Mark Donnelly (right) with brother David outside their unit in Ashbourne Industrial Estate.

Ashbourne man’s new clothing range on brand with mental health message

A YOUNG Ashbourne entrepreneur has launched a new clothing brand that he hopes will help start casual conversations around mental health, while 10 per cent of all sales are donated to mental health charities.

Mark Donnelly (26), told how he has a passion around mental health and had the idea of starting up a clothing company with a focus on mental health awareness.

After finishing college, he took up a role as brand ambassador with Tullamore Dew in the United States and when the pandemic hit, he decided to begin researching his business idea and put the wheels in motion to set up his clothing range.

After spending time in the US where the phrase 'HUH' is commonplace, he came up with the idea of putting 'HUH' (how's ur head?) on a hoodie and that's how the brand was born.

Since being set up almost two years ago, HUH clothing has donated over €30,000 to various mental health charities in Ireland and the USA and is selling a range of hoodies, gilets, and hats on their website

"Our goal for HUH is to create a stylish and comfortable clothing brand whilst raising both money and awareness surrounding the importance of mental health.

“At HUH clothing, we donate 10 per cent of every single sale to mental health organisations that provide valuable services to individuals across the country," said Mark.

"The goal of HUH clothing is to spark casual conversations about your mental health through something as simple as a hoodie or a t-shirt. We want people to ask, what does HUH mean?

Mental health conversations need to be normalised and need to happen on a daily and weekly basis, with yourself, your loved ones, friends, family and co-workers," he added.

Mark studied Retail Services and Management in DIT and after graduating moved to the US where he began working as a brand ambassador for Tullamore Dew for the State of Wisconsin in 2019 which he said was a "dream job".

But then the pandemic hit. Mark had the choice of coming home or staying on so he decided to stay on in the States and use his free time to develop his business idea, sourcing suppliers and working on his brand.

"From years of working in the bar industry in Ireland and the States, I noticed time and time again, people who were underperforming or not showing for work, you knew something was up, but they were not talking about it. Every community is affected. I wanted to do something like this to help bring about casual conversations around mental health," he said.

The phrase 'Huh' was everywhere when he was in the States, whether in texts, emails or even in TV shows and Mark kept coming back to the phrase and came up with the idea of putting it on a hoodie.

"I put HUH on a hoodie to see if anyone asked me what it meant and within 20 minutes somebody asked me and I told them it was a mental health clothing brand, and a conversation started around mental health."

Whether at home or in the gym, he wanted to get the conversation started about mental health and get people talking.

Mark moved home in July 2021, spending two weeks quarantining in a hotel before hitting the ground running with his business plans. He recalls how he started working out of the box room in his parent's house and before long there were boxes all over the house.

HUH has now moved to a unit in Ashbourne Industrial Estate. Mark's family and friends have been very supportive helping out with various aspects of the business from bookkeeping to photography.

He said he also got great support from his local Donaghmore/Ashbourne GAA club and local people have been very supportive.

"I have got great local support and I can't leave the house without seeing someone wearing a hoodie or asking me about it," he said.