I always think that after the very busy Summer, meeting lots of visitors, with the Tearooms at full bake and a large team of staff, the winter will herald a quiet, reflective time when we get a chance to draw breath and do a bit of yoga and go for walks. Not so any longer. Our pre-Christmas season is busy sending parcels out to all our customers worldwide and looking after our new outlets. We are secretly planning to take a long holiday in January but I have a feeling that this might just be a dream. In spring this year we managed to get away for a week of skiing. It was Céleste's first time on skies and after a rocky first couple of days, she took to it like a pro. We couldn't get her off the slopes until the lifts closed!
Aims for the year
After the Christmas mail orders are all sent out we sit down to enjoy the only three days in the year that the Perfumery is closed to visitors (and staff) and relax into our own family festivities and winter walks. Refreshed, we re-group during the early weeks of the New Year and take a fresh look at our aims for the coming year. At this time, we try to reset by asking ourselves the core question: what we are trying to achieve with the business in the year to come? This year, with the re-brand mostly finished and the beautiful new products on the shelves, our aim was to to become better known in Ireland and to look for suitable partners to showcase the Burren Perfumery products to a wider audience in a way that we were happy with and which reflected our core values. We also decided that it was important we should continue to enrich our customer experience, with more opportunities for customers to learn how the products are made and to meet the makers. Last, but importantly, was to keep working towards a healthy work/life balance.
More than money
Money isn’t a strong motivator for either myself or Ralph. We all need to earn a living and pay the rent, and a business has to at least break even or it faces going under. However community, creativity, sustainability, respect for the beautiful environment that we live in - these are the things that add richness and satisfaction to day-to-day living. Many years ago we took a decision to make manufacturing by hand in Clare a core part of the Perfumery’s ethos because it creates and maintains rural employment, and we believe manufacturing here has long term benefits for community, environment and customers alike. The reality of many new niche cosmetic brands is that they are ordering products from contract manufacturers and having them shipped direct to outlets - as the Soil Association inspector put it to us recently "A lot of new brands are just one person with a computer and a flair for marketing." By contrast, the Perfumery provides 32 full- and part-time jobs.
This is our annual 'health check' time to remind ourselves how well we are doing and how far we have come with the help of our team and our loyal customers, but also to stop, to slow down, to breathe and remember what makes living and working in the Burren such a pleasure.
We have a new dedicated team member whose job is to remind us of all those important things. A lovely bouncy, friendly, (and surprisingly well-behaved) black labrador puppy named Lana. She is very joyful and it’s hard to be stressed around her. Walking the dog is the new stress buster! She’s a great addition to the team. The cats, Pinecone and Marmite, might not agree 100% with this assessment...
Enriching the customer experience
We feel that the experience of being able to visit us, meet the makers and learn how the products are made is an important part of our customers appreciation of who we are and their subsequent enjoyment of the products. So this year, throughout the summer, we offered two tours of the Perfumery and garden daily, weekly workshops, talks with our skincare expert Sandra, as well as soap-making workshops with Cate. I continued to offer and enjoyed giving monthly perfume talks during which we embarked on a hands-on (or noses-on?) exploration of our sense of smell and some of the raw materials that we use.
I don’t want us to just be another product on the shelf but for our customers to have an understanding of the wonderful high quality organic plant oils that go into the face and body care and the wide range of raw ingredients and creative process that go into creating the perfumes and generally the care that go into making, bottling and wrapping all of our products.
Becoming Better Known
We are proud to have launched into all eight Avoca shops nationwide this summer and are delighted to be working with such a great team. This is an opportunity for us to introduce the Burren Perfumery to a wider audience in Ireland in very like-minded surroundings. Avoca Woollen Mills, where the Avoca story began, is a beautiful, small, traditional business in Wicklow where they still weave their iconic brightly-coloured wool blankets to this day. Myself, Sandra and Cate have been visiting as many Avoca stores as possible to support this launch and meet our new customers. I was delighted to find that many of those I talked to had already heard of and often visited us at the Burren Perfumery before.
We were also delighted to be included in 'Create: Irish Designers', a six week pop-up hosted by Brown Thomas this summer in collaboration with Design and Crafts Council Ireland. We were in great company and I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful Irish design on display during my visits.
Ireland is really coming into its own now in terms of design with more and more interest in buying Irish and recognition of the creative talent that we have in the country.
We have had a lot (a lot!) of publicity this year and seem to spend a lot of time writing press releases, sending out photographs and telling the same stories over and over again as different magazines pick up on us and want to write articles. At first it was a bit daunting, as we've always avoided doing any sort of marketing (because it's the kind of thing we feel we're hopeless at!), but once we'd gathered the materials we needed together and got a bit more organised, we got into the swing of it and it became quite fun.
Finally, I am very proud to tell you that I have been shortlisted for the Image Creative Businesswoman of the year which will be awarded this Monday night in Dublin so by the time you read this it will have been awarded.. or not… I would be thrilled to win this of course, both as a recognition of achievement on a personal level but also on behalf of our great team here and of my husband Ralph, who is the secret ingredient behind the Perfumery’s success!
Best wishes for a warm and festive Christmas and a peaceful 2018!