Tag Archives: featured

The Doyle Twins: Sustainable and Affordable Fashion

Over 30 million people around the world are registered on Depop; a ‘community-powered fashion ecosystem’ where users can buy and sell pre-loved clothing. 90% of these active users are under the age of 26, reflecting Generation Z’s interest in sustainable style and vintage fashion. Most Irish users will be familiar with The Doyle Twins, who pride themselves on being ‘sustainable as well as affordable’. In 2020, the account became one of the first verified Depop sellers in Ireland and has continued to grow in popularity with 39 thousand followers as of October 2021. Speaking with Isabel and Emily-Jane, Trinity Business Review gains insight into the story, success, and future of The Doyle Twins.

The Team

The Doyle Twins is managed by twins, Isabel and Emily-Jane, who became interested in vintage fashion in their teens. In 2018, the twins decided to clear out their wardrobe and sold some old items on their account. Within a few months, they found themselves regularly selling clothes on Depop and by 2019, the twins were buying with the ‘exclusive aim of promoting sustainable vintage fashion and selling for a profit on Depop’. It was initially the look of vintage clothes which sparked the twins’ interest in pre-loved fashion. However, as they became aware of the negative impact the fast-fashion industry is having on the environment, the twins committed to buying only second-hand clothes. Although they did not set out to build a business, Isabel and Emily-Jane soon recognised the business opportunity before them and began to consciously build their brand: The Doyle Twins. 

When asked about the popularity of Depop amongst young adults and students, the twins attribute the growth of the platform to a few things. Firstly, an increased awareness of the adverse impact the fast-fashion industry is having on the environment. Secondly, Isabel comments that there has been ‘a societal shift towards second-hand and vintage clothing being embraced as trendier’. Although people may have veered away from wearing charity shop buys ten years ago, now it is considered ‘the epitome of cool’. Isabella Vrana is a big style icon for the twins, and people often joke that they dress like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (which they take as a compliment!). Thirdly, the Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged periods of lockdown have driven consumers towards online shopping platforms, especially Depop. Although these factors have contributed to the ‘natural development’ of the business, the key driver behind the success of The Doyle Twins is the team’s constant ambition and innovation.   

Where They Are Now

The Doyle Twins is currently based between the twins’ family home in Rathmines and their student accommodation on campus (which is conveniently located just around the corner from the post office). As both twins are in final year, Isabel in law and business and Emily-Jane in physiotherapy, they ‘try not to let the work build up’ by spreading it out evenly across the week. The divvying up of tasks depends on how busy the twins are; this flexibility highlights the brilliant teamwork which exists between the pair. When Isabel is working, Emily-Jane can fill in; and when Emily-Jane is on placement, Isabel can step up.  

In the start, they thrifted all their stock in Ireland. However, the restrictions to in-person shopping brought about last year forced the twins to alter their supply chain and now the business sources approximately 50% of its stock from the UK. The Doyle Twins has a structured system in place. All newly purchased and unlogged stock is stored in specific boxes on arrival. Most days the twins photograph new items together for the account. Once photographed and logged, these items are then moved to a separate box or rail. Once an item is sold, it is moved to the “to be posted” box before being sent off to its new wardrobe. Twice a week, one or both of the twins package and post the items of clothing. Usually, Isabel takes on the biweekly post office trips, whilst Emily-Jane manages the online activity of the business. However, the work often does not exceed an hour a day and the twins make sure to take the odd day off!

When asked about the impact Working From Home and Covid-19 has had on the business, the twins are of the view that the pandemic definitely had a positive impact on The Doyle Twins. Emily-Jane comments that the growth of the business can be directly related to people being forced to buy online as in-person retail closed. Nonetheless, when the economy began to re-open, the twins retained business and customers due to the strong brand they had established.

However, the business journey has not been without its challenges. Over summer 2021, the business faced ‘a period of tension’ when both twins moved out of home and away from the office. Emily-Jane was living full-time in Cavan and on placement in Monaghan; Isabel was living on the other side of the city working over 40 hours a week in an office job and ‘madly training’ for the national rowing championships (which her team won!). Despite the difficulties faced running the business during this period, the twins got through it and are now back together living on campus.

