'I can’t stand public speaking. It’s my worst nightmare...'

Ella De Guzman is the founder and owner of Siopaella, a designer resale boutique with four locations in Dublin’s city centre. Despite a loathing for public speaking, she became a finalist in The Pitch last year, competing for €100,000 worth of business products courtesy of Samsung.  She may not have taken home the top prize, but she believes overcoming her fears and challenging herself only serve to make her a more successful entrepreneur. 


What inspired you to start your business?

When I moved from Canada to Ireland in 2010 there were no consignment stores and started Siopaella in 2011. I knew there was a gap in the marketplace.

In Canada, we were raised to shop knowing we would resell things. That was the mentality we had. We were recycling from a very young age.

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The Pitch 2019 - Is this your year?

So, when I moved here and realised no one recycled anything, I thought why not do it? Everyone doubted us. Just because it worked in Canada doesn’t mean it’s going to work here. Now we have four locations and an app!

What made you enter The Pitch last year?

I can’t stand public speaking. It’s my worst nightmare, but I thought I might as well do something that scares the life out of me.

"Even though we didn’t win, Samsung approached us afterwards and we collaborated with them for a few months."

The whole thing about being videoed and being on a stage made convinced me. That’s what differentiated it from any other competition, and with Samsung being a huge backer meant that there was a really cool prize. I knew that was it going to be challenging, but I decided to go for it.

 

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How did you find the experience?

It was more fun than I thought it would be. I remember being backstage with the rest of the contestants and being really nervous, but then realising I wasn’t the most nervous one there. So that made me feel good about myself.

 

How did participating in The Pitch impact your business?

Even though we didn’t win, Samsung approached us afterwards and we collaborated with them for a few months. They equipped us with devices and technology to help promote Samsung technology in the workplace, so it was a good way to show our customers what other products we had on offer.

So if someone came in looking for a Chanel bag, we might not have had the one they wanted in store, but could show them what else we had in stock. We have four locations, so having the tablets to show customers all of our stock was really helpful for the business.

 

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What advice would you give this year’s entrants?

Practise like crazy. Get in front of a mirror and ask your friends to video you.

Do it in front of your peers, people you trust. If you need to have a crutch like a piece of paper on stage do it. I held onto my phone and it really helped. When you’re on stage, and you have those judges – all at the top of their game – looking at you, obviously you get nervous. Having said that I believe everyone should try it. It’s an awesome opportunity.

"We had to give €100,000 cash up front to get on to Wicklow Street. Not many start-ups can do that."

Running your own business is a huge risk, so this is no different. Trust your gut and take a risk.

 

What’s the hardest part about running your own business?

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Real estate. Running your own business, and trying to secure real estate has been extremely hard over the last eight years. When you’re a start-up, landlords don’t want to do deals with you.

We had to give €100,000 cash up front to get on to Wicklow Street. Not many start-ups can do that.

Our first shop fit out cost €800 because we had nothing left. You’re competing with big businesses. It’s really hard. With retail location is everything.

We do a lot of high end product so people still won’t buy a €500 handbag online. They need to come in and see it. You need to have a good location to showcase that product.

Entries for The Pitch 2019 are now open.

The competition is open to both men and women looking to secure a career-changing opportunity. For more information see image.ie/thepitch

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