Coffee #1 - Aine Kilkenny - Timing is everything
I didn’t intend to start 50 coffees (now coffee chats), nor did I intend to start it today with Aine. However, as the theme of our conversation went “timing is everything” and timing was perfect for Aine and her co-founders Fiona and Lauren when it came to starting Riley.
For an intro on 50 coffees, see here. This is all about my first documented coffee with Aine.
People don’t invest in products, they invest in people.
A cliched saying but one that I think has a lot of truth in it. Speaking with Aine and having previously heard from the Riley team, you can see why the cliche exists. Their energy and passion for their business, their sincerity and authenticity draws you in. I believe that we also invest in stories and the Riley story captures you, from how they started to why the started.
I caught up with Aine to learn more about the business as they’re currently fundraising through Seedrs.
What’s it like being a founder?
Having previously worked at Wachsman and Salesforce, Aine always wanted to run her own business. She still finds it difficult to use the word Entrepreneur, showing humility. I always find it fascinating as it’s something I’d love but always wonder “what’s the idea”. How did the idea come about for Riley and did the girls ever think they’d be starting a Women’s health / hygiene business? That’s where timing comes in. Covid seemed to come at the right time for the 3 founders. Realising what was actually in tampons, the many chemicals and the lack of organic, sustainable products.
Timing is everything!
It's easy to be impatient and want everything now, in all walks of life. Promotions, entrepreneurial ventures, even relationships, all come down to the right timing being a key part of success.
Getting the idea is one thing but executing it is another. Did they ever really envision it becoming so successful? They’re right on the path they projected and in some ways, find it hard to believe how far they’ve come yet they’re really only getting started. Trips to manufacturers in Europe, meeting with mentors and building their plan. The more I learn the more impressive it becomes as it’s very easy to take an idea and half look into it.
That idea turns into reality and while friends are buying houses, the girls have 100,000 tampons arriving in Cork. Like any great start up story, boxes are hand packed for orders. They’re operating a D2C model, however sometimes opportunity presents itself and you must become agile. They receive a phone call from a leading corporate in Ireland.
It captures the next theme of our conversation, the need to be agile. You can have a vision and plan but you must be agile. As they’ve grown they’re now looking to expand the business and launch new products. Agility goes beyond branching out from D2C to include B2B, it means listening to your customers. Aine isn’t too pushed on instagram from a personal point of view but she understands its importance for the business and for communicating with customers. A hard thing (from my point of view) can be when you think an idea or product is great, only for others not to. The Riley team utilise instagram polls to check their ideas, to see if their great ideas and products are what customers want and to involve their customers in their business.
It might seem like a really simple idea but quite often founders don’t listen. It takes a level of humility to mix both your ideas with that of your customers and ensure that you’re going in the right direction.
Listen, listen, listen and then ask intentional questions.
The great thing about 50 coffees, hopefully with people I don’t know too well is that phones are put away. You listen, you listen again and you ask question. That’s also been the key to Riley’s success. Not just through instagram polls but with mentors and relationships they have built, constantly learning from others.
If you'd be interested in being a part of my coffee chats stories, or if you'd like to put me in touch with someone I would be delighted! All reccommendations are welcomed, even if they're virtual. Pop me an email, LinkedIn or whatever works best.