In light of the busy year ahead, the twins emphasise the importance of ‘having a routine’ and ‘good time-management’. When asked about the key factors to The Doyle Twins’ success, Isabel is of the view that their price point resonates strongly with buyers, especially students. They recognise that people may be dissuaded from buying sustainable fashion pieces by hefty price-tags, opting for cheaper and poor quality fast-fashion items. However, The Doyle Twins make sure to offer sustainable and high-quality clothing at a relatively low price point. Isabel also notes that their brand name, The Doyle Twins, is ‘very strong and quite recognisable’.  

Plans for the Future

When asked about the future of the business, Isabel comments that they are ‘taking it one day at a time’. Emily-Jane is considering a career as a chartered physiotherapist, whilst Isabel may pursue a career as a solicitor. However, the twins have also discussed taking time out after college to focus on the business. The aim would be to organically scale the shop and bring the account as close as possible to larger sellers, based in the US and UK. When asked about other Depop accounts, Emily-Jane says that ‘the top sellers on Depop have an amazing community’ and frequently ask each other questions or give advice. The Depop market would appear to be relatively uncompetitive compared with other business environments. However, the twins have yet to see where the business takes them. Emily-Jane comments that the only thing they know for certain is that they cannot predict what the future has in store. Nonetheless, they are unlikely to see business slow down any time soon as sustainable and vintage style continues to stay in fashion. 

Get In Touch 

For further information (or fashion inspiration), get in touch with The Doyle Twins on Instagram or Depop.

The Sweet Success Story of The Rolling Donut

The glaze of The Rolling Donut’s glory is attributable to the power of a strong brand narrative and the consistent delivery of a memorable donut experience to consumers. In 1978, Lisa Quinlan’s father, Michael, spotted a gap in the Irish donut market. He began his venture by travelling to “festivals, concerts and garden shows” selling hot-pressed ring donuts. The iconic ‘Rolling Donut’ kiosk on O’Connell Street soon followed. Over forty years later, Lisa has six additional stores across the country. Although business is booming, the CEO does not sugar-coat the path to success.

The entrepreneur describes the period between 2014 and 2017 as “Dublin’s donut wars”. The “highly photogenic qualities of donuts” combined with social media platforms such as Instagram & Twitter, contributed to Ireland’s donut trend leading to steep competition in the industry. The Rolling Donut’s competitive edge lies in Lisa’s drive to bring creative flavours and unique designs to the market. By investing in quality ingredients and innovative talent, Lisa has differentiated her brand in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When launching new ranges like vegan and sourdough donuts, The Rolling Donut showcases the family’s early roots in the donut industry. As it has since its origins, all donuts are made from scratch everyday using high quality ingredients. Fresh lemons are essential for The Rolling Donut lemon curd product while the chocolate ganache and caramel toppings and fillings are also made in-store. Although using fresh ingredients can “be challenging for the sheer quantity of donuts,” it is a unique selling point that resonates with the loyal customer base.

Lisa mentions how “the business is feeling the on-going effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” such as staffing shortages. However, the entrepreneur has managed to seek out opportunity by focusing on building an online presence as well as catering to delivery and collection options. This has been highly successful and the company has seen online orders “double since the pandemic”. Lisa has had to pivot and remain adaptable with the business model as the industry grows and the target market matures. This has encouraged The Rolling Donut to innovate and streamline new products, such as “DIY Donut Boxes”. Creating diverse themes varying from the DIY Unicorn Magic Box to the DIY Choco Caramel Box has strengthened the growth of a diversified range of target markets “from children to corporate clients”.

Describing the expansion of The Rolling Donut as the “hardest thing” she has ever done, Lisa advises young entrepreneurs “not to give up”. The most important lessons she has learned as an entrepreneur is to “always use a business plan and spend money where it counts in areas such as equipment”. Lisa advises young entrepreneurs to “not sweat the small stuff” as “things often have a natural way of working out”. Following the launch of Very Berry, a new business specialising in chocolate strawberries, Lisa remains motivated by her entrepreneurial passion to grow her enterprise, innovate products and, no doubt, the sweet taste of success.

