The Irish entrepreneur reveals how the pandemic has helped give her the boost she needs to launch a new booming specialty gifts business

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AN IRISH woman entrepreneur has shared how the pandemic gave her an opportunity to start a new booming business.

Brenda O’Connor, 34, was left without a source of income afterward Covid-19 brought her boutique catering BusinessThe Vintage Parlor, has been brought to a halt government Restrictions stop weddings and family gatherings.

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Brenda O’Connor had to start a new business when she ran out of income due to the pandemic
Brenda's boutique catering business has been suspended due to Covid-19

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Brenda’s boutique catering business has been suspended due to Covid-19
Brenda founded Poppy Lane, which offers personalized specialty gift boxes

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Brenda founded Poppy Lane, which offers personalized specialty gift boxes

But the Westmeath The businesswoman used the crisis to her advantage by starting another business from scratch after spotting a gap in the market for personalized specialty gifts.

And Brenda’s newest hit, Poppy Lane, is fast becoming a gift that keeps on giving.

She told the Irish Sun: “In 2016 my partner Darragh Gannon and I, along with our loyal pal Rocky, started a business called The Vintage Parlor which at the time we felt there was an niche in the market for boutique catering services weddings and gatherings.

“Unfortunately, we had to temporarily close after the outbreak of the pandemic. It was my only income so it was a great achievement and such a tough and uncertain time.

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“Our shop closed overnight which was scary, we didn’t know if it would reopen. We realized that if something like this ever happened again, it was unfortunately not a business that could continue.

“We had to start working on a plan B, a company that complements our existing business and also leverages the hard work of the past five years.”

The Kilbeggan native continued: “I had a business idea in mind before the pandemic that would have stuck around for just as long had the pandemic not hit. Once we were in lockdown with no income I just knew I had to act fast, I had to create something that hopefully was safer than what we had.

“I have noticed the lack of personalized proposal services and thank you gifts for bridal showers around the world Ireland. As I started exploring the idea and the situation we all found ourselves in and playing with how we suddenly couldn’t see the most important people in our lives, my idea grew into a gift place for everyone or any occasion.

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“I quickly learned that the great thing about gift giving is that there doesn’t have to be a reason to show someone in your life that you care or think about them.”

Poppy Lane launched in November 2020, but it didn’t officially launch until March 2021.

Brenda said she loves “finding, wrapping and giving gifts” and that she feels “warm and fluffy throughout the process.”

Explaining the essence of the deal, she added, “The excitement of making a gift that I’ve put so much love and thought into really makes my heart grow that little bit. I wanted to be able to share that precious feeling with as many people as I could.”

UPS AND DOWNS

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, however, as Brenda said she has to endure “a huge mix of all the feelings” while making the business work.

She explained: “Between Covid and Brexit, both have caused so much stress in the last year. You then worry on the days when the orders don’t flow, what am I doing wrong? Why isn’t this working? Then the next day, when the orders roll in, the emotions take a turn and you feel ecstatic.

“The drastic ebb and flow of everything is hard to understand, but it’s been the most amazing year of my life. I get excited every day when I go to work and I know I’m so lucky to be able to say that.”

Brenda said she’s “a bit of a perfectionist, which helps when it comes to finding and preparing the perfect gift” — and has also helped her drive profitability at her new business.

PLAN TO EXPAND

She added: “It’s been an intense year or so, but I feel like not being involved in every part of Poppy Lane is really personal – and that’s what I want my clients to feel when they visit our website.”

But things are moving forward and upward for the gifting gang as business is booming this year, and Brenda says: “Christmas & Mother’s Day was very busy for us.

“We hope to start shipping to the UK in May and will gradually expand. We also have plans to start corporate gifts in October.”

The Westmeath woman said she plans to keep the boutique catering business going – but the new gifts business is a priority going forward.

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She said: “The Vintage Parlor is back on the sideline. It’s our first love, we love our weddings and could never give it up, but it will remain a side business.

“Poppy Lane is the focus now and I’m so excited to see where it takes us.”

The Vintage Parlor has been able to restart in recent months

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The Vintage Parlor has been able to restart in recent months
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