Business First meets Abbie Lawlor, AHL Apparel

AHL Apparel founder Abbie Lawlor is the face of a new community led mural installation on the wall of East Belfast Enterprise headquarters at City East on Belfast’s Newtownards Road.

The iconic installation features two murals, one depicting a man from historical Belfast beckoning visitors to come into East Belfast at its gateway and the other depicting Abbie celebrating the Belfast of today and the future.

Business First Meets Abbie Lawlor (26) of AHL Apparel who features on the mural and has received start-up support from mentoring programmes at East Belfast Enterprise

Abbie, tell us how you came up with the concept for AHL Apparel

I graduated with a degree in Fashion and Textiles from Ulster University and did a Masters in Fashion Management. For my end of year degree project I was involved in designing garments and taking part in a photoshoot and I realised that I wanted to develop a business in bespoke embroidered sustainable clothing and so I began researching the concept of AHL Apparel.

Tell us about the journey of starting your business and the help you have received from East Belfast Enterprise

I sought help from East Belfast Enterprise mentoring programmes for business start ups. I knew as well as investing in the machinery to create my designs that I would need a strategic business plan and that’s where East Belfast Enterprise came in.

I took part in the Kickstart programme and then that followed with Her Up. I received a grant of £1,000 to help in the starting of my business and I was given opportunities on the programmes provided by East Belfast Enterprise that I wouldn’t ordinarily have had access to or known about had it not been for their support.

For example I was able to pitch to a board by making a video presentation to them and before joining the programmes I wouldn’t have had the confidence in myself to do this.

I am now participating in the ‘Go Succeed’ programme and I really don’t recognise myself from where I started to where I am now – my confidence in myself and my ability and my belief in the brand have grown beyond my wildest of expectations.

My parents have built a home studio for me and that’s where you’ll find me working on next season’s designs, creating content for social media and processing orders.

I sell online as well as at markets locally. I’ve attended the Fine and Dandy market, taken a stall at St George’s and have also promoted AHL Apparel at markets in CS Lewis Square and Banana Block.

What can readers of Business First expect from AHL Apparel?

I’m passionate about my customer and the environment. I want to offer something that I know people want. Something that will make a positive impact on them and our world.

The business is primarily specialist embroidered sustainable unisex sweatshirts. I consider seasonal colours and trends, seeking out something different to offer the 25/45 market and the designs can range from something simplistic to extremely complex.

What would you say to readers of Business First to encourage them to purchase from AHL Apparel?

I have a presence on social media and I would encourage anyone interested in purchasing a unique and affordable piece of clothing who is considerate of the environment to give my facebook and instagram pages a follow and treat themselves to sustainable clothing with a difference that will last the test of time.

And finally, what did you think when you saw your image on the mural at Easta Belfast Enterprise?

I was very excited to be asked to be featured on the mural. I had no idea it was going to be so impressive as I couldn’t really visualise the size or impact of it before it was installed. I’m very proud to be featured on the wall and my family and friends are delighted to see me smiling down at them.

For more information on the support available for start up entrepreneurs, please visit: www.eastbelfast.org

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