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RETAIL EXCELLENCE IRELAND AWARDS 2011
We are delighted we won this "Best e-Commerce Exporter website award" for our website Siopa.com, it is fantastic to be rewarded for all our work in building a new website which is focused on exporting the best of Irish products worldwide. Many thanks to all the support we have received from our customers around the world & of course our dedicated team.
Siopa.com and Giftsdirect.com send gifts all around the world making the process as convenient as possible for their customers. Consumers send gifts to their sons or daughters living abroad who cannot make it home for Christmas or their birthday. Likewise, corporates send gifts to clients abroad and the process works vice versa. “We have well over a thousand gifts on Giftsdirect.com and over 600 on Siopa.com, so we believe we would have a gift for anyone for any occasion,” says Lulu O’ Sullivan, CEO of Siopa.com and Giftsdirect.com. “We also ensure the quality of the gift is spot on when it arrives.”For Lulu, one of the most important aspects of any company is customer service. “We’ve been delivering around the world for 20 years and have built our whole business on customer service. “We get letters from customers telling us they have never come across the degree of customer service they get from us. To be successful you have to do what you say you’re going to do on your website; any deviation from that is an absolute disaster.”
Internet entrepreneur Lulu O’Sullivan
My earliest ambition was to . . . run my granny’s sweet shop. It was called Notions on Merrion Row in Dublin and I used to go in every Saturday morning and help out. It had a high counter and shelves of glass jars full of sweets. All my friends used to think I was so lucky having a granny with a sweet shop but you got nothing unless it was a broken bar or stale or gone-off. She was a real businesswoman and she kept working until she was 82.
The people who inspire me are . . . on the world stage, people like Body Shop founder Anita Roddick and Chuck Feeney. In Ireland, a role model would be Miriam O’Callaghan, who’s so down to earth, managing family and career and getting on with it in a very professional way.
Being a woman in business is different because . . . Women look at situations differently. Women tend to negotiate less aggressively but that doesn’t mean they don’t end up with the same results.
If I wasn’t doing this I’d be . . . running a nice arts and crafts gallery in the west of Ireland.
I keep physically fit by . . . doing a lot of walking, some cycling and a Pilates class two or three times a week.
My idea of a perfect day is . . . a trip on our boat off the coast of Sligo, maybe a nice little picnic (if I’m very organised) with the kids and family, or maybe climbing a mountain.
If I lost everything in the morning I’d . . . start again. I’m a real believer in playing the game and I would have learned an awful lot from the lessons of failure.
My favourite way to relax is to . . . have dinner with friends and family. My husband [Brodie Sweeney] does a brilliant lobster dish so I get the commis-chef jobs, like peeling and clearing up. He loves cooking and usually I end up doing all the tidying up the next morning and wondering if I got the best end of the deal.
Starting a new enterprise in a recession is . . . something I’ve already done. I started Inter-Teddy [now Giftsdirect.com] with £2,000 in the late 1980s. It keeps you really focused and every penny really matters. It also means you have to do everything yourself so I’ve been very glad I didn’t have tonnes of money starting off. It was a really good discipline.
I love to wear . . . the designs of friends like Daryl K, who’s Irish and based in New York, and Lucy Downes. Their stuff is slightly different, has a little twist to it, and is really easy to wear.
If you’re living away from Ireland . . . Irishness becomes much more important to people, whether it’s dressing in green head-to-toe on Patrick’s Day or wearing a piece of Irish jewellery every day. Our products are not too twee (the shillelagh and leprechaun stuff) but focused on the work of fantastic craftspeople.
I have a very strong sense of belonging . . . When people start giving out about Ireland, I just will not take part. I just think we’re a fantastic bunch and we’ll pull ourselves out of this and get on with it. I love Ireland. I even love the weather.
Lulu O’Sullivan’s new online Irish giftshop, siopa.com, was launched last week
I was delighted to be invited here today to officially launch a new Irish business – Siopa.com. This is a new export-led business that will provide a virtual shop window for Irish made crafts and goods targeted principally at the 40 million strong Irish-American audience in the US market. Siopa.com essentially provides a portal for Irish producers to sell Irish crafts, jewellery and other goods to a global, recession-weary online market.
At a time of serious economic challenges in this country, I believe that Siopa.com represents the very best of Irish innovation and entrepreneurship with the real potential to grow jobs and exports. It is companies like these: export-led and online focused, that have the potential to return to Ireland and its people a sense of pride, financial stability and hope for the future.
Supported by Enterprise Ireland, Siopa.com will offer millions of the Irish diaspora and others with a love of Irish goods, top quality products from across the island of Ireland. This new online business will market a slice of Ireland to those who are proud to be connected in some way to Ireland, or appreciate the craft and workmanship that go into so many of the goods that symbolise this country.
