‘Stretched out of comfort zone’ by new enterprise

Danielle Gault, Manna Cards and Alan Hamilton, Carrickfergus Enterprise. INCT 31-213-AM
Danielle Gault, Manna Cards and Alan Hamilton, Carrickfergus Enterprise. INCT 31-213-AM

Go Your Own Way: Answering the questions this week is Danielle Gault from Manna Cards

What is your business?

Manna Cards is a Christian card company aimed to couple ancient scripture with contemporary graphics. The cards are aimed to bring hope, truth and encouragement to people who are having a rough time.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up doing what you are doing now?

Well, I have a degree in Environmental Science (and evolutionary science), and then I became a Christian so I had a total change of direction in my life. I worked in Zakynthos in Greece for four years as a leader on a Conservation project for Loggerhead Sea Turtles. I then got really ill and was out of the workplace for a while as I was really quite disabled. I was at a Christian festival called Open skies last August and someone prayed for me and God miraculously healed me (true story). So from then, God has really started talking to me about setting this business up and has opened the right doors and brought the right people onto my path to help me. I have a video on the website explaining it all in more detail, you can check it out.

Did you always want to run your own enterprise?

Not particularly. I’ve had my own photography sideline for years and really enjoy doing that but never wanted to pursue it as a means of a career because it would become a chore instead of a hobby and a passion. I actually always wanted to work in some environmental job like a seismologist, volcanologist or a maritime archaeologist but things change. The desires of my heart dramatically changed three years ago and this seems to be the path I’ve walked onto.

What skills/qualifications do you require for the role?

Well, I am totally unqualified. I am a trained scientist and have very little knowledge of business and am not an arty person. I’ve always been creative, making things but never a designer or skilled at drawing. I’ve had to learn very complex programmes in a matter of days to meet printing deadlines that would normally be taught over a four year degree. But God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Has your business been affected by the current recession?

To be honest with you, no. But then again, I’ve only started trading so I have nothing to compare it too.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when setting up and what support did you get?

As I said previously, I had to learn a lot of new things, I’ve really been stretched out of my comfort zone the past six months. I had a lot of issues with getting the designs right, then swapping printers, getting the right paper etc. It has been so stressful. But I am so thankful for Noel in Print It NI in Carrickfergus (www.printitni.co.uk), he has really gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me and I owe a lot to him for his guidance and support. I have learnt a lot on how to run my business by how they have treated me as a customer. I have also been so blessed to have an angel called Christine who has helped to keep me grounded in her wisdom and logic, her mentorship and has been an absolute godsend. I’ve also had a lot of help from my family and friends at the various exhibitions over the summer. Then of course Carrick Enterprise, poor Alan has been tortured by me for months.

What three tips could you offer those considering starting their own business?

A wise man once told me: “Danielle, just go for it!” So I did. Best advice I would give anyone is just go for it, you’ll never know until you try. The second thing is don’t be afraid of making mistakes, it’s inevitable. The last thing would be, learn to be patient with yourself. I put tremendous amounts of pressure on myself and over the last few months I’ve had to learn to be patient with myself, I’m not a superhero and neither are you. Setting up a business doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes time, a lot of planning and a lot of mundane boring stuff. But you have to take the bad stuff with the good, it all balances out. It’s all a big learning curve. So be patient with yourself.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Well, I don’t believe that anything is impossible, so I have set very high targets and goals for Manna Cards. I would like to have a stockist in every county of Ireland both north and south of the border in the next 18 months and then expand to England, Scotland and Wales. After that, my eyes are set on continental Europe, America and Israel. You never know where it will lead.

What do you get up to in your free time?

I love travelling, I’m always off travelling somewhere in the world. I’m heading off to Israel and Prague in September for my friend’s wedding. Aside from that, I am heavily involved in a lot of cross-community church projects here in Carrickfergus. I am part of the leadership team for IMPACT Carrick and Carrickfergus Outreach Team which are outreach groups bringing lots of different churches together in Carrick regardless of theological differences to serve and love our community throughout the year. It is so rewarding and such a blessing to us all.

If you could swap places with anyone who would it be and why?

To be honest with you, I have spent my whole life comparing myself to other people and wanting to swap my life with theirs, but I’ve got to a good place now where I’m just happy being myself. I’m not created to be anyone other than who I am, so I might as well start accepting it now, faults and all.