A Derry business that creates unique and contemporary prints and giftware celebrating the beauty, history, music and sporting culture of Derry have expanded their product range and are exploring new markets thanks to their success in Derry City and Strabane District Council’s £10K Business Challenge.
Local schoolteacher Ryan Clifford’s Derry Nice Things artwork pieces are proving particularly popular with tourists and the Derry diaspora and he has now reached out to them further with the launch of his website.
Ryan offers a variety of pieces including unique illustrations, paintings and graphic prints that feature iconic events and locations throughout the city and the surrounding areas of Donegal, Strabane and the Causeway Coast.
They include artistic prints of the city’s City of Culture Year, the ‘Stitch in Time’ landmark in Rosemount, an A-Z of Derry and an aerial print of the Brandywell. “There are so many unique things about the city and its surroundings areas that I knew would resonate with not only a local audience but also visitors and the local diaspora,” Ryan explained.
An Alternative To The Usual
“The idea came about after trawling the internet for a vintage-style travel print of Derry to hang on my wall at home, I found they were very difficult to come by so I set about creating my own. I wanted to create something fresh, an alternative to your usual visitor mementos and something that would fit in with modern living and lifestyles. I started with two scenes of Derry – one of the Peace Bridge and one of a view over the town and the prints proved to be very popular with family and friends, by November 2015 I had about 10 or 15 scenes and was persuaded to sell them at a local school Christmas market.”
“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and gave me the confidence to trade on a larger scale, at the Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Christmas market. Our prints were soon making their way to homes, not just around Derry, but to much further afield including USA, Australia, Europe and beyond. Things have just gradually progressed from there.”
Enterprise Week Success
The Business was just a few months old when Ryan presented to the judging panel of the £10k Business Challenge during Enterprise Week but his second place finish and a cash prize of £3,000 offered the spring board for expansion.
“When I presented my ideas to the panel, my focus was on the establishment and expansion of the business to allow me to take it to the next level,” he explained. “Firstly I wanted to establish myself within the city, gaining a foothold in the local market. I was keen to cement a regular place in the monthly Walled City Market to become more of a presence in the city and I also spoke of my interest in having the products stocked in gift-shops, tourist information centres, travel hubs and tourist attractions.
“The last 18 months have been a really steep learning curve, I don’t come from a business background and began by juggling what was effectively a hobby, with my full-time job alongside having two children under the age of three. Finding time to be able to source the most cost-effective materials, printers and suppliers was really difficult. Additionally, creating the images, advertising them, ensuring we were a presence on social media and organising market events is time-consuming.”
“Thankfully, I have a brilliant family, my sister Gerarda, in particular, provides unbelievable support and helps out as often as she can both behind the scenes and on market days. What I have learned most though from a practical point of view is to price around as much as possible and to not be afraid to ask suppliers for discount. Every penny saved increases profit margins.
Forging Strong Relationships
“I also strongly believe in really good customer service, we pride ourselves on forging really strong relationships with customers both through our online communication with them as well as face-to-face on market days. The prize money helped me develop new products. At present we currently stock prints and postcards but we’d like to trial smaller products aimed towards the tourist market such as magnets, badges and coasters as well as possibly trialling things like totebags and t-shirts.”
“We ran a small print-run of a Derry 2018 calendar just in time for the Xmas markets and it sold out within 2 days, before we’d even received the products. Two additional print runs also sold out. This product proves to be a really popular gift for ex-pats. As a result, we are hoping to produce a calendars for: Donegal, the Causeway Coast, Belfast and Northern Ireland.”
Nationwide and Beyond
In order for his expanded product range to be successful Ryan is acutely aware of the need to similarly expand his customer base and plans to launch his products nationwide and beyond are at an advanced stage.
“Our main aim is to expand in order to gain as much exposure as we can and to increase our presence both locally and beyond. We have already built up relationships with a number of restaurants, hotels, shops, serviced accommodation providers and the local tourist office, all of whom have kindly agreed to stock and sell our products. We are just about to launch our products in a number of stores nationwide with shops in Derry, Donegal and Belfast stocking our prints.”
“We are also currently working with a number of tourist locations and travel operators to make our products available to the tourist market and we spent a few months developing our website, which is due to go live this month, this will enable us to reach out to a wider audience, particularly the Irish Diaspora.
“We also want online presence through the development of additional social media accounts, particularly Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and we intend to set up online shops through Etsy, Notonthehighstreet, Ebay and Amazon, again, widening our market.”
“We also have plans to increase the number of locations covered by our range of prints so by the end of 2018 we’d like to have covered all the major attractions and landmarks in Northern Ireland and Donegal.
“The aim in 2019 is to begin to cover the major cities and attractions in the Republic of Ireland and to forge relationships with tourist providers and stockists in these areas.”