Mark Loftus, founder of Paddy Box, speaks to Stephen Larkin about his fast-growing company and how he’s sending Irish care packages all over the world.
I left college in 2009 and I went into business straight away with a friend of mine. We started an events company aimed at international students and organising nights out. We actually still run that business today, but it doesn’t take up too much of our time.
When I left college, most of my friends emigrated due to the recession so we were regularly sending care packages abroad and it would cost a fortune and then they would often arrive late, or the box would get bashed up. I just felt there must be a better way of doing this. To give context to that; you were paying roughly €60 to send a package to Australia before you even fill the box, so in 2017 I tried to tackle the issue.
We launched the Paddy Box at the end of 2017 and it went viral almost immediately and it has been crazy busy ever since. Our first Christmas, we worked out of my mam’s kitchen and we weren’t expecting too much just starting off, but we found ourselves working 16-hour days just to meet the demand.
Did you always plan on going into business?
Yeah, I did a masters in Smurfit College in Blackrock and it was centred around entrepreneurship and management and I always had a bit of business mind. I always wanted to work for myself and when I left college I wasn’t sure what to do, so it was almost a no-brainer to try start a business myself.
“Our first Christmas, we worked out of my mam’s kitchen and we weren’t expecting too much just starting off, but we found ourselves working 16-hour days”
It seems like such a simple and obvious idea…?
There were a few competitors on the market when we started, but they weren’t marketed very well, and I saw a chance to capitalise on that. I really focused on our USP and worked on making everything better than the other products available online. Our main competitors now would be the likes of Gifts Ireland and those sort of companies. We’ve come a long way from being a small kitchen-based company.
Do you work with the likes of Tayto and other big Irish brands?
We work closely with a lot of Irish brands, particularly Musgraves who would be one our closest suppliers. Other companies would include Tayto, Butlers, Ballymaloe – they are all really good to us.
You’ve just launched a new product, care to discuss this?
Yeah, we have just launch the Mammy Box which is something we are really excited about. It came about from feedback we received from different customers. We saw a lot of personal notes getting sent within boxes welcoming children into the world and congratulating the parents, so we decided to do something aimed towards new babies and new mothers.
We researched this heavily and found that most gifts concentrated on the baby, and not so much the mother, so we wanted to create a gift box for the mother. It has been curated to include ten Irish-made items which are a mix of essentials, treats for mum and baby accessories, many of which are not available abroad, including Sudocrem, Water Wipes, Baby Aqueous Cream, Elave body oil, Butlers Chocolates and plenty more.
“When I left college I wasn’t sure what to do, so it was almost a no-brainer to try start a business myself”
We’ve shipped to 109 countries around the world and we’ve shipped to every single state in the US, and the growth has been fantastic. Our biggest markets would be Australia, the US and Canada, followed closely by New Zealand, the UK and UAE. So we launched at the end of 2017, then 2018 we grew massively, and this year we’re up over 50pc on every quarter so it has been a brilliant journey to date. We’re anticipating for a huge Christmas.
Brexit is yet to have an impact of us so far. We’re looking at it as a bit of an opportunity, but we’re still not sure how tariffs are going to work. Over the last year, we’ve actually grown in the UK and we think it’s because people are trying to stock up on Irish products in case there is a hard Brexit.
“We’ve shipped to 109 countries around the world and we’ve shipped to every single state in the US”
Christmas coming up
We used DHL to transport our packages and they are incredible. We can have a box in New York 24 hours after it being ordered. We can have a box in Sydney in three days so if you order on a Friday morning, you’ll have it on the Monday. So for anyone looking to send boxes to family or friends abroad, there’s loads of time to order. We’ll probably be busy taking orders right up to December 23rd. This year, we have launched our new Christmas box so be sure to check that out online.
Advantages being an Irish company exporting internationally
We really pride ourselves on being an Irish company with a personal touch. Small things like an email being responded to directly by an individual can go a long way, particularly in places like America. Obviously, Ireland has a good reputation around the world and we try use that to our benefit.
Our biggest challenge was definitely our first Christmas. We hold a very high standard in how things are presented, and it was challenging maintaining this in the beginning because we struggled with the volume of orders that came in.
“We really pride ourselves on being an Irish company with a personal touch”
Do anything differently?
I suppose we made some expensive mistakes at the start in terms of issues with An Post and our packaging. We’ve worked really hard on our packaging to ensure the protection of the products. So if I could go back, I would put more thought into the packaging.
I know a lot of people who have made the change and gone out on their own and it’s a scary process at the start. But the most important thing is to have faith in your own ability. After that, planning is crucial. Your business won’t succeed without a good plan in place. I spent the first ten months of 2017 purely planning out this business and the market before launching.
By Stephen Larkin
Published: 6 November, 2019