Wendy from Scout pinged me a message on Instagram and asked if I was looking for a retail space…I wasn’t exactly BUT I went and checked it out and this lead to April and the Bear’s first permanent physical store in Temple Bar on Cow’s Lane. It was a TINY space but it was great, we learned so much, met so many lovely customers and lovely other shop owners – Temple Bar has such a vibe, sometimes it was a bit scary (especially when working solo) but it has some of the coolest shops and it was a fab first foray in retailing in a permanent space.

We spent two years in Temple Bar, and then decided to move on. We found a spot on a side street in Rathmines and after much too-ing and fro-ing, we moved in. Setting up shop this time round was much tricker as we had our little cub Zoë with us, and she was so little – either myself or Jamie was with her at all times so we couldn’t do our usual of building the shop until it’s done (hello midnight) or even do the work together. But we got there and opened in April 2019.

In our Wynnefield Road store we grew our business, our team and expanded into interior design and it became apparent that even though this store was bigger than our last – we were outgrowing it. We then found a space around the corner that was bigger but NEEDED so much work. It hadn’t been a functioning commercial space for over a decade and it showed but it was a great location and ON the high street so we went for it. The shop fit was fairly painful, we stripped the space right back and had to lay floors, plaster walls, pull down ceilings and then fit all the electrics etc. We used an external team for it and BOY howdy it was ferociously expensive and delayed, and overly complex of course but in the end it looked how we designed it and we got it open and here we are! 

The Before

The After

We have had so much gorgeous support over the years, obviously your support has been the important – without it, we simply would not have existed. We’ve also had wonderful support from Irish press – so many journalists and writers have gone out of their way to put a focus on April and the Bear which is not easy when you have bigger enterprises commanding space in print due to their extensive marketing budgets, so I’m extremely grateful for this assistance – it genuinely makes such a difference. We have to shout out to Natalie Marques Courtney (who featured our house in Image Interiors + is THE best editor I’ve ever worked with), Jen Stevens, Vicki Notaro, Ciara Elliot, Jo Linehan + the glorious Fiona Ellis of course! These women have such a way with words and strive to highlight Irish and independent businesses, thank you thank you ladies! 

Over the years we’ve been nominated for numerous blog/ women in business awards and competitions for best shops – winning ‘Best Business Blog’ at the Image.ie Blog Awards was a proper moment for me, as was being included in THE GLOSS + THE SHOPKEEPERS roundup of the Best Irish Shops 2022.

One of the highlights of working in this industry is all the talent you find and have the opportunity to work with. We’ve collaborated with a slew of exciting Irish and International artists to create art and products for the home that continue to be cherished, these include Somas, The Completist, and Jess Tobin. Our most successful collaboration has been with artist + sign writer Rachel Joy Price, we’ve been working with Rachel for years and it’s an utter joy. She is such a talent and the thirst for her work never abates – she is actually coming over to Dublin this year to paint on the front of the store and it will be the first time we’ve physically met! I cannot wait but I’m going off topic.. yes I’m very, very proud of our collaboration and creations. 

We’ve worked through monumental life events like Covid – lockdown was such a bizarre and strange time for us all. In April and the Bear we worked through this period on our own, in shifts to keep each other safe and we were SO BUSY. Everyone was online, ordering and I’ll always remember the heart-warming notes you were writing each other and the incredibly sweet gifts you were sending to bring joy at an awful time and to demonstrate how much you missed your loved ones. It was a weird, terrible time but those notes reminded us that there’s so much good and kindness out there – and we genuinely felt so privileged to be a part of those moments.

We worked through REPEAL , the legalisatoin of gay marriage – so many monumental milestones occured during this time, for me personally – I turned 30, got married to my Bear, gave birth to my two girls, all while navigating owning a business.

Over the years we’ve grown and changed and adapted and I must say, I’m very proud. I’m proud of the business, the community we’ve built, the wonderful team. I would also like to say – running a business is hard, running one for 10 years is incredibly tough, the last few years in particular have been difficult for us. The economy, the civil unrest internationally has lead to an unease which is felt in every facet of society. Balancing this with two young children has been a serious juggling act and everyday I look at other working (or not) mothers in utter wonder. I don’t know how they do it, I don’t know how I do it …but we do.

Anyway back to A+TB, we’re 10 and I’m not entirely sure how we got here but we did and I’d like to say THANK YOU to a few people without whom, April and the Bear wouldn’t exist.

Jamie, your unwavering support, love and belief means everything to me. You’ve built, you’ve brainstormed, you’ve created numerous excel formulas, you’re always there when I need you – thank you babba.

Nikki Minaj – my original co-conspirator! You supported me at the very beginning and it bouyed me so much.

Sinead and Fee, your opinions, interest and guidance over the years means so much.

April and the Bear would be nothing without our amazing team – Emma, Louise, Sorcha and Michelle, you’re brilliant brilliant women. Your enthusiasm, talent and attitudes are the core of this business. A special shout-out must be made for Louise – our manager extraordinaire! Louise has been with us for SIX years this year and she knows A+TB like the back of her hand. There is no one as cool and calm as Louise under pressure and NOTHING is insurmountable – thank you Louise, we’d be lost without you!

And then of course, there’s YOU! We wouldn’t exist without your support – so thank you for filling your homes and hearts with A+TB bits. And now to celebrate! We’ll be kicking off celebrations in store in the last week of Feb, so keep an eye on our social media to get involved! We’ve already started our 10 YEAR GIVEAWAY over on Instagram – so make sure you pop over there and enter.

Happy 10 year anniversary from us + THANK YOU!

Siobhan xx

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