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Women In Business Spotlight: Rachel McCormack of FIRST&DOWN

Women In Business Spotlight: Rachel McCormack of FIRST&DOWN

Team Missy

If you interview any amount of women in business one of the first things that most of them will tell you is the importance of resilience. And Rachel McCormack’s entrepreneurial story stands as a testament to that.

A teacher from Tipperary turned fashion entrepreneur, Rachel’s journey took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with anxiety in 2020. Refusing to be defined by fear, she founded FIRST&DOWN, a brand driven by a commitment to mental health awareness and a passion for style. Through her business journey, Rachel exemplifies the strength of women in business, weaving together courage, compassion, and an unwavering dedication to making a difference in the world.

We caught up with Rachel to chat about her business journey so far and FIRST&DOWN…

What inspired you to start your own business?

The brand was born in August 2023 after I took a trip to Boston to celebrate overcoming anxiety. I began suffering with anxiety and panic attacks during the Covid lockdowns. I finally started to feel like myself again. While in Boston I stayed with my uncle Sean, who is a successful entrepreneur, I was so inspired by him and the American attitude of working hard for your dreams and not giving up. I believe the best way to break through your fears is living outside your comfort zone and I started FIRST&DOWN to do just that and to inspire others along the way.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in business, and how have you overcome them?

 have found that some people will take advantage of you as someone new to the industry. I think I was very trusting and naive when I started out. I’m more cautious now, I don’t rush into things, and I trust my gut!

What advice would you give to young women who aspire to pursue a career in entrepreneurship?

Ask questions! I’ve met some amazing women just by reaching out and asking them a question! I can’t believe how friendly and willing to help everyone has been!

How do you maintain a work-life balance while running your own business?

I’m also a full time Secondary School teacher of Irish and Business! I take a few hours in the evenings and at weekends to focus on my business. I really enjoy working on FIRST&DOWN so it doesn’t always feel like work and I think that’s the key! Only take on what you can manage!

Can you share a specific moment or experience that has been pivotal to your success?

Seeing strangers in the street wearing the clothes always feels so surreal. The first time it happened I passed someone in Dundrum wearing the Oversized Hoodie and it was such a pinch me moment!

How do you stay motivated and focused, especially during tough times or setbacks?

Following business people who really inspire me definitely helps keep me motivated! Shona who owns Wink with Mink and Anna the owner of House of Achill are two that come to mind! Everyone has setbacks and I’ve learned more from my setbacks than from my successes!

Can you share any valuable lessons you’ve learned from failures or mistakes along the way?

See Also

Trust your own instincts, imposter syndrome is in your head, try and try again. Trying and failing can be a better education than any business degree money can buy!

Reflecting on your journey so far, what are you most proud of achieving, and what goals do you still hope to accomplish in the future?

I’m really proud that I can be an example of an anxiety success story! There was a time I couldn’t leave the house due to panic attacks and I thought I’d never feel okay again. Now I go to things like business events by myself, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to do that 3 years ago!

FIRST&DOWN is still very new, I have so many goals I hope to accomplish! There are certain retailers I’d love to be stocked in and collabs I’d love to do! 

You can shop FIRST&DOWN now on their website. And follow the journey on their Instagram and TikTok.

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