Bringing up a brand new business
"It’s crucial to have confidence in yourself. You can’t be so afraid of failure that you don’t even want to try."
A few years ago, Madeline Walsh might have been described as the consummate corporate wonderwoman. A long and rewarding career in tax and finance? Check. Seniority and recognition? Check. Juggling a demanding work schedule with bringing up a young family? Check. But when Madeline spotted an opportunity that was close to her own heart, she knew she had to give it a try—and her baby and toddler store Me & Buddy was the result.
“I had a fantastic career in the corporate world,” Madeline admits, “but when I saw a gap in the market for practical but stylish baby and toddler products, I knew it was time to take all of that knowledge and experience and launch my own business.” Four months of serious planning and set up later, Me & Buddy launched in September 2016, offering around 500 hand-picked products spanning 50 brands.
Starting from scratch
Regardless of all her past achievements and accolades, the first few months of the business saw Madeline starting over—right from the beginning. “Getting people to take me seriously was hard,” Madeline recalls. “I left my career at a certain level of seniority, that I was accustomed to. When I started Me & Buddy, it was like starting at the bottom of the ladder again.” But brands and customers soon warmed to Madeline’s vision and less than a year later, her product range has grown to around 800 products from 80 brands, many of which are now approaching Madeline in the hope of being stocked by her thriving online store.
Blending new skills with old
Giving up a successful career for a new venture may sound like a risk to many, but for Madeline it’s been a natural progression in terms of transferring her skills. “My corporate career has been excellent training for starting Me & Buddy. The fact that I’ve been an accountant and tax specialist is extremely helpful and my M&A background has undoubtedly shaped a lot of my business decisions,” says Madeline.
Now Madeline is honing a whole new set of business skills that are helping Me & Buddy to grow—like using Facebook Messenger for supercharged, responsive customer service, for instance, or engaging her target audience of style-conscious parents on Instagram. Me & Buddy recently launched a hugely successful ‘brand rep’ programme on the platform which now provides her brand with a steady stream of engaging visual content, featuring babies, toddlers and parents who use and love Me & Buddy’s products.
Meet the world
Social media has also helped Me & Buddy find loyal customers overseas. “We now ship to people in Australia, China, the US and across Europe—many of whom found us on Instagram,” she says. And while this new worldwide audience supports her objective of becoming a truly global business, she’s noticed an upside closer to home as well. “Being able to connect with all these people… it means I can show my children first-hand all the incredible opportunities that are out there for them,” Madeline explains. “It’s so exciting. This might never have been possible in the same way just a few years ago.”
Reaping the rewards
These days, it’s Madeline’s own little ‘buddies’, daughter Darcy and son Cillian, that inspire her and keep her focussed. “I’m driven by the idea of reaching my full potential in life and providing my kids with a happy and comfortable upbringing that’s full of love. And that carries through to the business side of things—I want to make a real difference to lives, not just through the products we sell but by the way we serve and interact with our customers.”
It may be a long way from the corporate boardroom table, but Madeline has proven in just a short space of time how with existing know-how and transferable skills—plus a technological helping hand—it’s possible to turn the career tables and flourish in a completely different arena. “I’ve now discovered a passion for a vocation that I never dreamed existed,” reflects Madeline. “And that’s incredibly fulfilling.”
Learn more about Madeline Walsh and Me & Buddy: