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'I was looking for an excuse to come home. But there was a recession on and I had no job'

This businesswoman dabbled in a few careers before she brought the Inglot makeup brand to Ireland.

Jane Swarbrigg Co-founder, Inglot Ireland

EIGHT YEARS AGO, after years working in retail management, I brought the cosmetic retail brand Inglot to Irish shores with my mother and brother.

My mother Geraldine was a fashion retailer who brought Aldo Shoes, Vero Moda and Jack and Jones to Ireland, and I naturally followed in her footsteps into the retail world.

I worked alongside her on the shop floor of Vero Moda in my teens and got a taste for the industry, but I didn’t go straight into that line of work.

Not everyone is 100% sure on what they want to do when they go to college at 18 and sometimes you might take a bit of an unlikely path to what you eventually end up doing.

Before Inglot, I did some soul-searching in my 20s. I took a few years off to travel to figure out where my passion lay and would advise anyone in the same boat to try a few different courses and job paths – you’ll eventually find your feet.

I studied PR and event management in college and dabbled in that, but I always had a great interest in retail and eventually got back into the trade.

Jane swarbrigg 1 Jane Swarbrigg Source: Fergal Phillips

Uncertainty

I think everyone goes through uncertain times in their careers and for me that period was while I was living in Australia.

I was managing a clothes store in Brisbane and after 10 months just didn’t settle. I found I was really homesick and looking for a reason to come home, but I knew it was a risk due to the recession in Ireland and I needed a job.

I was speaking to my mum all the time and even though she was thousands of miles away she helped me through the tough times.

We had been looking for business opportunities and researched a few ideas, so when the chance to set up Inglot came around we jumped at it – the cosmetics concept stood out by a mile as the most appealing business to set up.

Once we had decided to go for it, it all came together very quickly. There wasn’t much time to think about the risks involved although we were hugely aware of the big task ahead of us.

Inglot is a renowned brand and we felt there was nothing like it on the Irish market. You would find a lot of makeup counters, but the standalone setup and experience of being guided through a makeup collection in the privacy of a store hadn’t been done yet.

But I think being great value for money is what really helped us gain a loyal customer base during the recession, when people were squeezing every penny they had.

Creating a market

Inglot was as popular as Starbucks in Poland – we realised if the formula worked over there, it had the capacity to work in a recession in Ireland too.

When we opened initially we reached out to our peers in the makeup industry, contacting colleges, makeup artists, salons and giving special discounts to them. We felt it was vital to get them on our side and exposed to the products because their approval would help us build our reputation.

We also had a huge focus on social media marketing when a lot of businesses weren’t using it. In 2010, Facebook was becoming the key source to interact with customers – we invited fans to events, ran free masterclasses and created fun competitions.

My marketing studies were of massive help with this and I continued to do day courses in social media marketing because you can never know enough.

We got really creative and taught customers how to create celebrity looks, which proved very popular and really caught people’s attention.

Jane swarbrigg 2 Source: Fergal Phillips

Story so far

We opened our first Inglot in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in Dublin in July 2009. The unit was off the mall in a secondary location, but it was the only rent we could afford at the time.

But we worked with what we had and soon had the opportunity to open our second shop in Dundrum, which was a turning point for the business.

It wasn’t always easy and we made mistakes, but we tried not to dwell on mistakes and learned from them instead. I think the tough times made us stronger and I was lucky that I had my mum, dad and brother for support.

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Even though the traction wasn’t instant, we could see the few customers we did have were really hooked into what we were doing.

We’ve had a steady increase in turnover, but that’s down to the fact we work each week to bring something new to the table. The competition in this industry is fierce, so every week I have marketing and management meetings and figure out what we can do that’s different.

We also keep the company fresh by introducing new roles for our staff. We don’t want our staff to be made up of just part-time employees and management with nothing in between. So we encourage people to upskill and reward them with different job opportunities.

Confidence

If I could speak to the old me, I would say to have more confidence in myself and the idea and also to enjoy it more.

However, some nerves can be a good thing and are probably necessary – the nerves are really there because you want it to succeed so much.

Looking back, it has been amazing to watch it all unfold. We now have 14 stores in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Belfast and I see us expanding even more. We are opening in Athlone and Derry soon and about to launch ourselves into the UK market.

It is incredible to see what we saw as a bit of a risk paying off as we take the business to the next level.

Jane Swarbrigg is the ‎co-founder of Inglot Ireland. This article was written in conversation with Killian Woods as part of a series on unlikely entrepreneurs.

If you want to share your opinion, advice or story, email opinion@fora.ie.

Written by Jane Swarbrigg and posted on Fora.ie

About the author:

Jane Swarbrigg  / Co-founder, Inglot Ireland

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