I grew up listening to the sound of Mairead Ronan’s voice. From 9am to midday every weekday on Today FM’s The Ray D’Arcy Show, while her official title was co-producer her wit, frankness, and charisma made her an integral part of the show’s success and garnered her a fan base of her own, myself included.
Although her voice no longer drifts from the radio speakers on a daily basis, my admiration for her has endured and grown in recent years.
The mother of two, who’s expecting her third in August, has gone on to establish herself as one of Ireland’s best-loved TV presenters and lot aunch a successful business with her business partner Debbie Lawless, FARO, a range of hair brushes and products designed to help people achieve a salon look from the comfort of their own homes.
The Dubliner chatted to us about how two weeks work experience with Today FM turned into a 15 year career, how the idea for FARO came about, her experience of ‘mom guilt’, and what she’d tell her 16 year-old self if she had the chance…
How did you get your start in the media industry?
I studied in Ballyfermot – which in my opinion is the best place to get practical media skills.
Part of the course was to get work experience. So I blagged my way into MTV London for two weeks and begged Today FM to take me for the other two.
Believe it or not it was more difficult to get work experience in Ireland!
Today FM worked out well because those two weeks turned in to 15 years. I jumped from show to show until I settled with Ray D’Arcy and eventually moved to produce the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show.
Is being on camera and in the public eye something you always saw yourself doing?
No way, not at all! I studied TV and radio production so I always wanted to work behind the scenes.
But with the way the Ray D’Arcy show operated we all ended up on mic and through that people got to know me. It was completely organic and I ended up on TV by accident.
I came up with the idea for FARO as I have awful unruly hair but can’t afford to get two or three blow dries each week, so I had to learn how to manage it myself.
RTE’s The Panel called me and asked me to be a contributor, I was so nervous because I was a fan of the show and I’d never been on TV before but I said yes.
The best thing I did was keep it a secret because I knew people would start giving me their opinions on why I should or shouldn’t do it.
We filmed on a Sunday night and it went out on Monday. It was hilarious watching it that night and getting loads of texts from friends who had no clue I’d done it.
Of all the shows you’ve worked on which has been the most memorable experience?
For radio it’s obviously the Ray D’Arcy Show, I grew up working there.
For TV I loved The Panel as my first experience and stayed with them for 5 years, plus I adore Ireland’s Fittest Family. It’s a gorgeous show to work on, full of energy and positivity.
When did the idea for FARO come about?
It came from my own head of hair! I have awful unruly hair (which people find hard to believe). It’s fuzzy, frizzy and there’s lots of it.
But I can’t afford to get two or three blow dries each week so I had to learn how to manage it myself.
I had tonnes of brushes and each one had a different job. One brushed my hair when it was wet, one was for getting a sleek straight look, another for curly blow dry and on and on and on…
When Louis and I were going on honeymoon I was packing my brushes and Louis said “you’re not bringing all of those, you need more bikinis less brushes.”
I definitely suffer from ‘Mom Guilt’. When I’m away I miss the kids and think I should be home, and the days I’m home with Eliza I think I should be getting back to a FARO customer who’s asked me a question.
I didn’t know where we were going as our honeymoon was a surprise. Anyway I was only allowed to take two but that got me thinking – why not try to take the best bits from all the brushes I like and assemble some really great ones?
What makes FARO standout from it’s competitors?
Our products offer the strongest bristles and a cushioned handle, which helps the professionals, plus we’re an Irish brand.
What products are in the range?
We have a range of brilliant blow drying brushes – one size to match every length and style of hair.
Our new products are a mixed paddle brush that will massage the scalp before shampooing and detangle wet hair in seconds.
We’ve also a game changing volumising spritz which not only adds root volume but also makes the ends of hair look fuller too.
As female entrepreneur, what challenges did you face getting the business off the ground?
Debbie my business partner and I self funded the entire start-up. I used savings to research and eventually buy our stock. But ultimately cash flow in the beginning is the only problem.
Timing may not have been super either because I was working full-time, pregnant and filming two TV series all at the same time.
Being in business was a world I knew nothing about so I was learning on the hoof.
What advice would you offer someone looking to start their own business?
Make sure it’s something you know lots about – I may not be a hair stylist but I do really know about hair and Irish hair in particular.
Do lots of research before putting a chunk of money into something, and, finally, while I always say ‘don’t just do it for the money’ because that won’t work.
But at the same time there has to be a return for you otherwise it’s just a really sh*t hobby!
How do you split your time between FARO and your TV and presenting work?
I spend far more time on FARO. TV presenting is always small bursts of time; for example Getaways is a 7 day shoot but I take my laptop with me and I check in each evening or talk to Debbie twice that week.
Likewise with Ireland’s Fittest Family, we always shoot that over weekends when I wouldn’t be working on FARO anyway so the two rarely clash.
What has been your proudest career moment to date?
Most definitely FARO, I love getting feedback from our customers and engaging with the women who ask me questions online each day.
You recently announced you are expecting your third child. Congratulations! How has motherhood changed for you since you had your first?
Dara is 11 now and I don’t feel old enough to have a child of this age. I was always “winging it” raising him as I think most mums are on their first. But now I know what I’m doing… most of the time.
‘Mom guilt’ is a phenomenon you’ve been vocal about. How have you experienced this?
Of course I have and I still do. And while I have a wonderful supportive husband I know he doesn’t suffer “dad guilt”.
Debbie my business partner and I self funded the entire start-up. I used savings to research and eventually buy our stock.
When I’m away I miss the kids and think I should be home, and the days I’m home with Eliza I think I should be getting back to a FARO customer who’s asked me a question. So guilt is always there.
What women in Ireland, as well as Irish women abroad, do you most admire?
This is too tricky to answer because there are so many. In business I’m a huge fan of Marissa Carter, Oonagh O’ Hagan of Meaghers Pharmacy, Ramona Nicohals of Cara and Joanne Byrne of Presence PR, all for different reasons.
Another woman I really admire is Derval O’Rourke. She’s been a bit of a mentor to me and given me business advice as well as fitness tips. She’s beyond hilarious too.
What are your top three beauty essentials?
Cleanse, tone and moisturise! And start using an eye cream in your 20s…thats 4 tips.
What are you favourite ways to keep fit?
I’ve some basic fitness equipment at home, some small weights, a mat and a band. So when I’m busy working there is NO excuse.
I leave them out beside my bed on view the whole time so they sit there looking at me saying “use me”.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
All my life I’ve been an early bird. Bed by 10pm and asleep by 10.05pm most nights. My father-in-law thinks it’s a “gift” that I can sleep so quickly.
What’s your morning routine?
I’m up and showered before Eliza wakes, then porridge and berries for breakfast. I walk Dara to school then head off to FARO for the day.
I schedule in one day at home during the week for all the usual, washing, ironing, shopping…
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Dublin?
What’s your greatest food pleasure?
All food. I love eating! But chocolate is my one true love, dark and milk. They’re my best friends!
If you could tell your 16 year-old self anything what would it be?
I’d say: “Mairead, your skin will clear up and eventually people will tell you you’ve lovely skin. And right now your gorgeous, kind, funny, husband is only 11!”
Can you share any plans you have in the pipeline?
I’m off to film ‘Getaways’ this week, first stop is Turkey, and then I’m off to Porto with Tommy Bowe.
FARO will have a super addition to the family in October and my own addition is coming along in August so a busy few months ahead.