Ahead of our Networking Breakfast - 'A Leap Of Faith', we chatted to IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year/ Lifetime Achievement Winner Geraldine Swarbrigg. Best known for being the serial entrepreneur and retailer who brought Inglot, Aldo, Jack & Jones and Vera Moda to Ireland, Geraldine has much to teach us all.
What did you want to be 'when you grew up?
I had notions of being a dress designer. Then that changed and I wanted to be a journalist and ended up studying English in UCD.
You brought Vero Moda to Ireland back in the 1990s… how did that happen?
In 1990 we went on a family skiing holiday to Norway with the band Smokie (Tommy my husband is their Irish promoter). One evening on the way back from the slopes we stopped off in a shopping centre. Everyone was having coffee but I went for a look around the centre and came across a Vero Moda store. I was really impressed by the quality and the reasonable prices. I found out the company was Danish, made contact and in fact pestered them for about 4 months until they agreed to meet up with me.
Then you did the same with Jack and Jones, Exit, Aldo and Inglot Cosmetics… what are your criteria for getting involved with a brand/business?
It has to have the 'WOW' factor- instant attraction is key - and of course great quality and affordable price!
Are there any other brands on your radar?
No, but thats not to say anything's ruled out! You never know what's around the corner and there certainly are brands out there waiting to be discovered.
Which standout moments of your career were down to trusting your gut instinct?
The summer of 1991 when we opened Vero Moda in Galway. The store was an instant success and we ran out of stock. Incredibly we have seen the same phenomenon with our Inglot openings.
Has it ever let you down?
Yes in 2003 I had a gut feeling that a homeware company would do well in Ireland and even went as far as setting up an online site after purchasing 10,000 white towels! It wasn’t to be and the business didn't take off as I had hoped. I still have a garage full of fantastic quality white towels that all the relations get great use of!
Tell us about expanding Inglot in to the UK?
Inglot International's strategy is to open a flagship store in every country and so they already have stores in Central London. We have just been given the Inglot franchise for the rest of the UK. We opened our first store in Newcastle last month and will be opening in many other locations in 2018.
What has working with your son and daughter brought to your business?
They bring youth and energy to the company and can relate to our young customers and team. Peter has financial savvy, business acumen and drive and Jane has a passion and vision which unites our Inglot following with our wonderful team of Inglot make-up artists.
What's the one thing you want to nail in 2018 above all else?
We want to bring this fantastic brand, Inglot, to the people of the UK and hope that by this time next year we will be making our mark over there!
Hear Geraldine, and fellow panelists Chupi Sweetman and Dara Deering talk about their working lives at our IMAGE Networking Breakfast - 'A Leap Of Faith' .