At Shona, we’re so inspired by young women who are feeling the fear and doing it anyway. One of our heroes is Emma Coffey. This 20-year-old legend from Cork has taken her “small pandemic side hustle”, FinalBend, into a hugely successful brand, using TikTok as a tool to build a community of dedicated fans.
So, Emma, let’s get down to business…
Emma, we have followed you since day one when your “little” side-hustle was born, which you started when you were in 5th year in school. Tell us a little bit about why you started. How did you feel on day one?
Basically, I’ve always been the type of person who needs to have 1000 things going on at one time just to feel productive, so when an injury stopped my daily training, I decided to start a business to fill up that new gap in my schedule. At the time I was also going through some teenage heartache which pretty much spurred me on to write up this 4000-word “business plan” (a concept I had just learnt in 5th-year business studies and seemed like an appropriate measure to have in place when beginning this venture…). So armed with a business plan and an “I’ll show you” ( 😡😡💅💅 ) mentality, I YouTubed my way into creating a functional website and whipped up some product designs… in 1 day… and that was that, FinalBend was born.
So, you are no stranger to TikTok, and have a huge following with FinalBend which is really positive, how important is your online community to you?
I love love love Tiktok, it’s unlike any other social media app where beauty and perfection are promoted. On Tiktok you can make content about whatever you want and in doing so you can find people who care about what you have to say and how you say it, it’s more real and I think being your own person and having ideas on things is celebrated. I started making videos about what I did in my day as a college student and business owner, and they started to gain a little traction, so I just kept making them! The small Irish business community is honestly so cool too, seeing people my own age starting and prospering in business is so refreshing and it’s so fun to follow their journeys too.
Is there a negative side too? How do you deal with that?
Amazingly I haven’t really had many bad experiences on social media or hate comments. However, sometimes I feel myself stressing about having to post something or having to be seen to be doing well on social media and when that does happen, I just have to take a step back and get out of my head. When you are the main source of your own business’ traffic, there can be an internal pressure to continue to try to make viral videos to boost sales and it’s interesting because in many traditional businesses this would never be the case, social media teams and marketing executives would be in charge of the content outputs. So to fix that issue I’ve hired 2 social media gals who know what they’re doing to help out.
Not only do you own your own business by the age of 20!! You are also a full-time student. Definitely a prime candidate for the next wonder woman! Could you give our young followers some of your top tips in juggling multiple commitments? How do you prioritise, stay motivated etc?
I think having always had things like sports or extracurriculars on the go alongside school I have always been used to juggling it. I was always doing my homework in the back seat of the car on the way to ballet or football or running or swimming or on the car ride between gymnastics and running or hockey and football… so now in college its almost easier because no one’s checking my homework 😅😅… I’ve just made college work for me, I’ve managed to fit it into my own schedule and it has worked out brilliantly. It’s also made easier by the fact that I have this huge interest (and vested interest at that) in business which is what I’m doing my undergrad in! Learning about accounting, marketing and law are literally vital for running a successful business anyway so I see it as still adding value to the business even when I’m spending time on college work instead of FinalBend work.
We see all of your ups and successes but as always, with success comes failure. Could you tell us about some of your setbacks and how you overcame them?
There’s definitely been setbacks and even times I just wanted to quit, sometimes I question why I’m even doing this… when I’m sleeping 2 hours trying to cram for exams during winter exam week and also trying to keep up with orders during the busiest Christmas shopping week it can be hard to see past the stress, but it always passes. I think I’m good at seeing the bigger picture and self-talking myself out of the current stressful moments. Learning about how business works in the real world has been tough too because this is my first proper experience in life where someone hasn’t been telling me what to do and how to do it. I’ve had part-time jobs before, and there’s security and comfort in working under someone, knowing the mistakes you make can always be fixed by someone else in charge… but in my business that person in charge is me. And that was manageable when I was the only person counting on me, but now I have employees… who have rents and mortgages to pay… so it’s been a learning curve and a slap in the face a couple of times (I accidentally once almost committed accidental tax evasion by filing the wrong form to revenue … that was a whoops moment for sure…) But I’m learning and I’m not afraid to be wrong and to ask for help which is important.
What were you like as a teenager and if you were able to go back to give your 14-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
I remember when I was 14, the world seemed so small, and any drama in school felt like the end of the universe and it was hard at the time. Looking back, I can’t believe how much time I used to spend focusing on such small things and getting so worried over what everyone thought of me. It’s easy to look back and dismiss all those feelings as just being silly but I know at the time it felt so real, so my advice to myself would be to try not to take everything so seriously and don’t be embarrassed to be passionate about things that interest you. They will be the things that make you stand out later in life!
Emma, you are so ambitious! What do you have to say for any other budding young entrepreneurs out there?
My advice for all young aspiring entrepreneurs is to not wait for someone else to do it before you! You have such an advantage when you start young, you can make all the mistakes and learn all the lessons before everyone else has even started so even if you’re starting small you can get 10 steps ahead by just starting young! It’s so easy to find information these days with there being YouTube videos on pretty much anything so if you have an idea just go for it 😊
Favourite Hobby? – Going for a run first thing in the morning
Favourite Quote? – If you play small you stay small (this has been written on my mirror for like 3 years now)
Favourite song? – Kids (Don’t End Up Like Me) by the Academic … or Heartless by Kanye West… orrrrr Old Pine by Ben Howard honestly it depends on the mood… wrote this listening to Cover Me In Sunshine by Pink
Favourite person ever? – I don’t think I could pick one favourite person because I have the best friends and sisters who all share the spot.
If you fancy keeping up with this absolute badass and FinalBend, check out her FinalBend’s Insta below. P.S. This is a clip from Emma’s fav photoshoot where she spent the day filming with her besties! How cool is her job?!
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It’s mad to think of how many phenomenal women are on this little Island of ours! We also want to say a massive thank you to Emma for her time and support! Stay tuned to see who else we got chatting to!
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