Kate Heni­han Melie B Lim­er­ick

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Work­ing for her­self was noth­ing new for Kate Heni­han (pic­tured left, with daugh­ter and busi­ness part­ner Meli O’Ma­hony), who had worked in the blood­stock in­dus­try for more than 20 years. In her case, it was just the prod­uct that changed when she de­cided to open her own bou­tique. “Be­lieve it or not, the blood­stock in­dus­try was a great ba­sis for the fash­ion busi­ness,” says the 54-year-old.

“It pre­pares you as a per­son for the swift changes you have to make, and the knocks you have to take. In the end, all I have done is put what I knew about horses into clothes.”

Heni­han opened Melie B with her daugh­ter in Kil­laloe, Co Clare in June 2004, and she ad­mits to al­ways hav­ing had a “lit­tle ob­ses­sion with fash­ion, even though I did not in­dulge it.”

She moved the busi­ness to Lim­er­ick in April 2006, be­fore an un­for­tu­nate mishap when the roof blew off the build­ing, forc­ing them to shut for four months. It re­opened this March, and de­spite what she calls “a start fraught with hair­pin bends rather than learn­ing curves”, she is happy with how things have turned out.

Since then, busi­ness has been good and it has been helped, ac­cord­ing to Heni­han, by the mother-daugh­ter com­bi­na­tion. “It’s hard work­ing with fam­ily, but the sup­port is great,” she says, adding that her daugh­ter Meli, 24, is more of a risk-taker than she is when it comes to buy­ing, and so to­gether they make a good team.

She says she sees their job as dress­ing peo­ple more than sell­ing clothes: “It’s the best thing when you put a wo­man in a dress and she feels in­cred­i­ble. That’s part of the drive.”

As if this isn’t enough, Heni­han is in the process of ex­pand­ing the busi­ness and open­ing an in­te­ri­ors sec­tion in the base­ment – the of­fi­cial launch is in the com­ing weeks – and there are fu­ture plans to add a range of bridal wear.

In the long run, she wants to cre­ate a mini-de­part­ment store in Lim­er­ick, filled with beau­ti­ful things for women.

Given the fact that all this is achieved while keep­ing four dogs, 10 cats and two horses, it seems highly prob­a­ble that she will man­age to com­bine any num­ber of chal­lenges.

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