Big Tech: The Precarious Balance Between Algorithmic Governance and Democratic Accountability

by Rachel Carr

Over the past months Amazon and Alphabet have reported phenomenal earnings for the second quarter of 2021. These figures were largely driven by Google skyrocketing advertising revenues, which grew by 69%, along with Amazon’s advertising income which increased by 87% from the year ago quarter. These results reflect the central role that social media and technology have played in society over the last year, not only in offering a much-needed escape from the boredom of COVID-19 lockdowns but also in their newfound role as public forums. Last April, when the Italian Prime Minister decided to address the nation on the latest lockdown measures, he elected Facebook as his chosen medium of communication. Similarly, the British government requested Amazon’s assistance in distributing emergency medical supplies and Google leaped at the chance to assume its role as a mouthpiece for public services announcement across the globe. 

However, as the “Gordian Knot” that entangles Big Tech with its societal consequences tightens further, we should consider the motivations behind the growing presence of these tech heavyweights in our lives. What exactly are these  tech giants selling to their customers and what are the potential consequences?

To understand what triggered the phenomenal rise of Big Tech superpowers we must first cast an eye back to April 2000, when eager dot com investors watched in horror as the stock market imploded and the value of their portfolios plummeted. As the mirage of many of Silicon Valley’s superstar valuations began to evaporate, it became clear that in a text-book case of irrational exuberance, venture capitalists had been so blinded by the lure of the internet’s potential, that they had wildly overestimated the intrinsic value of their investments. 

Surviving tech firms, struggling to justify their value to furious investors, began to search desperately  for a port in the storm as the turmoil raged. Amongst them was Google, today’s search-engine giant,  which had been incorporated a mere two years prior. According to Shashona Zuboff, the Harvard Business School professor and author of ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,’ the dot com bubble triggered Google’s understanding that its true value lay not in the licensing deals it had been selling, but rather in its vast stores of behaviourally rich data. Despite the company’s founders previously condemning search engine advertising as “inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers”, the firm went on the capitalize on just that, with Facebook, Amazon and Twitter soon following suit.

Zuboff has coined this commoditization of the data of individuals into behavioural products that can be sold in ‘predictive futures markets’, as surveillance capitalism. In recent years the cautionary tale of “if you aren’t paying for a product you likely are the product” has been widely circulated. Of this the general public seems to be reasonably cognizant: an hour spent on Skyscanner will likely flood your feed with holiday advertisements and a trip to the ASOS homepage will litter your desktop’s ad space with outfit ideas. However, it was what the “FAANGS” discovered next, and the lucrative source of the last decade’s soaring tech valuations, that is likely to induce the most surprise. Google and its peers deduced that while it could use its data to predict the future behaviour of users with reasonable accuracy, the easiest way to guarantee the precision, and thus value of those predictions, was to influence the behaviour of users to match the algorithm’s forecasts.

An example of the application of this insight was the addition of a number of emotional reactions to Facebook’s ‘like’ button. While this modification poses as a harmless quirk designed  to allow users to further engage with the platform’s content, it also assists Facebook’s algorithms in accurately identifying and collating data on human emotions. The opportunities resulting from the utilization of this data are massive. Users can be shown posts designed to induce feelings of discomfort or sadness, followed by sponsored content intended to take advantage of this vulnerability. Along a similar vein, Google has been known to display ads for a specific restaurant and then reroute a user’s map  journey to take them past the suggested establishment: a perfect example of the use of surveillance  and behavioural modification to maximise profits at the expense of individual autonomy.

The implications of these privacy infringements extend beyond the encouragement of the occasional impulse purchase. In 2017 the autonomous hoover ‘Roomba’ came under fire when the company announced its proposal to sell floor plans of customers’ homes, scraped from the device’s mapping capabilities. Later that same year the curtain fell on the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal, revealing the role the data analytic firm had played in manipulating the data of 87 million Facebook users to manipulate the outcomes of both Trump’s 2016 Presidential the Brexit vote. This proof of intentional cyber manipulation, designed to promote the so-called ‘splinternet’, revealed the power of Big Tech behavioural nudging to distort democratic processes. In fact, in 2019 Mark Zuckerberg’s former advisor Roger McNamee publicly criticized Facebook for its relentless pursuit of  customer data through increasingly illicit means claiming that the company’s algorithms were, ‘’honed to manipulate user engagement with practices that were eventually commandeered by bad actors to infiltrate the national (US) consciousness and disfigure political discourse.” Earlier this year Zaboff subtitled her New York Times article with the ominous statement, “We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we can’t have both.”

Whilst the extent of the influence of Big Tech on the democratic process is yet to be determined, it is undeniable that  tech companies have amassed vast stores of behavioural data which can spell danger in the wrong hands. As a result, there is an argument for putting certain social obligations on companies with such data privileges; in other words, “With great power comes great responsibility” . Covid-19 revealed Big Tech for what it truly is: a 21st century public forum. Due to their wide-reaching social impacts, large technology companies should be answerable to the governance of regulatory bodies. If banks, electricity, water and utilities companies are regulated because of the impact of these services on a nation’s citizens, then there is reason for Big Tech to no longer be able to evade such scrutiny.

Creative Destruction: Gaining in strength?

Perhaps one of Schumpeter’s most revered theories is that of creative destruction. His argument that capitalism never stands still, with long-standing, inefficient processes decaying in the wake of newer, superior ones has stood the test of time well, and in the aftermath of a global pandemic, appears to continue in this light.

WFH – a trend, an improvement, or both? 

A more obvious impact of the pandemic-induced lockdowns was the ‘Work From Home (WFH)’ situation, which many workers and students found themselves in. While evidence suggests that students and young graduates certainly wish for a return to an in-person normality, the technology, flexibility and heightened global interconnection that accompanied this WFH trend can be seen as a form of creative destruction. This is due to the replacement of older, less efficient, less flexible practices undertaken by offices with more productive, collaborative ones. With meeting participation increasing by over 2900% over the course of the Pandemic, the rise of Zoom neatly epitomises this creative destruction. Existing for almost a decade prior to the pandemic, Zoom’s overtaking of Skype, and other lower quality, more complicated platforms, coupled with a rise in global interconnectivity from which it prospered, illustrates that the foundations for creative destruction had been in place. However, it was the catalyst of the Pandemic that fuelled the eventual ousting of these inefficient processes.

Miracle Advances in Healthcare

Being a crisis in healthcare, the impacts of Covid-19 on the sector were always going to be large. As the world locked down, the personal profit from vaccines became huge, with many viewing vaccine development as the only sustainable way out of the crisis. Furthermore, for big pharma businesses, net profits from development were promising, as BioNtech’s expected revenues of €15.9 billion for this year illustrate. Thus, the fastest vaccine development in history (previously held by the mumps vaccine, which took four years to develop) followed, hailing what scientists proclaim as a new era of vaccine research. Much like the Work from Home technology, the knowledge of mRNA, alongside the ability to accelerate the testing and approval processes had been around for decades, yet a lack of funding and cooperation meant that such techniques and pace never came to fruition. Thus, the catalyst of a global pandemic rendered inefficient processes useless, in favour of more productive research techniques. While admittedly this research was far better funded than in the past, the lessons learned within the immunisation research sector, alongside the new-found ability to produce vaccines at such pace, and with new techniques, means that the creative destruction ought to last within the industry. This should heighten the efficiency and productivity of future research.

Similarly, the speed of drug development processes to aid those seriously ill with Covid-19 underwent rapid increases during the pandemic. Like with the vaccines, much of this came from the regulation-side, with approval and testing processes being fast-tracked, and the removal of unnecessary paperwork (recognised as inefficiency-inducing ‘sludge’) aiding this. Additionally, cooperation and parallel experimentation again played its part in heightening efficiency in the sector, a rise in productive techniques that many scientific researchers think will remain in a post-Covid world, further illustrating the impact of the pandemic on inducing creative destruction.

