"I am passionate about my Irish heritage, sustainable living and nature and it is these combination of traits, plus some inspiration from my grandmother, that led me on the journey to found Ériu."
Before starting Ériu, Zoë spent the last 12 years working in the film and documentary industry. This has involved the production of documentary series and feature documentaries for both TV and cinematic release, as well as TV commercials and films for many national campaigns including Bord Bia and Failte Ireland.
Zoë has a First Class Honours Degree in Computer Science in UCD, and is also a licensed meditation facilitator.
"Being a Wicklow sheep farmer and seeing the continual deterioration of wool prices has been a significant driver for me in this venture. We are excited about the prospect of initiating and growing a fair trade network for Irish sheep farmers to help create value for Irish wool again".
Lionel is an accomplished business leader and investor having successfully developed and run a significant scale wholesale business from 2004 to 2018. Having spent a number of years involved in property investment, Lionel returned to one of his first loves and that is running the family farm. It is this decision that led him to connect with Zoë and join the journey of Ériu.
Lionel studied Business in DIT Dublin, Agriculture in SAC Scotland. Qualifications achieved Certificate in business & HNC in Agriculture
How it all started...
Our story began - as many stories do - with my grandmother, Kitsy. She knitted for all her life. It was her art, her craft her very soul. For her, knitting was a practical, useful thing but it was also, I suspect - an expression of love..
When my daughter was born - on Kitsy's birthday, as our luck would have it - she knitted her a blanket. A baby blanket. It was perfect. Soft, breathable, comforting. I loved it. My daughter loved it.
Kitsy’s beloved blanket began an extension of me, of my baby. A source of warmth, of security, of home. I have it still.. And that little blanket gave me a thought..
Our precious blanket was made of 100% merino wool. Soft, silky. All the way from New Zealand or China or some far-flung place. Surely - I thought - there must be an Irish equivalent, here in the home of the Aran sweater, the famous “bawneen gansey”?
But - as I researched all this - I discovered that Irish wool was considered too coarse, worthless even, and is mostly exported across the globe for use in carpets and other things. That seemed a waste to me. A shame..
Then I discovered a new community. Small, sustainable farmers who are committed to reclaiming our woolen traditions, our cottage industry heritage. New breeds of sheep, new blends of wool, new ways of reigniting old skills.
I met Lionel Mackey, a Wicklow farmer, who understood the realities of farming sheep as well as the needs of business. Together, we set up Ériu - after the patron goddess of Ireland, queen of fertility, sovereignty and abundance. We wanted to create a thoroughly sustainable process of making Irish woollen blankets, sourcing directly from farmers, and enlisting local textile artisans. “Farm to Yarn” has become our mantra. Our hope. Our slogan even.
We then took our dream to Chris Weiniger, in the famous Donegal Yarns. Chris shares our passion and he enabled us to create our unique yarn.
I then met the two Annes - Anne Byrne and Anne O’Brien - esteemed knitwear designers who have been working with natural fibres for a long time. They helped re-design the original Kitsy blanket using this new Irish blend. They handcrafted each piece lovingly, on their own domestic knitting machines and make every blanket unique. Personal. A one-off.
We now work with an inspiring network of farmers all over Ireland. We are sourcing select wools and also creating our own rare flock on Lionel’s home farm. Hopefully, we can continue to build and incentivise the industry back into a place where Irish wool is valued and celebrated, just as our ancestors did.