Mark Loftus is Founder of The Paddy Box. A born and bred Irish product, Mark reveals to IIBN that The Paddy Box offers a wide selection of care packages, each of which perfectly encapsulate our unique Irish culture and affection for traditionally Irish products.
You can visit The Paddy Box website here
Customers are provided with a range of products that are iconic, nostalgic, traditional and well known in Ireland, and deeply missed by those living abroad, such as Tayto crisps, Ballymaloe, Barry’s tea, Cadbury chocolate and Irish biscuits, as well as a range of gift items. Customers can choose from a range of pre-packed, individually themed, 10 item boxes like the Not Before Your Dinner box, full of all the treats your Mum would never let you have, or choose to make their own custom 10 item box, tailoring them specifically for someone they love. The Paddy Box team hand pack each gift box, input personal notes and ship with Grá anywhere in the world. The best part, The Paddy Box can do this at a much cheaper rate than doing it yourself, by covering most of those high international postage fees. Our delivery speed is also the quickest in the market.
The Paddy Box aims to connect those around the world to Ireland by allowing customers to create and ship a box full of ‘Irishness’ around the globe. The Paddy Box does this with a lot more care, effort and Irishness than any other similar offering online.
How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
I left college right as the recession hit in 2009. Family, friends and thousands of Irish people were packing up to pursue opportunities that were no longer available on our Emerald Isle. After the emigration rush, I watched my friends, family, colleagues and every Mary & John from down the road spend hours crafting the perfect care package for their loved one abroad.
Deciding what those loved ones miss most from Ireland and trying to condense it into one box without sending the family dog was a serious task. They were driven up the walls finding time to go into different shops, comparing prices and picking the perfect care package, not to mention spending a small fortune getting the packages sent overseas.
In 2017, Queue light bulb moment – I knew there had to be an easier and cheaper way of sending visitors to Ireland and people that live abroad Irish products while keeping it personal and uniquely Irish at the same time. After loads of research, surveys, late night chats, pints, cups of tea with friends, family and anybody who’d listen, The Paddy Box was born.
Being away from Ireland is hard – The Paddy Box aims to connect those around the world to Ireland by allowing customers to create and ship a box of ‘Irishness’ around the globe. The instant joy and emotion we’ve seen from people opening our boxes is the reason we set up The Paddy Box. There’s no better feeling than making someone’s day and we know you will feel the same when you send and/or receive a Paddy Box.
Give a brief account of your education background.
- Primary School: St. Helens NS, Portmarnock
- Secondary School: Portmarnock Community School
- University: UCD, BA in Economics and Geography
- Postgraduate: UCD Michael Smurfit Business School, Masters in Business Management (MiM), Entrepreneurial Stream
Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
I always had the Entrepreneurial spirit, even when I was very young. I was always looking at things I could possibly sell or make and then sell. I also told that I always said I wanted to try and sell my Mum’s Bolognese sauce to the shops
Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
It’s not really a common trait in my family, my Dad had a long career in financial services and my mum used to work in sales, so there wasn’t a big entrepreneurial presence. However, my parents and sister have always been a massive support for me in all my business endeavours and they share their respective skills with me everyday and they have been key parts of my businesses.
Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I had no prior knowledge of the gift hamper sector before I started The Paddy Box. My expertise was in event management at the time. However, I spent countless hours researching, reading, speaking to experts and learning about the sector as well as e-commerce during the research faze of the business startup. I still learn about the industry every single day and I believe that is key to continuing to grow as a company and as a business person.
What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
My previous work experience has been starting an events and promotions company with a friend of mine when I left college. We still run student and corporate events around Ireland. That has given me a lot of experience in running a business, organisation, sourcing items, dealing with the public. I am also involved in a startup called European Digital Concepts Ltd, an interative corporate fundraising tool. This started from my business plan during my Masters and we had great experience dealing with business pitches, Enterprise Ireland and a lot of UK companies.
I do believe my previous experience gave me an advantage when setting up The Paddy Box, but there is always an element of fear of the unknown when starting a new business and it takes a lot of guts to move out of your comfort zone. One of the most important parts of my startup journey was validating the concept through research and that helped to give me the confidence to bring the company to market.
How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
I self funded with my own savings and luckily my parents were very supported and helped with some initial outlays to get the business up and running.
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
The Paddy Box was self-sufficient quite quickly as our launch was around Christmas time 2017 and the company went viral in the run up to Christmas. After Christmas in the first year we needed to be very intelligent with our money and how we spent it. Intelligent marketing spend was important and trying to cut deals with suppliers and everyone we could was essential.
What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
I play Gaelic Football with St. Vincents in Dublin and we’ve been very successful over the years, winning 2 All Ireland club Championships, 4 Leinster club titles and 5 Dublin senior football Championships.
The dedication, organisation, drive, perseverance, attention to detail, concentration, lifestyle and teamwork has definitely transferred into my business life.
Other characteristics that my family have always nurtured in me was hard work, building relationships and belief in myself and my abilities.
To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
The Paddy Box is a very relatable company. Our tone of voice, how we speak to customers and followers is very personal. Our service/product is extremely personal and I believe people appreciate this kind of service. Our product is presented very well on delivery and we’re also very efficient in terms of our speed of delivery. This has gotten us a lot of repeat customers.
If somebody knows a person living abroad and would like to get them a gift for any occasion, The Paddy Box is the solution. People spend hours and a huge amount of money sending care packages abroad for loved ones and the service is often very long and packages arrive heavily damaged.
The Paddy Box takes all the hassle out of buying a great gift from Ireland, it is then sent securely in a much quicker and cheaper manner than doing it yourself. The website is easy to navigate, the gift is presented beautifully and once bought, we update you every step of the Paddy Box’s delivery journey.
If you need to buy a work colleague(s) a gift from Ireland as a reminder of their stay or just a reminder of Ireland, the Paddy Box is perfect.
What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
A good network is such an advantage for Entrepreneurs, many of the suppliers you find, customers you obtain and opportunities you garner, come from your network. Although networking is difficult at times, there are so many benefits.
Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
I am still always looking at opportunities, whether it’s expanding/diversifying The Paddy Box, further opportunities in the sector I am currently in, or sectors I have a keen interest in. The Paddy Box is a huge focus of mine at present but I will no doubt be involved in new start-ups in the future.