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The shop with a little something for everyone

Last update - Thursday, July 12, 2007, 00:00 By Metro Éireann

 In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Li Tian, co-owner of The Blue Frog stores in central Dublin 

Li Tian is from China and has been in Ireland for seven years. Originally she came to study English at the American College. After two years of studying, she decided to settle here and open a shop selling Chinese fashions and shoes.

Her first store, at 79 Meath Street in Dublin, was a good opening gambit. It is situated in a thriving shopping area with a good mix of residents and students, and is also one of Dublin’s oldest market areas.
“Business is good at the Meath Street shop and our customers are mostly Irish and Eastern European,” she says. “We are also getting more African customers. They like the style of stuff that we sell. For some reason we don’t seem to get so many Chinese customers.”

Tian’s shop, The Blue Frog, sells fantasy party shoes for evening wear, as well as glitzy jewellery, and she has also branched out into children’s wear. The Blue Frog is popular with Dublin mothers looking for something unusual for their young ones, and the shop is very busy around the Holy Communion season – but as Tian points out, that season is too short to bank on.

The stock she invests in is quite unusual, and often very ‘bling’. Tian, who runs the business with her husband, uses the internet to source suppliers, as well as to order, as travelling to trade fairs is not cost effective for a business the size of theirs.

“The best thing about running our own business is the fact that the hours are fixed by us, we don’t have to work when someone else tells us to. I can open up when business demands, or take time off when it suits me. I have a young child and so it can work well when you have to organise care,” says Tian.

The downside to running a business and starting off, however, is that cash is not always available, with some profits being used to reinvest and buy stock. “It doesn’t pay too well at the beginning,” says Tian, “and we cannot take long holidays either as you have to be here.” 

Another problem that Tian and her husband faced was when they were first setting up. “It was not easy to negotiate a good rent on the premises as there are so many immigrants trying to set up small businesses and shops that they are getting harder to come by,” she says. “We had some competition for the premises.”

Tian and her husband have now set up a second Blue Frog shop at the multicultural Moore Street Mall on Parnell Street in Dublin.

“This mall is a good place for people to shop as it is roomy and you can get plenty of choice here,” she enthuses. “It does get a bit busy on Sundays, though.

“Our shops are running quite well at the moment but I would like to do more shoes. It is the sort of shop that will appeal to babies, children, mums and grandmothers.

“I might also investigate the market in debs ball shoes as I hear that debs girls invest a lot in their outfits for the ball,” she adds.

Ball slippers from The Blue Frog? That sounds about right.

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