In January 2020, Niamh Tallon and Mohammed Mahomed created Her Sport. A website dedicated to the promotion of female sports. Since then they have amassed a huge social media following, created a magazine and developed partnerships with the likes of Life Style Sports. I caught up with Niamh Tallon to find out more about how the company began, where they’re at currently and their plans for the future:
- What’s your background? How did you get to opening this business?
I graduated from college with a degree in Commerce and a Masters in Digital Marketing, so having that background was a massive benefit in launching the business, because it wasn’t daunting to build out our website or social media. I had also been involved in sports from a young age, specialising in swimming. From talking to other female sports competitors they told us about disparity between male and female sports. There were less opportunities for females to train, issues around access to equipment, pitches, everything you need to become an elite sports person. This was pretty common across all sports. You can also see the disparity in the different genders in the number of opportunities to work in sport and in the media coverage that just isn’t there for females in sports in Ireland. So, I had the tools and experience to create this company.
- What’s the company’s mission?
The company’s mission is to empower women in sport from grass route to elite level and widen the coverage that goes with it. We want to build a brand, change the natarive and give the coverage that these competitors deserve. It’s an area we see a huge difference in, particularly in schools. Twice as many girls drop out of sport by 14, or half of that by 20. Equality means giving them the same opportunities as boys. There’s also the added benefits; there’s so much more to sport than just taking part. There’s the friends and contacts you make and transferable skills like the soft skills that are needed in any organisation. For example in leadership; 94% of women in executive positions were involved in sport from an early age. So sport it’s about life experience, learning to win and lose, teamwork, and listening skills, you can see that come through in boys sports, but not girls.
- How does the company make money? What are some of the best partnerships you have?
Our company is structured so the main way we make money is
– Advertising on our website or magazines is one of the primary ways we make money.
– Sponsorships – For example our partner Life Style Sports were one of our first and biggest sponsorship partners. They match our brand so well because they want to create change in women in sport and empower women to become more active.
– We deliver talks and workshops for clubs or community groups. Obviously this had to be online since our launch but we hope to be building this out into in person workshops in 2022.
– We do have a selection of merchandise for sale, but that’s more for brand awareness.
- Why did you decide to start as a social enterprise rather than a for profit company?
As a business with a social mission it was a bit of no brainer in terms of becoming a social enterprise. But we also want to generate and make a profit; so in a way a social enterprise is a medium between a charity and for a profit enterprise. I want to reinvest the money into the business to further the mission and move into other countries. I could see the potential from a commercial perspective, and felt there was less restriction than being a charity. I think at the moment the understanding of social enterprise is changing. We’re part of the puzzle in terms of gender equality.
- You were part of Social Impact Ireland (SII) – How did that programme affect the business, what was some of its biggest impact on the company?
SII taught us a lot, it just puts manners on a business, it makes you go back, look at the foundations of the business and where you want to go. How are people going to interpret your business and what you put in. It taught us about investors and what they want if that’s an option we look at in the future. We looked at fine tuning our product in terms of advertising and sponsorship revenue generation. We developed links in terms of networking and companies that are on the same journey. They also matched us with links within the industry or experts in our field. SII are so helpful and happy to help and advise, but they give you a sense of community and sense of belonging. They’re interested in helping you on your the journey.
- You’ve amassed a large social media following. What do you find works best in terms of engagement for content? Are you planning to develop any more social media channels next year?
What works best is putting out content that people are interested in and that people care about. Women in sport are missing from social or traditional media. When you pull all the content together, we’re consistently high quality in terms of content, graphics and images. We know what is and isn’t successful and stop if it’s not. Understanding the audience and what they’re interested in. The attention span is so low that it has to be attention getting. Top athletes followed us early so we got elite athletes and other people too. Consistent and quality content
Social – Twitter and Facebook used to be the strongest but not any more. Now we have 35K on Insta. Twitter was more recently successful but now has more engagement. LinkedIn has lower followers but excellent engagement and quality. YouTube and Tick Tock are gradually getting there and we’re still getting to grips with issues around consistency and engagement.
Her Sport UK – launched on Insta we do plan to have a website and launch on Twitter as well. But we want to nail Ireland first. Some of the news we share is international so why not be there as well. Katie Taylor has a worldwide interest, it’s not just Irish athletes it’s international. For example, the development of women’s rugby in terms of professionalism, as well as conversation around transgender women competing at the Olympic Games and other competitions..
- What are some of the biggest myths about female sports participation? How do you go about debunking them?
- Nobody cares about women’s sports. This is just not true. We’ve not been given the same resources, lots of people care about it. We can see that in the engagement and interest in people like Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington, but we need more coverage to get more people interested.
- Girls and women aren’t interested in sport – more interested in education, shopping etc. Not true, but it’s the way society conditioned them. You can see this at youth level with access to pitches. It’s disheartening when support or resources aren’t there. Easier to tap out. Might struggle to field a under 16, but adult level they invest in, but their not being supported at all. Greater investment will decrease the dropout rate.
- Women’s sport is in a great place right now” – it’s not. We have some good elite results, but what’s happening at grassroot level?
So much more has to happen on the ground to see the amount of support that has to come.
- How has the pandemic affected the company?
Hard to know whether it helped or hindered it. We came out of it well. We would have been working towards the Olympic year but that stopped. But we got much more access to athletes than we would have. For example some of the social media engagement we got is maybe part of some of the knowledge that we made people more aware of what they did. Zoom was more accessible, we can just do an interview, we don’t have to drive or fly anywhere now. We may not have had the same growth, if we didn’t have that extra year to build our brand and promote female access. We didn’t sit down and do nothing. Mens coverage didn’t decrease after lockdown but womens coverage did.
- What were some of the highlights of 2021?
We’re incredibly proud of the 60K audience we built and the quality of the audience and elite athletes in that. Our first partnership with Life Style Sports is a huge milestone and catapults us forward to another level. The launch of the magazine is huge, we were all digital but that’s another opportunity with Sunday Business Post and it went really well and we’ll be launching another in Feb 2022.
- Are there any other companies or organisations in the Diversity and Inclusion space in Ireland that you are a fan of?
- Gorm Media – sharing stories with different content and impactful content.
- Formula Female – Nicci Daly – go Girls initiative – World cup silver medal and spare time works in motor sport. STEM – engineering, something she wants to change – she doesn’t realise the change she’s making yet. Can’t wait to see what she does in the next few years. F1 a lot of excite since Drive To Survive, W Series motor sport launched and she wants more people
- Shona Project – really important, lack of confidence and relationship in body image. Pressure coming from each other and social media – give them the tools to communicate.Inspiring to see what she’s done.