Love In A Box

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A Wedding & A Change of Country Inspired A Business

The place Irish people go to send love to anyone

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“I always had a passion for making and decorating things since I was a child. I’m from a family where the creative side was always important. I enjoyed adding special little touches to family occasions.” says Ellen Oioli O’ Briain, the owner and creator of Love in a Box, a creative gifting service that began in 2018. The concept is a newer way of gifting, which is based on unique design and presentation, curating beautiful items, using only high end products to create their gift boxes, which Ellen describes as a more modern and improved version of a traditional hamper.

Ellen explains; “When I got married in 2016, I did all the little extra bits myself like mass booklets, decorative signs and personalised proposal boxes for my bridesmaids and groomsmen – as I couldn’t find what I was looking for I made them myself including the boxes! It all went so well that my own wedding planner invited me to work with him!”  

In 2017 Ellen and her Irish husband decided to relocate to Ireland, because of this she didn't take the job with her wedding planner. “After getting a surprise invite to work with my wedding planner, I really started thinking about how I could start my own little business and what my passion was. At around the same time, my husband had an opportunity to transfer back to Ireland for work and we decided to go for it. I quit my corporate life, moved back to Ireland and decided I wanted to start my own business.”

Making the Decision to become Self Employed

Ellen, who has over 10 years of experience in marketing and events for big companies, left her job behind and took the opportunity to start a new adventure as a small business owner like she had always wanted. It confirmed in her heart what she wanted to do - create original gifts that make people happy and add unique touches so they feel welcome and special.

“I think I always had this inside me but I just never thought of it as a business until I moved back to Ireland and started researching ideas to start my own company” explains Ellen. Ellen noticed there was a gap in the Irish market for a more stylish and modern version of a hamper based on the design and presentation, so she decided to go for it and bring this idea with her. “ The funny thing is that I would be responsible for wrapping all the Christmas gifts at home as I would always be adding little flowers, tying ribbons in different ways but I had no idea at the time that this would be what I would choose to do for life” muses Ellen.

Researching to make Love in a Box unique

Ellen began her extensive research in 2018 and brought a new concept in gifting to Ireland based on unique design and presentation. Love in a Box curates beautiful items that can put together to build a gift boxes! Ellen advises that Love in a Box only work with great designs and high-quality products – most of which are from small Irish brands.

A big part of Ellen’s day is finding the right items to make a special gift box – “at the beginning I needed to do a lot of research into which brands would match our style and values. It’s still a daily task to always look for fresh ideas and to take the time to research new companies which we can partner with. When starting out, it was really important for me to understand the existing market for gifting and to organise my ideas to make sure we could differentiate ourselves in a crowded space. I started by investing all my savings (which was scary as we bought a house around the same time). It was vital to plan the financial investments I would need to make to get the business off the ground.”

The biggest challenge to date for Love in a Box was the March 2020 lockdown – it came at a time when Love in a Box was starting to get real traction with customers. The pandemic hit just as Ellen was finding the right way to run her business and then once they had stabilised things by the end of 2020, Brexit hit with a whole new set of challenges.

Challenges & Opportunities

2020 was an extremely challenging year. As Love in a Box wasn’t classed as an essential service, Ellen had to close at the start of pandemic. “It was a scary time – on top of the general Covid worries I had invested a lot of time and my savings in the concept. I had to stop exactly at the moment that things were getting going, which was very frustrating and I wasn’t sure if the business would even survive” remembers Ellen. Thankfully after Love in a Box reopened in early summer 2020, there was huge demand for quality Irish products and the business received amazing support from customers.

While it has been a very challenging period for a young business, the Covid-19 pandemic has also brought some positives for Love in a Box. The gifts play a part in keeping people feeling connected to each other. “Due to all the restrictions, a lot of people are missing birthdays, weddings, funerals and many Irish abroad were not even able to come home for a long time. We are proud to be a part of key life moments for customers who send our gifts to show they are thinking of loved ones. Knowing that we were making a difference really kept me going through the most challenging moments” shares Ellen.


