Showcase 2021 - Louth's Showcase Businesses

Showcase, which traditionally takes place in the RDS each year, is a huge opportunity for small Irish companies to meet global buyers for their products. As with so many things this year, COVID-19 restrictions have prevented the physical event from taking place but two local businesses are ready for the challenge of showcasing virtually.  

Lisa Heeney of AromaBuff offers a range of 100% natural skincare products for men and women, incorporating the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy. Emma and Dave Fallon of Emma’s So Naturals offer an all-natural wellness and home-fragrance collection of soy candles, homemade soap and aroma diffuser blends scented with pure essential oils. They will represent Louth at Showcase 2021, which takes place from 25-29th January as a fully virtual event.

We caught up with Lisa, Emma and David to find out how they’re getting ready for this year’s event.

Emma starts by explaining what it’s like to be an exhibitor at Showcase. “Showcase can be daunting, if you haven’t attended before. But this our third year so we know what to expect. Normally, after Christmas, our focus turns totally to Showcase: prepping our stand and our offering as well as making and finalising new products. This year, the rush consists of technical and website preparations to ensure our web portal and presentation area will entice and wow visitors.

Talking about the importance of Showcase for a small business, Lisa continues “For a small business like AromaBuff, being part of Showcase is a great opportunity to present our products on an equal footing to bigger, more established brands. Showcase allows smaller producers to show off their creations to a varied and diverse audience of buyers, both Irish and international.  Attending Showcase is an exciting launch pad for SMEs, offering both validation and inspiration in equal measure.”

Asked about the challenge of a virtual showcase when both AromaBuff and Emma’s So Natural are scent based businesses, Lisa laughs and says “Yes - there is definitely a need for smell-o-vision!  However, until that becomes the norm, we have to rely on high quality images and presentations that show off the packaging, and use the power of story-telling to instil in the buyer a desire to learn more about the products.”

Emma picks on that point “Both AromaBuff and Emma’s So Naturals are used to trading online, both to buyers and direct to consumers. We have a lot of our brand and product work done for the online environment already, which gives us a great start.”

David continues “The format is very structured, so we have to begin by working within that. Our listings need to be correct for buyers. Pictures must catch people’s eye. And, if successful, our story needs to create a hook that will begin the all-important conversation. After that it is down to a smile, personality and identifying common interests and goals with a retailer. We have a lot of great selling points to communicate within the Emma’s So Naturals collection. Buyers understand the appeal of our truly natural, vegan and handmade message, which is a big help.”

Lisa explains the importance of social media to attracting buyers. “Keeping our social media updated, interesting and attractive is another means of attracting a buyer's notice, This is why positive reviews and feedback from customers matters so much. It allows buyers to see other happy customers and to assess which products will sell well for them.”  

Lisa adds “The virtual Showcase Showroom provides us with detailed information about the buyers attending. This made it easier to follow them on social media and contact them directly before the event - which I think is very positive.”

Emma picks up on that point “Communication to buyers in advance has probably been our biggest challenge, but meeting requests have already started to roll in and we’re looking forward to a busy week at Showcase.

Reflecting on the challenges of the last year, the team from AromaBuff and Emma’s So Natural both agree that the support of Irish people has been vitally important.

Lisa muses “The positive upsurge in the desire to support small businesses and to buy Irish, has been a huge boost for AromaBuff, not only nationally, but now approx. 1 in 10 of our orders being sent to USA. We have also received interest from new retailers in Europe which provides us with more exciting opportunities.”   

Emma and Dave conclude “Irish consumers came out in force to support small businesses and we appreciated it so much. They shopped direct and also with trusted retail brands who were also focused on supporting local. The media also worked diligently to give the country a positive boost. But behind all this was the support from our Local Enterprise Office. Honestly most small Irish businesses would not have the confidence or aptitude to leverage the opportunities without their support and guidance.”