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At Maven, sisters Catherine and Patricia McGinnis have curated a selection of largely Scandinavian and Irish products. With a belief that everyday items should be enhanced by great design and that shopping should be all about the friendliness, Maven is a treasure trove that will make your heart beat a little faster and make you leave with a smile.

We chatted with Catherine from Maven to find out more about their beautifully curated store and business.

What motivated you to set up your own business with your sister Patricia?

Patricia and I got our heads together over 3 years ago, we were both at cross roads in our careers. Patricia had worked in the same job for 8 years after moving back from London and I had recently completed a Masters in Business, and with the recession in full force I was struggling to find the right job. We wanted a positive change, a better work life balance (not sure we have achieved that… yet…) and have a business we were passionate about. Our dad is self-employed so the idea of setting up on our own didn’t seem completely bonkers. We’ve sat after many a family dinner chatting business and that’s what Patricia and I do now – our family are always keen to chip in too… As business partners we complement each other perfectly.

Maven came about out of a love for design and a frustration that lots of the beautiful products we were sourcing for interiors clients (and ourselves) couldn’t be purchased anywhere on the island, North or South. Seeing the gap in the market and after many conversations we decided to open Maven. We signed our lease in September 2013, pulled together our website and brand, blagged accounts with our suppliers and threw up a few shelves in our beautiful premises, Reid Memorial Hall. We raised a few eyebrows opening a store in 2013 (given the economic climate at the time) but we were confident in our products and brand. Not long after we opened we started the Maven Sessions, a series of taster workshops where you could learn a new skill or craft such as weaving or creative writing. We wanted to create a community and the sessions were a fun way of doing this.  

What are some of the challenges and successes you have seen so far?

We are delighted and completely grateful that Maven has been a success so far. Retail can be a pain in the arse! BUT it’s also amazing – we really do enjoy Maven and the community we have built. We have so many lovely regular customers. In our first year we were shortlisted in The Irish Times Best Shops and then again in 2015. Alongside our customer base, the store continues to grow and we have more larger pieces of furniture now on display. We have secured some of our favourite brands including Muuto, Hay, Menu and Ferm, still being the only stockist of most of these in Northern Ireland. One of our biggest challenges is logistics – we all know about the ridiculous freight cost of furniture to Ireland! We work hard to bring these costs down so that they are not passed onto our customer. When we first opened we were first and foremost a small shop and interior design practice and now we offer personal shopping, commercial sales and commercial styling.

3 tips for designers looking to retail their work

Pricing, presentation and photography!

We absolutely love working with and being a stockist of Irish designers. Firstly the product needs to suit the ethos of Maven then we look at pricing and presentation. The advice we can offer is that the designer needs to make their product profitable for them so they can sell it at a realistic wholesale price. Presentation is key – if your product can be gifted then have well presented boxes or packaging, which makes it all that bit easier for the customer buying the gift. Maven is still a relatively small business and we don’t have huge photography budget – it’s easier for us to push your products if we have beautiful photography.