Online Shopping’s Anticipated Breakthrough

Where the biggest acceleration (rather than initiation) of creative destruction can be seen is in the retail sector, as many began relying solely on online shopping for everything from food to clothes to newspapers. Additionally, HSBC’s UK head of network noted that the closure of eighty-two of their branches between April and September 2021 was a result of the trends away from branch banking that were underlying pre-Coronavirus, with a decrease in footfall by a third in the last five years, and 90% of contact being completed remotely. This illustrates direct creative destruction at work in the retail banking sector. Furthermore, this shift to online shopping and banking has increased price and competitor transparency, meaning that allocative efficiency has heightened, bringing the market closer to its societal equilibrium, and meaning that firms must react to market trends to remain competitive – therefore increasing the sustainability of this creative destruction into the future.

Key Take-Aways 

The above processes illustrate creative destruction at work, reacting to the shock event of a global pandemic. The requirement in this instance of an event – Covid-19 – to accelerate, or even to consolidate and finalise this creative cycle could signal that Capitalism’s competitive processes were existent, yet running slow prior to the Pandemic. Taking a wider view, the extension of creative destruction to the public sector, notably with the impacts on healthcare and administrative/bureaucratic processes, ought to introduce a healthy level of heightened innovation and competition to sectors where this has previously been lacking. Whether the impacts of Covid-19 on heightened efficiency here will last remains to be seen, not-least for some areas of clinical research have been negatively impacted by the disruption of the Pandemic, yet many researchers, notably within immunology and drug development, are confident that the streamlined and productive lessons learned will be here to stay.

Furthermore, the sudden requirement for private firms to react and innovate, not only to compete, but in this case to stay financially viable means that lasting effects on firms includes an obligation to be sustainably efficient and inventive, with a new focus on pro-activity rather than re-activity to the next crisis, in order to remain profitable.

Re-Envisioning The Beautiful Game

David Deneher, Omar Salem and Tim Farrelly co-founded ‘Field of Vision’, an innovative tech start-up with a powerful social impact agenda that is transforming the match experience for visually impaired and blind soccer fans. Computer Science and Business student at Trinity College and Chief Operations Officer at Field of Vision, David Deneher, discusses the technology behind the cutting-edge device as well as his philosophy for a successful start-up. 

Haptic Technology

As most football fans will agree, there is no better place to experience a game than at the stadium. From a goal scored in overtime to a nail-biting penalty shot, being right at the pulse of the action is incommensurate to following in-stadium commentary. With approximately 55,000 people in Ireland blind or visually impaired, Field of Vision spotted a niche need in the market for a device that could enable visually impaired football fans to be fully immersed into the match experience, leaving the technique of “tracing” a thing of the past.

How is Field of Vision leveraging artificial intelligence to redefine accessibility and inclusivity in sports? Cameras, computer vision technology and specialised algorithms connect to Field of Vision’s tablet-sized device to enable the user to feel the game in real time; from “the swerve of a kick to the power of a tackle”, Field of Vision is offering a more inclusive matchday experience than ever before.

Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, the speed at which Field of Vision developed its product underscores the digital acceleration that is presently taking place. Advances in technology, many centred on AI, marks the beginning of a “new era of connectivity for assistive technologies and the businesses behind them”. The effect will be “highly impactful” for improving accessibility for persons with impairments. As a “pandemic tech start-up,” Field of Vision’s “entire journey as a company” has been unique.  For David and his co-founders the flexibility of online college offered opportunities to innovate and find their way to the forefront of their industry. Currently the business is planning to expand their technology into sports such as GAA and rugby.

Success

According to David, critical to the success of a tech start-up is harnessing the power of mentorship programmes available to young entrepreneurs. Applying for “anything and everything” has had “positive surprises” for Field of Vision. David’s philosophy is that the “worst that can happen is a no”. Diving straight into the deep end took the team to Qatar Sports Tech, an accelerator program in Doha, UAE. Having recently partnered with Bohemians Football Club and winning first place at the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards 2021, Field of Vision’s appetite to grow shows no signs of abating.

« Older Entries