August 26th will see the first ever Website Shop opening on Dún Laoghaire’s George’s Street. This pop-up shop will inhabit no. 66 for three weeks and be a port in the storm for those lost in a sea of self-help webpages and books, design agencies and freelancers; a friendly face to help sort out your coding, online ads or just have a chat about web optimisation – with a free cup of tea to boot. We had a chat with Cian O’Sheehan and Stephen Foy of The Website Shop about how they started, the website business and the potential for their idea.
Kick us off: tell us about your backgrounds.
Cian: I have been doing web design fully for the past three years. My first website was a poker website I ran with my brother ages ago. We made so many mistakes, but I got an interest for websites and design and that led to other things. I then set up thinkweb.ie, which I’m running as freelance web design.
Stephen: I started blogging and I was trying to make the blog look a bit nicer. Then I went to college, studied a bit of web development and that progressed; three years ago I set up opposablethumbs.ie and that took off – happily enough!
How did this idea come about?
Cian: I worked in a studio in Stoney Batter and wanted to get more digital entrepreneurs in to share ideas and so on, but the space didn’t work. I looked into using similar spaces in Dublin, but it was too expensive, too much hassle and it wasn’t going to be the way I wanted it. I then started looking at retail spaces and thought, why not just do it as a shop and make use of the public exposure and the on-street identity? When I looked at shop rental prices in the city, I was surprised at how cheap you get places for. I presume it is because of the time we’re in, so may as well take advantage of it.
You’re doing a lot of free things including free tea and coffee; can it stay that way if you become permanent?
Cian: We’re also offering free hot-desks, to bring life into the place. Rather than having a cold, sterile approach, like online or in design firms; we want to break that down and the tea and coffee is just part of that. Doing free things hopefully won’t change. You could easily spend an hour doing a proposal for a client, only to never hear back because they’ve probably sent out the same request to many others. That’s a lot of time wasted which we can turn into a positive thing in The Shop. With it being face-to-face they come to us; before, we might have gone to them twice – that’s another way of saving time which we can spend doing the free consultations. It will probably all even out.
Are you hoping to become a permanent shop?
Stephen: Definitely; this is the experiment. There is a big gap if you want a website; where do you go? Do you trawl through peoples’ portfolios online and never meet them? Or do you go to an agency and spend quite a bit of money? We are putting ourselves in the middle, we will meet you and say hello and you can pick our brains. If you then feel like going ahead with a website with us, that’s possible.
Cian: The first thing most of my clients they say to me is “I’ve been meaning to sort this out for months, but I didn’t know anyone who could help”. If you are trying to get a website sorted and you drive past The Website Shop – it’s a no-brainer. There’s also a level of personal accountability.
If someone wants to get involved, what do they do?
Cian: If anyone wants to use the space to put on a class – just contact us. It would be unpaid at the moment, but we’re hoping to grow and that might lead to further classes and more work for the teacher.
66 George’s Street Upper, Dun Laoghaire, August 26th – September 15th