Traditional education was not the path for me - I was a daydreamer with a creative mind, and it always felt against the grain. Taking a different route was a decision of natural progression. In the early days, it was the encouragement of some very open-minded individuals that saw something in me - and so, my journey began.
From the age of 12, most of my summer holidays would involve earning a bit of money by selling fruit or working in factories. This simple idea was an excellent investment, as it taught me important life skills.
My secondary school was St Laurence’s Community College in Drogheda, on the East coast of Ireland. I took a woodwork class, alongside technology and tech drawing. This was hands-on work, and it suited me nicely. One day, my woodwork teacher was observing me on a Junior Certificate Project and told me that I was brilliant. The seed was planted - I got an A in that exam. I didn’t realise, at the time, that this was a potential opportunity for my future job.
I finished school earlier than my parents expected and worked in the furniture manufacturing industry. I started an apprenticeship in Cabinet Making in 1998, at the age of 17.
I made the decision to start my own business at the beginning of the recession, in 2009. It was a fight or flight situation - we were all losing our jobs, so it seemed the right thing to do. I sourced a 5000 sq. factory premises and took it to a different level of professionalism. I really could write a book on those first five years in business when I was only 27. I am very thankful today, 10 years later, that my beautiful company (www.granddesigns.ie) has given me so much joy.
I am incredibly humbled to have a gift in this exceptional trade and to still have the same passion for it. It’s one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about my role as the Ambassador for Ireland for VET Week. The VET path is open as a first choice to anyone who is willing to make that change.
I have guided some of the most successful apprentices through our business over the last 10 years. Seeing them develop into young professionals and entrepreneurs is extremely rewarding.
Let’s not forget family and work - this must be included, especially for mature students, or anyone thinking of returning to work in a new career. I’m blessed to have a good, open-minded husband and three young children. It is possible for both family and work to exist together, when you have the right support in place. After my third child five years ago, I moved into our new premises and designed a timber-framed house inside the factory, for offices as well as a showroom. That baby came to work with me for his first year.
Anything is possible, we only need to focus on what it is that needs to be achieved. Make sure to ‘Discover Your Talent’ today.
Margaret Reilly, Entrepreneur, Ireland
- Publication date
- 8 October 2019
- Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion