The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has largely displaced Brexit in the minds of consumers, but like it or not, the January 1st deadline is looming, and Irish companies looking to trade with the UK must now be concentrating on making sure their business is ready for the changes. One company that had the potential to be truly rocked by Brexit is beauty brand Moxi Loves, headed up by Pamela Laird.
Brexit has been a focus for Pamela for some time now – but she feels she has done all she can to help protect her business. “I’m pretty confident in what I’ve done to safeguard my company from the effects of Brexit. The advice I had early on was to make sure I had either a warehouse or a partner in the UK. At first I thought if I could set up a warehouse there with stock, supply wouldn’t be disrupted and that would be the safest way. But as time evolved and I was able to give it a bit of thought, I began thinking that a wholesale partner might be best. That’s a shared risk as they take my stock in but they also act as my vendor. There’s no disruption for any UK customers as they are not paying an Irish person. Nothing will change for them, and the headache will be for me and my wholesalers, which is a much easier relationship to manage.
“There are concerns of course because the UK was always such an easy market to access. And the economic situation in the wake of Covid too is a huge concern. But once you know your customers are not going to be affected by it, I think that’s really the best you can do. As a small company you don’t want to be shelved because of a potential complication with supply.”
To help her navigate through the changes, Pamela sought the help of her Local Enterprise Office. “There is a great aid called the TAME [Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters], which helps you attend trade shows and look into export markets. That was a great help for me in the early stages.”
In addition, the mentorship schemes offered by the LEOs proved especially helpful. “I always avail of a mentor whenever I can, and the LEO has been so helpful with their mentorship schemes, especially in terms of devising a pricing strategy. I also received a Trading Online Voucher, and that was important for me in terms of Brexit as I wanted to get onto Amazon – and in fact, that proved even more important with Covid, as Amazon absolutely boomed during that time.”
Pamela appeared on the 2019 series of The Apprentice, looking for investment from Lord Alan Sugar. She didn’t win the investment, but instead won a phenomenal platform for her brand in the UK – which she had hoped to build upon during 2020 to help establish her business there before Brexit happened. But a complication called Covid-19 came along – and Brexit was truly put into perspective.
“I had planned to spend a lot of time in the UK this year, promoting the products, growing our stockists and taking part in trade shows,” she says. “But all of that came undone with Covid. I had always planned to get my products into grocery, but with Covid, it became more important than ever. We’re now in SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and online at SuperValu. And excitingly, we’re about to go into Ocado, a UK online grocery store.”
Pamela grew up in the beauty business, with her mum Yvonne running the highly successful Beauty Parlour in Terenure, Dublin 6W. Her passion lay in innovative products rather than the service side of the business, however, and this passion led her to identify a gap in the market for on-the-go clever beauty solutions – and so Moxi Loves was born.
“We launched with one product in 2018,” she says. “Our first product was the Eyecatcher, a liquid-filled cotton bud for correction and quick tidy-ups on the go. We launched into Penneys, which was my goal from the start. Everything from the packaging to the pricing strategy was aimed to get the product on shelf there.”
That product range grew over the first year – but unfortunately Pamela came across a roadblock that forced her to re-look at her business. “We had to discontinue two products due to the new EU rules on single-use plastics, including our original Eyecatcher product. So we pivoted slightly and came back with three biodegradable and sustainable products. The first is Barefaced Cleanser-Infused Makeup Removal Pads, which act as a face wipe but biodegrade within six months. Then we have the Dry Shampoo Sheets, which are biodegradable blotting sheets coated in rice powder, so they’re aerosol-free and therefore more friendly to the environment. Then finally we have the Power Pod Cleansers, which are water-free, so don’t waste natural resources. These products still adhere to our philosophy of creating innovative, convenient products for on-the-go, but without the environmental impact.”
In two short years, then, Pamela has hit three major obstacles – EU rule changes, Covid-19 and Brexit – proving once again how essential it is for businesses to react quickly to market changes.