Never Give up on Your Dream
on May 24, 2019 • Grace
Ever since I was fifteen years old, my dream was to be in the army. My longing for a military life began when my fourth year Home Economics teacher handed me an application form for the Gaisce Gruelling Four day Challenge with the Irish Defense Forces. She thought that my passion for adventure and fitness would make me an ideal candidate, and it turns out she was right!
I was one of just 24 people selected to spend a taxing four days with the army; trekking, learning survival skills, surviving on rations and taking part in vigorous physical challenges. It was here that I first got a taste for army life, and I absolutely loved it.
I did my first military interview with the Irish Army Equitation School when I was 18 years old. I thought this would be the perfect intersection of my passions for army life and for horses. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far in the application process. I was just out of school and looking back, I think I was probably too young, naive and inexperienced.
Despite this setback, I was still determined to live a military life in one way or another. I joined the Irish Army Reserves and I absolutely loved my time there. This only intensified my desire to join the army, and I decided that the next time I applied, it would be to the equitation school and the army itself.
My second application was also unsuccessful. Despite having taken a year out of college to do a PLC course to help prepare me for the equitation school, I failed to pass the aptitude test. After this disappointment, I knew that I couldn’t put my life on hold forever. I went to the UK and obtained a degree in Sports and Exercise Science. When I came back home, I applied to the army for the third and final time, and much to my distress, I was rejected this time as well.
After this, I decided to take my career in a different direction. The area of sports and fitness was the logical choice for me, and I obtained qualifications in personal training, pilates and sports psychology. I worked in gyms for a time, but I knew that I wanted to work more with athletes. I began to apply for jobs that would allow this, but was unsuccessful each time.
Frustrated with being told time and again that I needed more experience for these positions, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and start my own business. With the help of my then-business partner I created Grape and Gander – Ireland’s first luxury sportswear brand.
I had absolutely no experience in either entrepreneurship or the textile industry, but the challenge was something I relished. The business started off better than we could have hoped. We almost sold out our first collection and we were gaining a lot of media attention. Being the first luxury sportswear brand in Ireland, we had tapped into a niche market, and business was booming.
When we went to design our second collection however, things began to go wrong. Myself and my business partner came to realise that our goals for the business didn’t align, and we decided to part ways, and ultimately close the business.
This was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever had to do. So many people had told me that it wasn’t possible, that I would fail. In closing the company, despite our huge success, it felt like I was proving them right. I had invested thousands of euro and untold hours, and I had actually managed to create something successful, and then, just like that, it was all over.
My ego took a big hit in this time, but finally I decided to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back on the horse. My second business involved innovating part of the equestrian kit called the numnah. This is a small piece of fabric which goes between the horses back and its saddle. I took my love of horses and knowledge I had gained in the textile industry and combined them to create òRQuine.
During my time working on òRQuine, I came runner up as Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur and partook in New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme. Through these programs, I learned so much about business. I worked on òRQuine for over a year, but ultimately I decided that it required more research and funding to be taken to market. I made the calculated decision to put it aside for the time being.
After this I began my third business, Beoga. I was teaching corporate pilates classes on the sideas a way to make money, and I saw how much this industry was taking off. I formed an agency which involved both teaching pilates and sourcing other health and wellness providers for various businesses.
Business was going great. I had some big clients, including Hubspot, Dublin Airport and Bord Bia. I made the decision to try and scale the business, but when I did, I began to realise that rather than being the head of a huge company, what I really wanted was a smaller, more personable business where I could work with people to promote health and wellness.
I knew I had to scale the company back. I wasn’t happy with the direction it was going in, and my heart wasn’t in it. It was after I made this decision that I discovered the ad for Special Forces: Ultimate Hell Week. It felt like synchronicity that I was discovering this thing I really wanted to do, at a time when I had been feeling so lost and adrift.
In deciding to go for Hell Week, I felt like my life was coming full circle. I had wanted an army career for so long. I had tried and tried again until I was too old to apply any more. This felt like my chance to prove that I really do have what it takes to be in the army.
The ironic thing about it is, I don’t think I would ever have gotten as far as I did on the show, if I hadn’t gone through the exact life journey that I did. All of my set backs, my learning experiences, my disappointments and my successes prepared me for the challenge and lit a fire in my belly. My dream to join the army became my driving force behind my desire to win Hell Week. My will to push me through, no matter how hard it got.
We only truly fail if we fall and never get back up. Fall as many times as it takes, but never give up on your dream.