Some of the big brand names that will feature on the Siopa site include Newbridge, Foxford, Waterford Crystal and many more but also the smaller players, which will be of particular interest to fans of Irish gifts and jewellery. These smaller, artisan producers, before now, have remained relatively unknown on a global level but Siopa.com is opening them up to a wealth of opportunity. There is a constant thirst for Irish products and CEO, Lulu O’Sullivan, and her team are well aware of this. Add to this the fact that they have 15 or more years of experience delivering superior Irish gifts on an international platform and you have quite the recipe for success. In fact, this group were one of the first e-businesses to go live in the nineties and continue to forge their way in the increasingly competitive online sphere.
This launch, in fact, is timely in so many ways. Connecting with the Irish diaspora is particularly at the forefront of our minds right now. In fact, plans are already underway to launch a ‘certificate of Irish heritage’ for up to 70 million people of Irish descent from around the world who do not qualify for citizenship.
Today’s launch of course also comes at a time when some reassuringly positive export figures are showing an expected increase in Irish exports of approximately 8 per cent, with 2010 reaching the highest level ever at over €160 billion in exports. These are the positive stories that the media often forget and I am glad to say that Siopa.com is just one of many out there today that Enterprise Ireland is supporting.
The potential for this business is significant and could play an important role in Ireland’s financial recovery. The Irish crafts industry is estimated to be worth almost €500 million annually in economic terms. Coupled with this is a very positive image of Ireland and the people behind the brands, Lulu being one herself who, having been unable to get a job during the 1980s recession, set up another gifts delivery company, aimed primarily at customers here in Ireland and Europe.
She and her team, and their wider network of suppliers, are now well placed to capitalise on that love of all things Irish, which prevails despite the tough financial circumstances that we are all working in.
Interestingly, Lulu and her team at Siopa.com have commissioned a special piece of jewellery to mark President Obama’s visit and, again, they have got it so right in terms of their timing.
Of course, the timing of this launch is not just coincidental. It is a clever move on behalf of Lulu O’Sullivan and her team at Siopa.com as the President’s visit shines such a positive light on US-Irish relations and our on close economic ties. It is this dynamism and the ability to seize on opportunities that will lead us through the tunnel of recession and out into the light again.
Besides hope, I believe that faith, a genuine belief and a confidence in ourselves, is central to our success. Let’s make Ireland a place that we are proud to live in, and a place where dynamic businesses have something seriously attractive to offer to the overseas customer.
This will help to ensure that they will come back to visit us, in person or in the virtual world, time and time again. It is this repeat custom, and a love for Ireland, that will ensure our growth and our return to excellence.
With that, may I wish Lulu and her team every success with their business.
- Enda Kenny, Taoiseach
An Online Store is Born…Siopa.com
Whether you’re looking for top Irish quality brands or handmade crafts and jewelry from local artisans, Siopa.com is your one-stop answer for quality Irish goods. Launched in late 2010 by Irish entrepreneur Lulu O’Sullivan, the site offers customers the best of Irish giftware and a level of customer service that is second to none.
Who is Behind the Brand?
Lulu O’Sullivan set up GiftsDirect.com in 1987. Originally established as a mail order business, GiftDirect.com then became one of the first e-commerce sites operating out of Ireland when the company went online in 1997, selling gifts on a worldwide platform. In 2010 Lulu went on to set up the Siopa.com site as a result of an increasing demand from overseas customers for products that were handmade, authentic Irish goods, mainly in the US but also across Europe, Australia and other countries. “Without doubt, it was my grandmother who first inspired me to set up shop,” maintains Lulu. “Her name was Kitty O Shea and she was well known at the time as one of the first female entrepreneurs as a result of setting up newsagent-style shops in Dublin during the 1920s. Granny sold sweets and newspapers in a quaint corner shop while I sell gifts in cyberspace but for me, the secret of success remains the same lesson: combining top quality products with a passion for customer service and that is what we do particularly well at Siopa.com.”.
Who are the Producers?
Operating from an office in Dublin, Siopa.com is at the heart of Ireland, with access to some of the finest producers of traditional crafts, including well known Irish brands such as Waterford Crystal, Newbridge Silverware, Nicholas Mosse pottery, Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen and Belleek Living jewelry and pottery. In addition to these big names, Siopa.com also offers goods from smaller, artisan producers who use traditional methods passed down through generations to create original and exciting gifts to suit all occasions. Also customers arrange Siopa.com products to be sent to themselves, whether it’s a gold or silver Claddagh Ring they’ve always wanted, an Irish Tweed Country Cap, a Belleek Pottery Teapot, a Carraig Donn Aran-style cardigan or jumper for him or her, or one of our top quality Foxford Lambswool Blankets – the Irish diaspora are continually seeking out traditional Irish goods that give them that flavor of Ireland. Lulu concludes, “We are excited about the future and the potential to tap into a passion for Ireland that is so strong in the US, but also in other countries throughout the world. With 15 years experience of selling gifts worldwide, and with an in-depth knowledge of how to optimise the online experience, we are well placed to capitalise on this potential over the coming years.”