Posted: Tue 10th May 2022
Founded by Niamh Tallon and Mohammed Mahomed, Her Sport has become a successful media brand in Ireland. Started as a project in 2018, the brand has grown to include a televised awards show and a quarterly addition to one of the nation’s most popular broadsheet Sunday papers.
We caught up with Niamh Tallon to get the low-down on building a brand around women’s sport, from grassroots to elite.
What is Her Sport?
Her Sport is a digital platform that covers all things women’s sport, from grassroots to elite level. We have a huge presence online with our social channels and our website, as well as a growing presence on television. We also release a magazine with the Business Post on a quarterly basis.
Where did the concept of Her Sport come from?
It came about in 2018. I was actually doing a master’s and was considering a PhD as I’d noticed the disparity in women's sport – between the coverage for elite athletes, and also what's going on at grassroots level – the opportunities that girls and women don’t have, simply for being a girl or a woman. I started to look into some of the reasons they might drop out of sport.
I felt creating a website and building a social presence was more impactful than doing a PhD. Building the website was a faster thing to do to go about making a change and the risk was quite low.
What did you study in college?
I studied commerce in UCD and then I actually did an internship at a publishing company. And I thought absolutely not, I’m never going into this industry, so I then did a master’s in digital marketing.
I guess I understood the business model, and while I think it’s quite a hostile market, I believed that there’s something there for women’s sport. I could see how it would work.
How did you get started?
Some of the first people to follow us on social media were some of the elite athletes in Ireland. Once they saw what we did and who we were, they engaged with us, and it just went from there.
In 2018 we started the project, and it was 2020 when we decided to launch it as a business. A huge amount of effort went into building brand awareness and creating a product people would be interested in working with.
Our product is our audience. We've built up to over 70,000 people, across a range of social platforms, for businesses that are interested in connecting with women and interested in connecting with women in sport – they can use our platform to do so. By working with these brands, it then further allows us to do what we’re doing. Our mission is to empower women in sport.
Have you had business support growing the business?
From a mentorship and business development perspective, I think we take the approach of talking to as many people as we can, so we can learn. People believe in what we’re doing and are happy to give a couple of hours here and there to help us develop and shape the business.
We did an accelerator programme with Social Impact Ireland. That was great to put a bit of manners, maybe, on some of things that we were doing and learn from others on the programme and the experts too.
We worked with the Local Enterprise Office as well, so we have some mentorship there and we’ve been lucky to get some financial support with them as well.
We won a grant with Three that was through Enterprise Nation, and we also won funding in the People’s Choice Award with FedEx.
Did you think you were going to become an entrepreneur?
No. It probably should’ve been a bit more obvious because I’ve been dabbling in small businesses since I was 15 or 16. Both sides of my family come from business and have their own businesses so it’s something that I’ve been exposed to growing up.
While I was in college, I did gravitate more towards start-ups than getting involved in big companies and I did try a couple of things along the way myself.
Our mini company was relatively successful in transition year – we sold personalised whiteboards. I also set up a website for make-up artists to display and showcase their skills, and to connect with people who were interested in using their service. Kind of like a LinkedIn for make-up artists.
What have been the highlights so far?
In the last six to 12 months, the highlights were having the Her Sport Awards on television and bringing Her Sport to print in the Business Post. They were things that we didn’t expect necessarily to happen within two years of being in business.
What’s in the pipeline now for Her Sport?
We definitely do have a vision of taking Her Sport global – we want to be a go-to source for all things women in sport. We’re looking at going to the UK this year and a few other markets over the next couple of years.
In terms of media coverage, 4% of media coverage goes to women in sport globally. It’s not unique to Ireland or the UK or the US. It’s all over the place and we want to change that.
What advice do you have for anyone considering starting their own media brand?
I think you need to really understand the market on what you’re getting into, and make sure that it’s something that makes business sense.
Is it something that’s unique? You have to understand the size of the market. If it’s something that’s going out to compete against other brands, what are you doing that’s different?
Make sure you not only understand the business model, but that there actually is a business model there. Because it’s a tough market to be in.
Advertising and marketing are one of the first things to go when it comes to a crisis, when people are trying to cut down their costs. It’s just about making sure that you create something sustainable, and product that people want.