We're all a bit fatigued after a full year of the Pandemic. There's been so much bad news everywhere we turn.
The team here at Drogheda Chamber have supported and celebrated the resilience, creativity and courage of our entrepreneurs over the last year. And now it's time to celebrate those that have been nimble in adapting to the changing situation. Those that have pivoted. That have used the lockdowns as opportunities to future fit and develop their businesses further.
Over the coming weeks we will interview some of these businesses and share some of the positivity and good news that we see.
This week we are talking with Maria Morgan - Founder of Esker Fields.
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status
MM: I've been in business since 2018 / and the focus was Reiki, Aromatherapy and essential healing treatments. I'd also developed my own range of creams and body oils. The business was starting to gain traction and I had fairs booked for Cork, Galway and Dublin for 2020. Then the Pandemic struck...
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
MM: I could no longer give treatments. Fairs also all cancelled. I had no way of selling my products. For the initial weeks I was so paralysed, I didn't know what to do.
I joined an online networking group called the Outstanding Network and this helped beat the feeling of isolation. I met some great people there and reached out to a number of them, and started work with business mentor Christopher Wonjar who was a great help.
Then I approached Drogheda Chamber of Commerce to see if they could offer any support. They gave me a place on Miriam Simons Retail Battle Plan programme which was a 4 week programme that also included one to one mentoring, and I can honestly say this is when my business turned the corner. I haven’t looked back since.
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
MM: Gosh - A lot! I completely rebranded and repackaged my products under the new name of Esker Fields which I officially launched in July 2020. In addition, I was lucky to get a Trading Online Voucher from my LEO and I developed an ecommerce website which went live in August. www.eskerfields.ie We also developed 3 new products - a 'Sleep Please' room & pillow mist, a soothing aftershave balm and a conditioning hair & beard oil.
Having joined the Retail PowerHouse group (run by Miriam Simon), my first retail stockists came soon after. I'm stocked in the Design Gallery -Drogheda, Fi&Co - Portmarnock, and Ladybelle Boutique in Abbeyleix. We also got ourselves onto Facebook and Instagram. My sales quadrupled in 2020 !
I then also joined and advertised my products on Gifted from Ireland and Lovegreen websites. In October my new sleep please pillow mist was featured in the Irish Independent as one of the top lockdown luxuries of 2020 and as a result - sales soared.
Still busy - I was lucky to get a place on and attend the DCU 12 week Illuminate Programme for female entrepreneurs.
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
MM: I availed of and went for everything I was eligible for! The biggest impact ones were;
- The Retail Battle-Plan Programme - It got things moving for me!
- Trading Online Voucher from Louth LEO- It sorted my eCommerce!
- One to One mentoring with top retail strategist - Miriam Simon
- One to One mentoring on social media from the LEO
- I've also applied for a LEAN grant from the LEO and about to work on this.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
MM: I feel incredibly optimistic about the future of my business. If I can survive and thrive during a global pandemic, then the business can survive anything. I have gained great confidence as a result of the past year and met some fantastic people along the way.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses?
MM: Reach out to people and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t do everything on your own and we are all stronger together. I would definitely advise any business owners to contact their local Chamber of Commerce, and their Local Enterprise Office as there are supports available that you may not be aware of.
I would also advise to get a business mentor, someone you can go to when you need help and advice. I'm very lucky I have a number of really excellent people I can call. Join a networking group so that you meet other business owners. It beats the isolation and it's great support, especially during the times when you might be feeling discouraged or need advice on various aspects of business. The key thing is to never give up - you can do it! These are unprecedented times we are currently living in and we will all be stronger as a result of coming through them.
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you @Drogheda & District Chamber.