As the build up to #BuyDonegalWeekend continues we will feature a number of different businesses taking part in the campaign, which takes place this weekend, November 6th – 8th 2020. Whether an iconic Donegal brand, boutique, craft, designer or producer, they collectively will showcase the best of Donegal business! Here we speak to Ian Harkin founder of Lottie Dolls, a Donegal brand that has become truly global, sold in 35 countries around the world.
Originally from Ballybofey and now residing in Letterkenny with his wife and two children, Ian is a graduate of LYIT. After becoming an accountant, Ian decided to venture into the world of start-ups and began a novelty gift start-up in 2005 before embarking on his current venture Arklu in 2010.
Arklu’s first product was a Royal Wedding Doll set of Kate and William before launching Lottie in 2012. ‘’We knew we had to aim for international markets from the get go. Selling online was an important part of that mix as it helped us build a following right around the world instead of having to be reliant on one retailer or supplier’’ said Ian. With 20 distributors across 35 countries in place, Lottie Dolls have certainly achieved an impressive level of growth since first launch.
Not forgetting their Donegal roots and the importance of the local market for their brand, Ian added ‘’we absolutely love independent retailers, we sell more to them than to big box toy retailers, seeing the challenges they face this year is very difficult to take. McElhinney’s in Ballybofey and Eurosaver in Donegal town have been great supporters of ours over the years.’’
Last year the brand ran a campaign where they asked all of the clothing manufactures in Donegal to make an outfit for Lottie. Ian then travelled around the county taking photos of the dolls in scenic locations. ‘’I can’t explain how impressed I was when I seen what was available in Donegal, I suppose having lived away and then returning and seeing the design, quality, craft, care and passion that people have for their products and brands, there really are lots and lots of world class craftspeople right on our doorstep.’’
In advance of #BuyDonegalWeekend Ian has some very pertinent words for the people of Donegal, ‘’as individuals living here we need to get out and support and promote in conversation the businesses we have in Donegal. In our business the single greatest way people find out about us is through word of mouth, we have world class quality products in Donegal, spreading the word is infectiously positive, so I guess that’s what we will be doing a lot during #BuyDonegalWeekend, promoting Donegal businesses on our platforms. If we all do it together we can reach a lot further!’’
To see the full range of participating business involved in #BuyDonegalWeekend and start your shopping list, visit buydonegal.com