I started my journey into entrepreneurship at the age of eight. Back then, I was a bit of a “papersmith”, and was strongly drawn towards what was then called fancy paper. Scented stationery with beautiful illustrations.
My father worked in packaging at the time, and on occasion, brought home some prototypes to test out. There was a particular box of bags that my sister and I saw some potential in. Together, we decided we’d create a business that would tap into our joint love of fancy paper and an emerging appreciation for making our own money.
Our product development process was fairly straightforward. We had the materials. We just had to use a bit of youthful ingenuity. We ended up sticking fancy paper on the small bags from my father’s factory, branded them “fancy bags” and then sold them at school. Of course we got in trouble for setting up a commercial venture on school grounds but by the time we were found out, we had made a healthy profit and the next venture was being conceptualised.
When I was about eleven, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a journalist and she responded by saying it would suit me as I was “inquisitive.” This was not meant as praise.
As I grew older, I maintained a healthy sense of curiosity. I took it upon myself to write to newspaper letters pages and saw myself as an activist slash journalist in waiting. It was a toss up as to whether I’d pursue writing or business once it came to filling out my CAO form.
In the end, I studied English Literature and Sociology. After that, I studied Journalism and Media Communications. My career in journalism started with a junior journalism role in the well regarded retail trade magazine Checkout Magazine. Shortly after, I was offered an internship in Leinster House in Dublin for the then party in Government.
At twenty two years of age, I was pretty lucky to be exposed to the workings of a busy political press office and so decided to make the most of my three month internship.
During a party conference, in my youthful eagerness, I decided to take notes. The Head of Research for the party spotted what I was doing and asked me to write a report afterwards. Within six months I was appointed Editor for a new party political newspaper, The Nation. All of a sudden, I had access to, and could request an interview with, whatever Minister I wanted and went to Brussels as part of a spread highlighting the work of MEP’s. In the run up to the 2007 election, then aged 25 years old, I attended weekly strategy meetings with PR mastermind PJ O’ Hara. I also got the opportunity to exchange insights in London with those working on a newspaper for the then London Mayor at the time, Ken Livingstone.
After a few years working in political communications, it was time to get some experience in brand communications. Initially I worked for an all island PR agency, the first of its kind in Ireland. During this time, I was exposed to various markets; Northern Ireland and the Republic. I also worked with collaborative agencies in mainland UK. I headed up the Dublin office and worked day to day on accounts such as McDonald’s , hmv and BT. After a few years, I made the decision to get exposure to an integrated marketing model and joined the DDFH&B group, then the biggest communications group in Ireland. After a couple of years, I was appointed Senior Account Director and was the lead for the launch of major initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way.
“At around the same time, I began to hone my interest in the evolving area of content creation. In 2016, a new digital publishing company came on the scene, maven46. Their business model was framed around using data to create highly targeted content for hyper targeted audiences.”
I left my full-time position and started to work with the CEO to build the brand on a consultancy basis. Within a year, we secured their first ever branded content campaign, this was with the biggest luxury retailer in Ireland at the time, Brown Thomas. I then worked with the growing team to build interactive, native advertising campaigns for leading consumer brands such as Dyson, H&M and Bulmers. During this time, I also worked closely with a number of Irish designers to build brand awareness for new collections and with a number of organisations to build their profile. I was also passing on past and present insights to Masters students studying Global Branding in Griffith College.
whathappensnext is the latest part of my story. It is an accumulation of my career to date blended into one succinct model offering consultancy and learning experiences that match my interests in life: stories, business and people.
Leona McDaid is a brand communications and content marketing strategist and a lecturer in Griffith College Dublin.
With over 15 years’ experience, her breadth of expertise extends to PR, native advertising, content marketing, copywriting, journalism, political editorship, print publishing, digital publishing, e-commerce, broadcast, events and social. She also has experience lecturing and regularly offers guest lectures and workshops for the Graduate Business School in Griffith College Dublin.
A passionate brand advocate, she has worked with category defining national and global brands and has a special interest in brands in the tech, e-commerce and experiences arena. She was the public relations lead for the launch of the Wild Atlantic Way.
She is a former finalist for an All Ireland Marketing Award (AIM) for Best Consumer Campaign and Best Use of Media, and winner of Best Collaboration between Agency & Radio Station with RTE Radio 1.
Over the course of her career, Leona has worked on major domestic and international brands such as BT, eir, McDonald’s, hmv, Failte Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way and Visit Dublin.
Her work with online, digital publisher maven46 saw her act as a content strategist for campaigns with Brown Thomas, H&M, Dyson and Bulmers to name a few. She also worked as part of the editorial team specialising in content around career and personal branding.
A supporter of Irish design, she has worked with Theo+George, Edge Only, Manley and Luna & Bo.
Leona founded whathappensnext in 2020. She works with a tight knit roster of like minded clients and freelance creatives, curated over her many years working in industry and hosts virtual brand workshops.