An Irish athleisure brand for women is seeking €250,000 in seed funding to bump up stock and invest in new designs following a jump in online sales during the recent lockdown.
Sharon Keegan, founder of PeachyLean, said Enterprise Ireland, the state agency, had already committed to match the amount with a further €250,000 in high-potential start-up investment.
“We have one private investor on board and we have more investor meetings set up for September. We hope to have the round closed this year,” Keegan said.
The 38-year-old, who is originally from Tallaght in Dublin, set up PeachyLean in 2018 and incorporated the company last year.
“I’d been working for a British food company, heading up their Irish business, and then I was made redundant in 2015 – the same year I had the first of two sons, Liam,” Keegan said.
“He was 10 pounds, 11 ounces – a bruiser of a lad – and I was left with this big ‘mummy tummy’. I took up weightlifting to get back in shape, but I couldn’t find any gym wear that would support my postnatal body.”
After losing her job, Keegan began a part-time master’s degree in innovation, entrepreneurship and design at UCD. She spotted an opportunity to bring to market a new concept in women’s activewear that would, she said, be a bit like “Spanx for the gym”.
“I started with leggings. They’re a bit different in that they give women a streamlined shape and hold them in where they need it around the rear and pelvis,” she said.
“I made a prototype and then brought it around to gyms. I ended up selling 224 units before we’d even manufactured the product. I kind of knew at that stage, right, we’re onto something here.”
Keegan went on to source a sustainable manufacturer in Portugal and now sells a range of 14 high-waisted leggings online at peachylean.com, alongside 11 bralets. The bralets are priced at €28. The leggings cost between €50 and €60.
“We use spandex and nylon, so that our pieces are supportive and don’t sag or gape when you’re exercising and moving around a lot,” she said.
PeachyLean sells online to customers in 23 countries, including Britain, France, Spain, Germany and the US.
Keegan said the company sold, on average, between 300 and 500 items each month and was on track to record a six-figure turnover this year.
“The pandemic really accelerated our business. Online sales shot up, because people were stuck at home and, I think, they were looking for that little bit of motivation to stay active,” she said.
Keegan has also harnessed the power of social media to reach her target customer, using Instagram and other platforms to share her ethos and build an online community with more than 28,000 members.
She describes PeachyLean as an “inclusive” activewear brand.
“It’s for women of all shapes and sizes and that’s really important to me,” she said.
“I try to be honest and transparent and to speak to the customer, who basically is myself. She is the woman who is feeling a little bit insecure in herself and her appearance for various reasons. All of the marketing we do is about reaching her.”
PeachyLean employs two people full time and has six contractors on its books. The company is based in the Guinness Enterprise Centre on Taylor’s Lane in Dublin.
“My big focus now is on raising the funding we need to grow our team and bring our turnover up to seven figures in the next year-and-a-half. All we’re really lacking is the stock we need to do that, so we need the money to finance it.”
Keegan is working with Fiona O’Carroll of the Digital Mindset and Keith Brock, her development adviser at Enterprise Ireland, to bring these plans to fruition.
“I’ve never been more motivated in my life to make this business work and I think that’s because the last year has been so tough personally. It’s probably been the toughest year of my life,” she said.
“I lost my younger brother, Liam, suddenly in March. He was only 35. That makes you extremely aware of how short life is.
“We only get a certain amount of time and I really want to motivate women who might be struggling, because there is a better day on the way.
“My worry with Covid-19 is that people are living in fear. We all need a bit of hope and inspiration to keep going.”