Pestle & Mortar

Pestle Client story

In 2017 Sonia Deasy thought that because her skincare company, Pestle & Mortar, was already up and running there was nothing her Local Enterprise Office could do to help her. She didn’t realise it supports growing businesses too, including fast growing ones like hers. “Now I tell people ‘go to your Local Enterprise Office’,” she says.

The Pestle & Mortar Journey

The Newbridge woman already had one successful business, a photographic studio she ran with her husband Padraic. There was just one problem. “No matter how much we did, we knew we couldn’t scale it.” They ran that business from 2006 to 2017, when they closed it to concentrate on their next venture, global skincare brand Pestle & Mortar. She had the idea for it while at an international photography conference in 2010. It struck her that whatever cream the make-up artists were using was having a transformational effect on models’ skin. She discovered they were using creams with a special ingredient, hyaluronic acid, which dramatically improved the model’s appearance. “I saw there was a gap in the market”, she says. Working with laboratories in Asia, Germany and, ultimately, Ireland, she developed and launched Pestle & Mortar’s first product, a serum, in 2014.The original idea was to sell online only but a slot on an Irish TV programme proved a game changer. “Immediately we got sales and knew we were onto something,” says Sonia. Calls followed from Brown Thomas and Arnotts. She applied for a slot on QVC in America, the very first Irish skincare brand to do so. “We sold out in seven minutes – less than 1% of new brands do that. It was monumental but we didn’t realise it, probably because we didn’t come from this industry.That led to supply deals with Bloomingdales across the US.

“After I appeared on QVC, in 2017, my Local Enterprise Office approached me.” She received a letter from Jacqui McNabb, Head of Enterprise at Local Enterprise Office Kildare, congratulating her and asking if Sonia would meet. “I rang her and said I don’t have time to come in and sign forms. I’m too busy, and in any case we already have proven sales and a track record,” says Sonia, candidly. “But Jacqui is really commercially-minded. She ‘got’ me, and she understood. She asked me what area of my business did I need to expand?” At that point Pestle & Mortar had five staff. It needed more. Meeting with Jacqui enabled her to see that the Local Enterprise Offices are not just about helping people to start businesses – although they all certainly do that – they are also about helping entrepreneurs to grow and scale existing businesses.

 

Supports Acquired from Local Enterprise Office Kildare

Sonia applied for the supports which best suited her growing business. These included Local Enterprise Office Kildare’s support for participation in Showcase 2018, Ireland’s Creative Expo for international buyers. The business applied successfully for a Business Expansion and a Priming Grant too and these provided financial support that both enabled, and facilitated, fast growth.

“At the time we employed five people. The Priming Grant helped us employ the next eight. It provided us with a contribution towards the cost of the first year’s salary for each staff member we took on. That was hugely helpful because we knew that, if we got them for a year, we could hold on to them,” says Sonia. The Business Expansion Grant was also a game-changer, helping the company to invest significantly in its ICT infrastructure. As a result, they installed a high tech phone system and upgraded hardware to high performance Apple Mac computers, vital for a business that does all its own design work.

“Local Enterprise Office Kildare helped reaffirm that we had something special. They really believed in the business and they knew we could go global.” That’s precisely what came to pass. Now supported by Enterprise Ireland, Pestle & Mortar today has nearly 30 staff and sales around the globe. It was through Local Enterprise Office Kildare too that Sonia entered, and won, the overall title at the National Enterprise Awards.

 

Local Enterprise Office Kildare

“We don’t wait for business people to come in the door of our offices. We go out and connect with business people. Too often, businesses don’t know that they may need us or indeed the range of government support available to them,” says Jacqui McNabb, Head of Enterprise Kildare County Council. “It’s not until you sit and talk with the entrepreneur that you get an understanding of their business model, their business stage and the challenges and opportunities which face them in scaling the business. It’s only then that we can offer valuable support.” “For many businesses, growth means exposure to new markets but they are often unaware of the level of assistance available to them to take that step. For example, I’ll say: ‘have you ever thought of doing that trade show in Frankfurt?’ They’ll tell me it’s too expensive. When I tell them we could offer them €2500 towards the cost, they say ‘Really?’ We then offer mentoring and training for exhibiting to ensure that the opportunity is maximised at the trade show.”

Local Enterprise Office Kildare works in partnership with our clients, finding and suggesting the supports they need, when they need them. “We’re not product based, it’s all about relationships. It’s about knowing your client,” says Jacqui. In many cases it’s not the monetary value of funding that counts so much as the fact that it is “the Local Enterprise Office’s demonstration of support that gives the entrepreneur the confidence to make that next step,” she says. “By no means can we take the credit for Pestle & Mortar’s success to-date, we simply offered a listening ear and a range of supports at critical times in their growth. We are extremely proud and honoured to have played a small part in this amazing journey” she added.

If you want to grow your small business, talk to us. Together, we can make it happen.

 

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