The pandemic also helped to accelerate the awareness Irish consumers have of small businesses which sell quality products online. That has been a massive help to small businesses like Love in a Box. Ellen remembers “the run-up to Christmas was a crazy period – there just weren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with demand. While that’s a great problem to have, it was physically exhausting.” Then Brexit came right after with a new set of challenges and added more chaos at a time when most suppliers were already struggling with low stock levels, lockdowns in Ireland and difficulties shipping between countries within Europe.  

Ellen’s preference is to work with Irish brands, but advises it’s not always possible to get everything you need locally. Love in a Box was hit badly by Brexit and the supply shortages in early 2021 and because of this there were times when it seemed impossible for Ellen to get her hands on basic materials such as packaging.

LEO Dublin City Supports

“The support from Dublin City LEO was amazing and couldn’t have come at a better time” Ellen recalls. The business was primarily online from the beginning. Ellen had done some trade fairs and already had the Love in a Box website built and running well by end-2019.  “The support from the Trading Online Voucher was brilliant, as it enabled me to invest in new features, improve customers’ experience and facilitate my daily life as an entrepreneur by automating some of the tasks with orders”. This was hugely helpful and enabled Ellen to keep lead times for customers at 2-3 days while growing sales volume rapidly since late-2020.

How Mentoring helped Love in A Box

“Although my creative side is very strong, financial planning wasn’t my strongest area…and I had very little knowledge in dealing with things like stock management, taxes, pricing strategy or how to hire employees.” Ellen explains.

As the business was growing quickly, Ellen really needed some advice from an accountant on how to structure the business to deal with rapid sales growth. “Mentor Carmel Seery was excellent at answering all my questions and helped me to stop and think about issues which may seem obvious but can quickly trip you up when you are so busy with a growing business. The mentoring sessions were crucial for me to understand better how to structure the business and plan for the next phase of growth, making sure that the financial side of the business is fully thought through and ready to support continued sales growth. What was great was that Carmel really took the time to understand my business and was able to come up with practical suggestions to help my days run smoother.”

How Covid 19 helped Ellen create new products

The pandemic has been a massive challenge-especially as Love in a Box is very new business with limited resources. “In retail, I think you constantly need to develop new ideas and products which meet customer needs. Anyone that isn’t responding to evolving customer needs will quickly become irrelevant” Ellen states.

Love in a Box added new care box lines which were very popular. The “Hug in a box” quickly became a bestseller as an affordable way for people to connect with their loved ones while they were apart due to the pandemic restrictions.

During the few months, Love in a Box was classed as non-essential, they weren’t sending boxes but they decided to help couples which had to postpone weddings. Ellen created online “change the date” cards for couples to get the word out about their revised wedding plans, she personalised these virtual cards for free! “It was a great feeling to be able to help struggling couples. It also turned out to be a great way for me to get the word out about my business as many of those couples went on to buy gifts from us or share their positive feedback with friends and family”

Next steps: 2021 and beyond

Ellen is already busy planning an exciting new collection for Christmas and working with partners to be ready for the busiest time of the year and make sure customers are happy.

With everything going well, Ellen hopes to be able to rent a bigger premises and hire a new employee to help the business grow.

Ellen receives a lot of requests from companies and people looking to send gifts to Irish people abroad, because of this she is planning on shipping to the UK and EU; “we need to be careful to get the logistics right in order to keep the very high level of customer service - customers always tell me they value our responsiveness and personal touch along with exceptional design and presentation”

Ellen’s biggest ambition for Love in a Box is to be widely recognised as a desirable brand, where people are proud to receive one of their unique gift boxes.  “I am passionate about constantly bringing new ideas for gifts and we are increasingly recognised as a great partner for stylish Irish brands. Our mission is to become the place Irish people go to send love to anyone.”


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