From Selling Bottles of Air to 21 Years in Galway:
For Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery owners, Níall McNeilis and his wife Aideen, 2022 marks a special occasion. Together, they celebrate 21 years in business. The striking yellow premises on Quay Street, across from the Spanish Arch, is part of the Galway landscape. For the last two decades, it has held a particular appeal for local and international tourists.
For the man who once sold bottles of Irish air, Níall has learned how to pivot and adapt to the times. He credits the success of Claddagh
and Celtic Jewellery to the quality of their Irish made products, which are known around the world. And he acknowledges the importance of the close working relationship with Aideen and the team. Having survived “three floods, two recessions, an ash cloud, bird flu and a pandemic” the future is bright for the business. This is because they continue to reinvent and bring forward new products and ideas to the market.
The Power of Social Media:
It has not been without challenges. Níall openly admits he has learned from his mistakes. And it is this resilience that has brought him to where he is today. During the lockdowns, the doors on the Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery city centre premises were shut. As a result, he harnessed the power of social media to drive the business forward. And it gave him a new opportunity to be creative.
“Social media played a big part in directing people towards us,” he says. “It helped us to get our message out there. We were able to target a specific audience for a particular product. Whether it was the Galway community or Irish Americans, we were able to pinpoint our marketing towards certain cities, and important occasions.
“Social media is so important when it is used properly. For example, in our Father’s Day campaigns, we can promote our cufflinks, or gents Claddagh rings. On Mother’s Day, we can promote our birthstone range. We were fortunate that customers shopped with us online for their birthday gifts. And the time away from the shop gave me a chance to come up with new ideas.”
Supporting LGBTQ+ :
One of these ideas was their very successful Claddagh Pride ring. This piece of jewellery has reached beyond the parameters of simply adding a new product to their range. The colourful band has a wider significance to the LGBTQ+ community. The sterling silver ring interweaves the traditional heart, crown and hands with six coloured stones taken from the pride flag. These symbolise red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, blue for harmony, violet for spirit.
Inspired by his work during the marriage equality campaign, Níall quickly identified the market need for a unique Claddagh Pride ring. “We have a pride sticker in the shop. Whenever I fly the flag outside, people always come in to thank me,” he explains. “I find that young Americans, especially, are always delighted to see our support for the LGBTQ+ community. There are some states in the US that are not as open. In essence, the Claddagh Pride ring has special significance. For example, I have found lots of mums and dads buy the ring as a gift to show their support for their child.”
Tourist Trade in 2022:
Níall believes trade at their Quay Street shop is bolstered by the promotion of the city as part of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture. Despite the cancellation of the events, he notices a significant knock-on effect. And he is looking forward to a prosperous summer. The business is benefiting, too, from the positive impact of flights from Dallas, Seattle and Washington.
Ultimately, Níall believes there is a marked increase in visitors from the UK, Italy, Germany and France. It is no surprise, then, that the hard-working jeweller has capitalised on this increase in tourist numbers. He offers extended opening hours, with late nights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as Sunday trading.
For Níall, the struggles of being an entrepreneur over the last twenty years are outweighed by the satisfaction of being your own boss.
“I have made an awful lot of mistakes in business down through the years,” he says. “Some of them were stupid. But I have learned from them. There is nothing like having your own business. When you see your product being sold, when you see someone put a nice post online, there is nothing like it.
“I am very lucky. Galway is an amazing place to do business. The business groups in the city are so active and involved. I find that if the city is safe, then more shoppers will come. We take part and sponsor so many events. From the Galway Arts Festival to the Film Fleadh and community groups, it all feeds the economy of the city.”
The Spirit of Galway:
Níall’s passion for his home city is demonstrated, not only though his work as a Labour party councillor on Galway City Council and his time as a former Mayor of the city, but also through his Spirit of Galway range at Claddagh and Celtic Jewellery. This range celebrates the heritage, culture, and landscape of Galway.
For Niall, the wheels keep turning. He continues to ignite his creative spark through his work. Already, he has plans in the pipeline for a new line of graduation and class rings as a special keepsake for students.
He acknowledges the issues ahead for the business. Current rising costs and the possibility of a global recession are looming. But he has learned there are many factors outside of his control. Experience has taught him to focus on adapting, to meet demand, and to continue to devise niche products for his target markets.
His advice to new entrepreneurs:
“Do it. Take the risks, learn from your mistakes, get a good mentor and a good accountant.”
For more see: https://claddaghjewellery.com/