Beanantees was created by two gals from the hills of Donegal, Lana McGhee and Ciara Gallagher. McGhee had experience in marketing and Gallagher’s creativity stemmed from her background in fashion and design. Roise Collins chatted with the women about their brand and how it came about.
They sell a wide range of tees, jumpers and bags all embroidered with slogans as Gaeilge. All are influenced by music, feminism, culture and clever word play.
McGhee explained how it had all begun as a bit of craic. “Ciara had been embroidering her own clothes with funny sayings as Gaeilge for a while and I thought it was a great idea and spotted a gap in the market,” she said.
The pair started with a pop up shop in the Bernard Shaw in late December and launched the website on the same day. Not quite in time for a proper Christmas launch, but they took a few snaps and posted them on Instagram.
They were ecstatic when they made a sale within the first hour. She said, “We couldn’t believe it wasn’t from a friend of ours?! We completely sold out in a couple of days and had to start taking preorders for the New Year.”
The brand kept growing within the first few weeks. They started getting coverage on platforms like Lovin’ and Stellar and hit 1000 followers. “That is when we realised there was actually something there,” McGhee said.
“We came up with some new designs to celebrate things like International Women’s Day and ‘Galentine’s Day’ and the ideas just kept flowing.”
Branding through Gaeilge was really important from day one, as Gallagher is from the Gaeltacht and grew up speaking Irish in school and at home. McGhee grew up in Glasgow and attended an equivalent of a Gaelscoil, where she learned Scots Gaidhlig which is fairly similar.
“So, we both had a grá for it, although neither of us are the most confident speakers. But that’s the whole idea. It’s adding a cúpla focail in places they aren’t normally found. As we’ve gone on we’ve mixed it up with some English on ones like ‘GRMA, next’.”
She said, “We want them to be worn by everyone and not just for Gaeilgeoirs, so that works in our favour.”
McGhee’s marketing background came into play when establishing an online presence. She said, “Social media has been a key driver for us. We have zero marketing budget in terms of paid ads. Partnering from charities has helped our profile in the nicest way possible.”
Since day one, Beanantees have donated 10% of their main collection to the Rape Crisis Network Ireland and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. For their ‘Is Cailín Doire Mé’ range, they partnered with Alliance for Choice who advocate for free, safe and legal abortion care in the North and recieved 20% of all profits from that range.
They also support the Russian LGBT Network and Galway Pride on their LGBTQ+ ranges.
“We don’t reach out to influencers in the way others do, but if we feel there is someone connected to one of our items, for example, we might send them one,” she said.
McGhee continued, “For example, when we launched our ‘Is Cailín Doire Mé’ range, the actress who played Sister Michael from Derry Girls, Siobhan McSweeny, kindly shared it. We reached out to her and asked if she would like one. We prefer to do it like that than figure out who is the current Insta star.”
“We also like to champion other cool gals in music, fashion and art. We’ll share what they are doing and they share what we’re doing. It’s a lovely part of what we do. That kind of relationship building has led us to opportunities like working with the Irish Women in Harmony,” she said.
Irish Women in Harmony was a charity single released by 40 Irish female artists who collaborated to perform ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries. The collaboration was organised to raise funds and awareness for Safe Ireland, an organisation that provides support for women and children who are experiencing domestic violence and abuse.
McGhee said, “They asked if we would like to be involved and we jumped at the chance. We brought them a few ideas and we settled on ‘Don’t mess with Mna’.
“Once we had that sorted, we sent them to a few of the gals involved and again social media really carried the campaign for us. We’ve now done three rounds of 100 t-shirts and they’ve all sold out in less than 15 minutes. It’s just been brilliant to be able to donate such a huge amount to Safe Ireland and it’s obviously been lovely to see so many familiar faces in our little Beanantees!” she said.
For many local or new businesses, the pandemic has been extremely challenging. But thankfully McGhee and Gallagher have been kept on their toes. “We have been so blessed to be kept super busy throughout the pandemic.
“Even in the past couple of days since the Level 5 restrictions have been reintroduced we’ve had so many lovely shoutouts and features like the Irish Times Christmas Gift Guide.”
In these challenging times it is now more important than ever to support local businesses.
McGhee said, “I think people are more interested in investing in Irish made gifts and with the high street closed they are going to have to shop online anyway so they may as well shop Irish. And we feel exactly the same. I’ve tried to shop Irish as much as I can the past few Christmas’ and plan to do the same this year!”
If you would like to keep up to date with the Wild Women from Donegal, you can follow their Instagram @beanantees or to bag an empowering sweatshirt or tee for a Banrion on your Christmas list go to their website https://beanantees.com