Inside Track: Gina Cassidy, creative director Purcell & Woodcock

Company identified gap in the market for luxury lifestyle products at accessible prices


Gina Cassidy is the creative director of Purcell & Woodcock, a luxury lifestyle brand offering usable luxury products such as candles, diffusers and room sprays. Following a successful career working her way up to HR director in the corporate world, Gina started Purcell & Woodcock with her husband. Her products are now stocked throughout Ireland and Britain and the brand is set for expansion globally.

What sets your business apart from the competition?

We are breaking the mould in that we are offering premium, quality products at affordable prices. We are a luxury brand but we want people to be able to use our products, not just have them sitting on the mantelpiece and only used when guests come over.

Also, our products are larger sizes than the standard. Our candles are 250g; the standard is 190-200g. And our diffusers are 200ml whereas the standard is 150ml. We are offering usable luxury lifestyle products at accessible prices and that’s the gap in the market that I identified. I really believed we could fill that gap with our product range.

The feedback we get from our stockists is that our products cover two aspects of the market. People are buying our products to use for themselves but, because of our price point, they are also buying them as gifts. Our products offer quality, beauty and usability and our signature packaging make them really beautiful gifts. So, where stockists may have had to have two different products in their stores for these customer’s needs, our products cover both.

We knew are products would be ideal for corporate gifting but we are also finding that the hospitality industry has picked up on the products and they are also used in hotels, spas and restaurants.

What’s been your biggest business challenge?

Well it makes me laugh when I think about it now because I was so naive, but I always wanted to start my own business. I thought it would give me a better work/life balance! Learning the lesson of that misconception while building an international brand from scratch, in a very competitive marketplace, has been the biggest challenges! We are in control of every aspect of the business, from design to production. I oversee the design and creative side and my husband Morgan’s expertise is sourcing, logistics . . the detail.

We always knew where we wanted the business to go and we really put in the work in the first two years to ensure we built a platform that we could scale from.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

‘Start small, think big and scale fast.’ I really believed that we had found a gap in the marketplace. I knew we could target that middle ground between the lower end of the market and the very expensive end and yet still offer a usable luxury product. We launched at a trade show and we had an amazing four days. We haven’t looked back since.

What’s been your biggest mistake in business?

Not going to the UK sooner. We launched in the UK last year and, at the moment, we are opening 10 new accounts per month there. And we know there is still huge growth there for us. We need to be there to take the business to the next level.

What’s been your biggest success in business to date?

We’ve been profitable from the start. As a husband and wife team with four children under seven, that has been hugely important. The Silicon Valley model doesn’t work for everybody: not everyone survives those first three years so I’m very proud that we’ve had success from the very start.

In your experience, have banks been open for business with SMEs?

We were in a lucky position in that we self-financed from the start. However, our bank is AIB and they have been very supportive. They hold events in the bank centre every Christmas with approximately 50 SMEs. These events have been fantastic for us in terms of building relationships and getting feedback about our products.

What advice would you give Government to help stimulate the economy and support SMEs?

I think the Government should help SMEs to ensure they stay headquartered in Ireland. They should offer incentives like grants, funding, and tax incentives. The model of tech start-ups is set up and then get out. But SMEs that begin in Ireland and grow internationally should be encouraged to stay headquartered in Ireland.

Who is your business hero and why?

Morgan Cassidy, my husband. Morgan ran a very successful logistics business for 20 years. Unfortunately, during the recession, he lost it. We had really lost our shirt. Immediately I thought, okay I’ll return to the corporate world and we’ll have a steady income. But Morgan just said no, let’s just go for this. We had a real life defining moment sitting at the kitchen table. It really was his entrepreneurial belief and drive that meant we started this business, I don’t know that I would’ve done it without that.

What’s the short-term future for your business?

We are continuing to grow in the UK marketplace and we are launching a new product for Christmas which is a novel Christmas-cracker filled with candles. It’s a really great idea for corporate gifting because of the premium quality and luxury packaging.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?

I think from where we’ve come from and the point we’re at now, we’d be mad to sell it. By name and nature, this business is the heartbeat of our family. The name Purcell and Woodcock comes from my maiden name and my mother-in-law’s maiden name so the businesses is rooted in both our families. To be able to pass on this business to our children would just be the cherry on the cake for me.