Niamh Sherwin-Barry (better known as Chief Storyteller) is a director of Irish Fairy Door Company. Niamh has been working with children since 2002. She is a qualified Montessori teacher and has also ran her own business teaching music classes to under 5’s through a Jo Jingles franchise. Encouraging children to use their imagination again is something that Niamh is very passionate about. The use of technology is taking over children’s minds and it is her mission to bring the imagination back and to enable children to play like they used to. Niamh has lots of experience working with young children and truly loves it! She happily admits to being a big kid herself which really helps in her line of work. Helping Queen Kate (queen of all the fairies) tell her story is a true honour for her! Niamh looks after brand and also heads up the social media, customer services and PR departments.
The Irish Fairy Door Company started trading on August 28th 2013. After being hit very badly by the recession, both couples Niamh and Oisin Barry and Aoife and Gavin Lawler were close to emigrating. The very first conversation took place around a kitchen table in June of the same year. Not having any capital whatsoever to get their idea off the ground Niamh’s mother Kate gave the money she had saved from having stopped smoking 9 years previously. Since their launch 4 years ago they have now sold close to 500,000 pieces worldwide. Their main market is Ireland, the UK, and the USA but they have shipped doors to over 120 different countries across the globe. Irish Fairy Door Company employs 15 people in Ireland based in Fairy HQ in Fonthill in Dublin 22 and have distributors in Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada, Mexico and Australia with customers such as Smyths Toys, Tesco, Toys R Us, Learning Express and Joanns. Since their establishment Irish Fairy Door Company has been a big supporter of both national and local charities. The team believes that their fairy doors have had a very positive effect on children who need the magic a little more than most. Irish Fairy Door Company has donated thousands of fairy doors to charities and charitable events all over the country.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
I think that there are definitely people who are natural born leaders and people who are not. I think that the natural born leaders tend to have pretty much all the attributes needed to be a leader. I think that lots of other people are capable of becoming leaders but may not possess all the skills at first. I feel that these skills can be learned however. Having said that there are many people who are very unsuited to leading a team of people and feel that it wouldn’t matter what training they received they would still be unsuitable.
When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation what qualities do you look for from candidates?
A calm level headed person for sure. Someone who is a good listener but who can also speak assertively too. Someone who can get the best from people without ever losing their cool. Someone who can spot potential and is able to nurture it just the right way.
If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?
As I work in brand I would be very particular that my staff would maintain the same ‘voice’ that we have created from the beginning. That our tone while dealing with all aspects of customer care is always the same. That our voice on social media remains the same and that our content stays at the level it is now.
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
Ideally come up with 10 new products which feed through into our overall concept. To keep focusing on what we are good at and not get bogged down in anything else.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
In a business sense definitely Sheryl Sandberg. I have had the honour of meeting her and was blown away by her charisma and ability but most of all her by her warmth. In a general sense, I absolutely love Constance Hall. She is an Australian blogger who has garnered over a million followers with her truthful heartfelt views on being a woman in today’s world. I LOVE how she looks at other women and I have to say I have learned so much from her.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
“Small Giants” by Bo Burlingham – how to make your company great instead of big
“Like a Queen” by Constance Hall – how to be a better human and queen