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 Mary Murtagh - from The Orange Room Salon & Escape hair loss clinic.
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status.
MM: The Orange Room was established in 2007 - just before the recession hit. I started with a team of 12 staff and quickly became a very busy salon providing a 5 star service. My business slogan has always been “Not just a salon, a complete experience” and we have received awards achieved for best salon 2010 to 2015, as well as 8 consecutive years of gold standard for customer service. For several years we had been a leading salon that continued to grow on a yearly basis. March 15 the 2020 changed everything for everyone!! We survived a recession and now we are surviving a worldwide pandemic!!!!
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
MM: I was abroad when I first heard the news of a lockdown and that we would have to close. It was quite shocking, and I never thought a year later that we'd still be in the grip of the pandemic. My first call to the salon on the 9th of March was to possibly prepare for glove wearing in case it becomes the mandatory. By the 13th, the Team were afraid to come to work so we decided to apply protection straight away and the use of gloves and hand hygiene were implemented. Three days later we were closed. It was a confusing and uncertain time and frightening for both the Team as well as myself.
With everyone on the PUP, an empty salon, and bills still to pay - For the first time in my life- I didn't know what to do.
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
MM: The very first move I made was to join Drogheda Chamber so that I could obtain information on help for my business, as well as see what other people were doing in this time of crisis. Their network of great minds and the help of other chamber member’s was my turning point. I decided to use all resource’s available, initially by working on myself as a business owner - especially around how I work. The pause made me realise that I'd been working myself to the bone over the years and that I needed to work smarter to ensure I had an even balance with work and home, as well as a clear head to steer the business!
It was a tough realisation that I'd at times been a busy fool - so I made time to walk, cycle and run. Keeping my fitness was the key to my mental health and wellbeing.
I also set up weekly zoom meetings with my team and created online video tutorials for our clients, to give them tips on styling their hair, as well as using the correct products - which they could now buy online from our new web store.
We focused very much on social media to stay connected with the customer. We already had a great presence on Facebook and Instagram. And we joined Linkedin and Twitter to network more in the business world.
I also attended a very motivational course with Alan Austin Smith who's a fantastic hairdresser, called HOW TO MOTIVATE YOUR TEAM IN LOCKDOWN.
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
MM: Thanks to Louth Enterprise Office - I got a Trading Online Voucher which was brilliant and enabled us to build our online store which is running really well and generates a steady income.
Mentoring with a business and financial coach to help set up a plan to drive the business once we opened in July 2020. This mentoring advice was a grant from Louth County Council
The weekly coffee chat zooms with Drogheda Chamber were invaluable and kept me up to speed with what supports were available, as well as what was working for other businesses. I met so many people in local business here, and great friendships and support was made.
During the most recent lockdown I have also concentrated on my second business which deals with hair loss and wig fitting. I've used the time to build a new website and drive this business alongside my salon. The clinic is situated above the salon. www.escapehairloss.ie
Escape clinic is an essential service in helping others feel good about themselves while they go through chemotherapy and other medial hair loss issues. I'm getting great pleasure in helping to make a difference to people’s lives. It is extremely rewarding.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
MM: Now facing my third re opening from a lock down in May 2021 (hopefully) I’m very hopeful the worst is over. With a good vaccine roll out happening we hopefully will return to some normality soon. I'm also more conscious about my own work life balance.
The lockdowns have been very positive for me - in that I got the time I needed to really look at my business from a different perspective and plan for the future. I now know that I can work a lot smarter and with less stress.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses? MM: The biggest piece of advice that I can give is to never give up. When you're doing something that you love - you need to stay focused. Work smart and know your business!
Life will always be full of challenges, but I use mistakes as a learning curve and move on!
Life is for living and each work day is part of your life so enjoy it.
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you @Drogheda & District Chamber.