Meet the mumpreneur: Gina Cassidy of Purcell & Woodcock
Having always been an avid homeware fan, and loving nothing more than burning a nice candle as soon as evening fell, you can say that Gina Cassidy was destined to end up doing what she is doing.
But like with most life-altering things, building a company from the ground up was bound to come with more than a few challenges along the way.
We recently caught up with the woman behind one of our all-time favourite home fragrance brands, Purcell & Woodcock, to talk little luxuries, mummy-guilt and following your dreams.
How did the idea for your company come about?
I had three kids under four at the time and my disposable income has nosedived thanks to childcare and associated costs, so my little luxury candle purchases suddenly got wiped. We researched the market and felt there was a gap for a useable luxury brand, offering top quality products, at accessible prices. In essence, we wanted to open up the luxury market to allow access to everyone. Life moves at such a fast pace and I was adamant everyone deserved a little luxury, without the price tag.
Were you always interested in fragrances?
In my experience, the power of fragrance is often underestimated. People can assume they don’t like a fragrance because they don’t like the ‘smell’, but in fact the fragrances that truly captivate us are the ones that evoke personal feelings of warmth, joy and wellbeing. I often get asked which of our fragrances are my favourite, but the honest answer is I can’t choose. Each one has been chosen because they evoke memories from our combined Purcell & Woodcock families and each fragrance bears a treasured memory, which is why enjoying the scent from the fragrance of your choice can be great for the mind and soul, particularly after a stressful day!
Any hiccups in the beginning?
Plenty! We launched Purcell & Woodcock and within six months, my husband's business of 20 years fell victim to the recession, which left us with no family income and a fledging start up. We had one of those defining kitchen table moments where we had to figure out what we were going to do. It was a dark time, but there is always a silver lining and sometimes you have to dig deep to find it. We truly believed in Purcell & Woodcock so we joined forces and haven’t looked back since. We will forever be indebted to family and close friends who helped us out and it was their belief in our plans that helped us get Purcell & Woodcock grounded and ready for growth.
Biggest high to date?
Seeing our product selling across the UK after a short space of time. The UK home fragrance market is crowded, competitive and cut-throat. As a new brand, you get one chance to convert consumers so you have to get it right, early. We targeted the UK market early on, but we were confident our brand would fit in well and it has. There’s nothing nicer than getting an email from a customer who has taken the time to drop us a mail to say how much they love our products or that our fragrances are as good, if not better, than the aspirational brands. Reading those mails gives me a rush of pride, but also a surge of belief in Purcell & Woodcock becoming an international brand.
How easy is it to combine motherhood with running a business?
My greatest learning since having kids is that no one has it easy. Mummy guilt exists regardless of your circumstance and the reality is that we are all just trying to do the best we can for our families and our children. From the outside, we probably look like a madhouse, four kids under seven and our own business, but the reality is it works for us. The fact Morgan and I work together certainly helps from a parenting perspective as we get each others schedule and know which days the other needs to be with the kids. We’re incredibly lucky to have amazing support from family and friends, without whom we simply couldn’t do what we do. But in a weird, chaotic way, life is great, our kids are well and that’s all that matters.
Any lessons you have learned the hard way?
Growing a new business is difficult and you have to be ready for the good days and bad days. It can be both exhilarating and devastating in the same day and yet we only hear the successes. It takes blood, sweat and tears and looking back, I was incredibly naïve starting out. I’ve learnt you need to keep the head up and be thick skinned. Focus on what you believe it, work hard and learn from your mistakes!
The biggest challenge was creating a brand with no background in design, sales, retail or consumer behaviour. We launched a collection of fragrances in signature packaging that was befitting to a new luxury brand. We introduced the concept of useable luxury, offering distinctive packaging and high quality products, but at a price point that allowed people to buy, use and enjoy, rather than sitting on the mantelpiece for ‘show’ and only getting lit when guests were over. The challenge was communicating and building a brand on these pillars and thankfully people have responded to it so we are standing tall in a competitive market.
From a personal perspective, we welcomed our fourth child in July 2016, the week before tradeshow season started so I literally arrived home from the Coombe and handed Jake over to family and friends for a four day tradeshow in Dublin, followed by another five days in London – you can imagine the emotional and hormonal turmoil it caused! To say it was difficult is an understatement, but with start-ups and growing a business, unfortunately it’s a case of having to cover all bases and it just had to be done.
What’s next for the business?
We’re launching a fab new product this week, it’s a festive cracker containing two candle votives and it’s the perfect pick up gift or the ultimate table cracker for those looking to wow their guests! We launched them at tradeshows during the summer and they got rave reviews so we’re thrilled to get them on shelves this week.
As for the year ahead, in 2018, our focus is gaining a stronger foothold in the UK. We’ve just taken on two fantastic sales reps over there and they’re already gaining tracks.