SEAMLESS - Elevator Pitch:
"SEAMLESS is a real-time messaging and approvals system for use in the film and television industry. We're making it much easier for production crews to communicate with each other, get decisions quickly, and to share confidential production information securely."
Hi Tara and welcome to our inspiring startup talks with entrepreneurs! Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and how you ended up becoming an entrepreneur.
Hi Mark, thanks for extending the invitation to chat with InspiredStartups. Five years ago I would have laughed out loud if you told me that today I would be the Founder of a tech startup.
I am a freelance costume designer by trade. I dreamed of being a costume designer in the movies since I was a kid. I studied Fashion Technique & Design in college. I guess I was an entrepreneur back then. I was keen to start my own clothing line. I sold mostly at festivals and markets, it was much more fun than ‘getting a job’.
After graduating college I walked into a production office looking for work on films-- I have been hired continuously ever since. I have always worked freelance in costume for film and TV shows including Game of Thrones, The Kennedys and Moone Boy.
There are similarities between the freelance lifestyle and being an entrepreneur, mostly the constant hustle. This lifestyle suits me; I tend to follow my heart. If there is something I want to do or try, I give it a go. I could never be tied into a permanent contract, I enjoy the freedom.
Costume Designers might not consider Ireland to be the centre of the universe, so what have been the advantages and disadvantages to remaining based in Ireland while developing iCostume?
Gosh, I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention there are many similarities between the Irish film industry in the early 90s and the Irish tech scene now. Come to think of it, this is the second ‘career’ I am starting in Ireland.
When I was starting out in film, Ireland almost was the centre of the universe thanks to tax incentives. Ireland was a very attractive location for International filmmakers and it was the place to be. I think my success of easily getting into the film industry is attributed to Ireland's understated International standing. And with Ireland being so small, making connections was super easy.
Now, the Tech industry in Ireland is booming! This is definitely the place to be again for a new industry. When I built my first app, iCostume, my developer was based in the US. The time difference was a bit of a pain, but other than that, I could have worked from anywhere. I have had amazing support, mentorship and funding this year to get me from an app called iCostume into developing Seamless that is more evolved. So like the film industry of old, the tech industry is looking to get entrepreneurs and dreamers to the next level.
You said you needed encouragement to get involved in initiatives like Female Founders. What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs about getting involved in similar events/ schemes and which ones would you recommend?
I have had great support and encouragement, I am so grateful NDRC ran the Female Founders programme last year. If they hadn’t I know I would not be speaking with you today!
If you are in Dublin - you are very lucky! And if you are female - double your luck! There is a very strong support for the startup scene in Dublin, and so much encouragement for women.
The encouragement I found was not so much the ‘encouragement ‘ to go for it, but just simply raising my awareness that this world was here! I knew I wanted to pursue a digital career. I wasn’t aware of the ‘tech’ or ‘startup’ possibilities. I was ‘encouraged’ by being shown a whole new direction I was completely unaware of!
I would give everyone male/female/ young/old the same advice. Go for it! If you have an idea, tech or otherwise - go for it. You have nothing to loose!
Stay open to all the options, the journey might take you in a direction that you never could have imagined!
Supports I recommend are:
NDRC, Female Founders pre-accelerator programme
Going for Growth, female entrepreneur programme
New Frontiers (not female specific)
DCU Ryan Academy Female Propeller: High Fliers
And check out Enterprise Ireland for incentives like the Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs.
I know from hearing you talk before that you refused to give up on iCostume even when people told you it couldn't be done. How important is that "never give up" attitude for people starting out?
I really had the drive to get iCostume running because the industry needed it so badly. Trust your instinct, get started and keep going, stay away from people who tell you ‘you can’t’, especially if they are ‘just being realistic- for your own good!’ Needless to say, if I gave up the first time I was told I couldn’t make an app, I would be missing out on all the fun, meeting new people and learning so much!
Doing something you really want to do, especially if it scares you is a deadly buzz. It’s a journey, the fun is you never know where you will end up!
Your talks are engaging and memorable. What advice can you give start-ups about pitching and public speaking?
I am not a natural at standing up in front of people and speaking- believe me! I was very lucky to work with an excellent coach, Joanne Crawford. One thing in particular she told me that I will never forget is to always remember when you stand up to speak or pitch, you are delivering great news- and your audience can’t wait to hear it!
I believe you trusted someone you knew through a friend with the design of iCostume. What can you tell us about working with the right people?
Team is so important. It goes without saying, in work or in life, surround yourself with people who lift you up.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a costume team or a software team. I must work with people who love what they do, are fired up about it.
I like it when the people around me hold me to a very high standard. I surround myself with the best.
iCostume is a disruptive app yet doesn't seem out of place in the film world. How important was this to you while designing the app?
As I said I had over a decade of industry experience and I personally knew the frustration and what was needed. I knew the restrictions of the industry being slightly tech-allergic. I designed iCostume to be the same as their current workflow but better, making the move to using the App a no-brainer.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
By saying No sometimes to “Work” things and yes to more “Life” things. I am truly passionate about fitness – my backup plan was a sports clothing line. I make sure I train hard and eat well. My fitness directly reflects in my motivation and work ethic.
I also like making my job fun! I find networking events energising and inspiring that part of my job never feels like “work”.
What lessons have you learned from your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I have 20 years experience behind me, but I have to say, I am learning so much every day. Going from costume design to tech entrepreneur is literally like learning a new language - everything is new.
I have learned to be open to change. Another big lessons is to always think big. Not as easy as it sounds!
Think Global. Learn to network, this has introduced me to so many amazing people. Above all don’t be afraid of the tech world (or whatever world scares you the most). I have walked into Hackathons with only an idea and come out with a team and a cheque so if I can do it, you can.
Before I let you go, I have to ask about some of your previous film industry experiences.
In college I always said I wanted to dress Brad Pitt and the first movie I worked on was The Devil’s Own starting Brad Pitt so I was off to a good start! I have been really lucky to work with many of my favourite actors over the years: Meryl Streep, Richard Attenborough, Daniel Day Lewis, Paul Rudd, Anne Bancroft, Charlize Theron, Shirley McLaine.
The most memorable day was the day I met Al Pacino. Before I started work on the film, the crew was briefed on ‘the rules’-- mainly the crew are not allowed to speak to Mr. Pacino and if you do have direct dealing with him, he is to be addressed as Mr. Pacino.
A few hours later, I was walking down the hallway, and who was walking towards me but Mr. Pacino. He stopped to introduce himself, told me he was delighted to meet me, thanked me for working on the film, then he excused himself as he walked in front of me to open the doors for me.
Again it goes to show you never know what can happen or who you will meet!
Thanks Tara for sharing your inspiring startup story with us. We wish you great success in your new chapter of your exciting entrepreneurial journey!
FEELING INSPIRED? SHARE YOUR STARTUP INSIGHTS WITH OTHER ENTREPRENEURS!
What drives you as an entrepreneur?
What tips would you give Tara for her next startup venture "Seamless"?
Mark is a current journalism student in DCU and has covered a range of topics across print and radio. Having taken a class on entrepreneurship, he found startups were the most exciting thing happening in Ireland and developed a keen interest in them. Apart from technology, Mark has a love for biographies and Woody Allen films. You can contact him on Twitter or LinkedIn.