Building a Better Health Service


Quitting Sparks Irish Business Success

Everyone knows the huge health benefits that quitting smoking brings. But for Kate Sherwin, her decision to ditch the cigarettes has completely transformed her life and the lives of her entire family.

The money Kate saved from giving up cigarettes enabled her to fund her daughter’s start-up business, which has grown and grown into one of Ireland’s recent success stories – the Irish Fairy Door Company.

After quitting smoking, Kate decided that it would help her to stay off the cigarettes if she was able to physically see all the money she was saving – so every day she would put the money into a Kit Kat tin under the sink.

A few years later, daughter Niamh and her family were ready to emigrate to find work in the depths of the recession and their last chance lay in an idea she and her best friend Aoife Lawler came up with, along with their respective husbands, Oisin and Gavin.

“We didn’t see a future here for us. My dad had gotten sick two years previously so we would have already left the country if it wasn’t for that. It was smack bang in the middle of the recession and it was a difficult time for a lot of people, but myself and Oisin, we had actually lost everything,” Niamh explained.

“Aoife and I had been talking about making little wooden fairy doors to put in your house after coming across a little door in a shop in New York. We were then sitting around with our husbands when the idea to make it a business came about.

“It was June 2013. We didn’t have a spare tenner between us and there was no other route open to us – our credit rating was in the toilet so no bank would even look at us. Mam overheard us talking about our ideas and how we would need €8,500 to get us started with manufacturing, packaging and the website. She instantly said she would give it to us. She is just an amazing lady. We can never thank her enough for what she did. She genuinely believed in what we were doing and had total faith in us.”

Kate had given up cigarettes a few years previously having been a smoker for 40 years. She will be 14 years a non-smoker in February.

“I was thrilled to be in a position to help Niamh out. I couldn’t bear to think about her and the kids moving away and I knew that they would have to leave the country if they didn’t get their idea off the ground. And it was giving up cigarettes that gave me the opportunity to help,” said Kate.

“My mam and dad both died from cancer and I knew that I had to give up I finally decided to quit for my children and grandchildren. The kids had been on to me for years to quit but it was when my oldest daughter told me that she wouldn’t be able to bring her baby home to the house if I was still smoking that it really hit home then. I felt horrendous hearing that,” said Kate.

 Kate and Niamh

She explained the thinking behind the savings tin.

“I knew that if I couldn’t see the money, I wouldn’t stick to it. The €8,500 I gave to Niamh was only the tip of it – that money had brought us on loads of lovely holidays that I wouldn’t have been able to afford if I was still smoking. I think I could have bought myself a Mercedes with all the money. I still save now, even nearly 14 years on. It’s a great incentive,” she laughed.

But the health and physical benefits also massively paid off for the Clondalkin woman.

“I am quite vain – but only for myself. I love to have my hair looking well and to have nice clothes. But I knew that my hair stunk when I was smoking. Now I have lovely shiny hair and good skin and I can afford to treat myself to the best face cream and clothes.”

She also took up jogging and playing golf on the back of the renewed vigour she got from not smoking.

“It was certainly tough giving up at the start because there was still smoking in pubs at that stage. But I was very positive about it and I made sure that I had a big bag of celery and carrots with me to keep my hands occupied and make sure I wasn’t putting everything else in my mouth in place of the cigarettes,” said Kate.

She revealed that she still loves the smell of cigarettes and often dreams about them.

“That nicotine is a sneaky fella. I still have dreams where it is telling me that it is okay to have just one cigarette. But I have no temptations to go back – life is too good without them,” she said.

And life is getting better all the time for Niamh, Aoife, Oisin and Gavin and their Irish Fairy Door Company.

“It has been an unbelievable few years for us. We have done amazingly well in the Irish market – we Irish have that sense of magic and storytelling innately in all of us. But we are now trying to crack the US and UK markets. It will take a lot of hard work but we have great support around us to help us keep the success going,” added Niamh.