Big Business for Ballybofey Man
This is the story of Ian Harkin and Lucie Follett of Arklu and their success with the international toy brand, Lottie Dolls. Ian, originally from Ballybofey, travelled to Australia in 2000. His experience of life there and his international travel adventures convinced him that the world was wide open to him for any venture, whether personal or professional. Significantly, on his return to Donegal, he realized that what home offered was also just as valuable as any other place in the world. “You come home realising what you actually have is better than most countries!”
Ian soon spread his wings again. Using his qualification in accountancy, the Donegal entrepreneur started a successful novelty gift business in London, with offices in New York, Hong Kong and Shenzen China. In 2010 he sold his share in that business and immediately began to search for another venture. Soon after, he and his friend Lucie Follett came up with the idea of going into the doll business and formed a company called “Arklu” (a combination of Harkin and Lucie). Their first doll was based on the now Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and the team followed with a set of dolls for the Royal Wedding which attracted worldwide attention.
Never content to rest on their laurels, Arklu began to meticulously research the market, with a clear idea of standards and design of the product. Based on input from children, parents, child psychologists and child nutritional experts, the “Lottie” brand was created. Lottie is inspired by real children with none of the attendant body image issues that abound in this market. Arklu's hard work, strong ethic and dilligence paid off, today the team are certain that their unique brand stands shoulders above other doll products in the market. And feedback suggests that the world agrees with them!
This company is a phenomena. Arklu have received numerous international awards including three in the Oppenheim Platinum Best Toy Award 2012 and the Creative Child Magazine Award 2012 for 'Autumn Leaves' Lottie. They have received endorsements from celebrity parents as well as positive feedback from their most important clients, the children who play with Lottie. They have been featured literally across the globe In the USA (NBC ‘The Today Show’, People Magazine, CNN, Wall St Journal, Time, Life, USA Today, Forbes, Perez Hilton, CBS and The Washington Post) In the UK (BBC News at 10, the BBC website homepage, the Daily Mail, the Times, Telegraph, Marie Claire, Elle) In Europe (Paris Match, Elle (France), Le Figaro and TV5, Germany’s RTL Television news and Italy’s New Notizie newspaper) In the Middle East (The Arab Times, The Saudi Gazette, Emirates 247 , The Gulf Today and Walla) In Asia (Nippon TV;CNTV,China Daily and the China Global Times) In Australia and New Zealand (The Age, Herald Sun, ABC News and Channel 10 News)
Ian now wants to give something back to Donegal and has set up at the Colab Building in Letterkenny, a move that he hopes can create a minimum of 10 jobs within the next three years specifically for design illustrators and back office support, Ian Harkin says:“choosing Donegal as a base is as much about giving back and helping address the chronic unemployment rate in the County. The workforce is highly educated and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology are now really entwining themselves into the fabric of local industry. Their assistance and the facilities available at the co-lab which is based on campus really do need to be seen by anyone who is considering setting up in Ireland.”
To find out more and to see the Lottie Doll log onto the Arklu website, address below.