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Precious Packaging Meets Style Gallery

As the world continues to open up and businesses get used to life post-Covid-19, we took the opportunity to speak to two Lisburn-based entrepreneurs about the importance of collaboration, supporting Northern Irish business and what’s next for 2022 and beyond…

Matthew Nelson is founder and CEO of Precious Packaging, an online printed carrier bag and bespoke retail packaging printer, while Aaron Taggart is founder of Style Gallery, a high end clothing retailer in the heart of Lisburn. With extensive experience of the retail sector on both the customer-facing and manufacturing side, these two business owners continue to navigate the challenging retail landscape. They share top tips for budding entrepreneurs on what needs to happen in Northern Ireland for fledgling businesses to thrive.

Matthew:

COVID-19 has affected all businesses. How have long standing relationships and links to other Northern Irish businesses, like Style Gallery helped to navigate the challenges of the last 2 years?

Our long standing clients like Style Gallery have had to adapt their packaging due to Covid-19 as they were faced with the challenge of serving customers online. Subsequently, many of our clients had to start using mailing boxes. They know their customers personally and it has been very difficult to continue relationships at a distance.

However, the desire to create personalised messages within packaging has created an opportunity to continue brand loyalty and excellent customer service.

Precious Packaging has created custom packaging and bespoke bags for Style Gallery on a number of occasions. What can you offer that others can’t?

Precious Packaging has designed luxury bags alongside Style Gallery for 10 years. Aaron Taggart, the owner is extremely creative and our objective is to turn his ideas into a valuable promotional asset. We listen to what the client wants to create for their brand and produce it cost effectively. This also sets down a challenge for us where we can outperform our competitors by providing solutions that haven’t existed before.

Our clients want their postal packaging to be as luxurious as their existing retail packaging. For high end retailers like Style Gallery, postal packaging is the most common order. Changing and modifying the way you flood print ink, foil stamp, that sort of thing is not usually done on an unvarnished material but we have learned how to do it. We do this to ensure a really great ‘opening experience’ or ‘unboxing experience’.

What can be done to foster entrepreneurial spirit and support collaboration and innovation between business owners in Northern Ireland?

I encourage entrepreneurs to join Northern Ireland-based business groups on Facebook. There seems to be a positive, helpful atmosphere to get involved in. And if someone doesn’t know the answer to your question, they often will refer to someone who might be able to help. Over 2020 and 2021, this has become increasingly helpful for startups.

Another way to inspire team spirit amongst business owners in Northern Ireland is to go beyond your existing network. Seeking out a mentor or offering yourself as a mentor creates a collaborative support network. Communicating about the challenges faced and offering guidance means that we don’t have to face problems alone.

E-commerce and digitalisation is happening at a rapid pace. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the way you do business?

It’s two-fold for us, we have automated and streamlined a lot of our processes from the back end website and administration point of view. Secondly, our front end website now allows clients to build and buy packaging by uploading a logo and creating personalised designs. The automated software has been key.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone who has started their own business?

To listen. To really listen to what your customers are saying to you and to react to that. They will invariably tell you what they want. You need to let go of all the preconditioned ideas that you have to a certain extent to be able to fulfill those needs.

You have extensive experience in the fashion industry as founder of multiple businesses. What is your greatest learning to date?

My greatest learning is that you can’t accomplish it all by yourself. My favourite business story is the allegory of the ‘stone soup’. It is an old European folk tale that shows that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. In the story, three hungry soldiers convince villagers to each contribute some food to a soup and by the end they have created a delicious meal that they can all enjoy. It’s about building up relationships where we can lean on each other.

In startup businesses, every day brings challenges and victories. If you could go back to day one, what advice would you give yourself?

Hire people with integrity. You can teach everything but integrity. You either have it or you don’t. As Warren Buffett put it so well, “We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you.”

What does 2022 hold? Any exciting plans in the pipeline?

We’re on target to have a record year and we’re so happy to have finished 2021 on a high. We have brought a lot of new products to market and they have been extremely successful. When it comes to the team, we’re now much more streamlined and confident about being mobile. 2022 will bring a move to bigger and more modern premises. We’ve embraced digital transformation with new updates to our website, which will launch in the coming months.

How important are relationships with other business owners like Aaron to your work?

When I was in the early days of my business, Aaron offered a lot of advice and encouragement. Over the years we have built this relationship. By being open and honest, we collectively solve each other’s problems. This reciprocity brings a great level of support. Unless you’re honest about the problems you have, there’s no way that anyone else is going to offer a solution. It’s about trusting each other and lending a hand.

Aaron Taggart, founder of Style Gallery)

Aaron:

COVID-19 has affected all businesses. How have long standing relationships and links to other Northern Irish businesses, like Precious Packaging helped to navigate the challenges of the last 2 years?

It’s certainly been a difficult year and a half for all businesses, and the designer clothing industry is no different. Our brands are based around the world, but having a local team of suppliers helping me run the business has been invaluable.

Precious Packaging has created custom packaging and bespoke bags for Style Gallery on a number of occasions. Why is the right packaging so important to your business?

The Style Gallery brand is synonymous with quality and style and it has always been important to us to reflect that in our packaging. The custom packaging created by Precious Packaging is exquisite and showcases the fact that we are a high quality retailer stocking some of the best designer menswear brands on offer. We are suppliers of brands such as Hugo Boss, Jacob Cohen, Yeezy, Circle of Gentleman and Handpicked, these brands demand a stylish good quality platform and our bags, with the colour coordinated ribbon handles, really complement all that we stand for.

What can Precious Packaging offer that other players in the market can’t?

We’ve worked with Precious Packaging for 10 years now and I honestly couldn’t go anywhere else. Their attention to detail, enthusiasm and customer care is second to none. The fact that they can take on the entire process from concept through to design and print and delivery means I know the packaging for Style Gallery is in good hands.

What can be done to foster entrepreneurial spirit and support collaboration and innovation between business owners in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland has an enormous amount of talented entrepreneurs and when we create an environment in which we can work together, great things happen. If business owners can keep an open mind and offer support to others, I truly believe that that support will be returned tenfold. As the saying goes; “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

E-commerce and digitalisation is happening at a rapid pace. What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the way you do business?

Pre-Pandemic, the big change to retail was already coming, but it’s been accelerated dramatically. Our focus has always been providing a one-to-one personal shopping experience. It’s about making customers feel special, whether they are in to buy a t-shirt or in for an entire wardrobe refresh. Our challenge is to reflect that personal service online and to standout from the vast array of other retailers. During Covid we had a very very low returns rate for items purchased online and I feel that was down to us being ‘available’ virtually to offer advice and guidance for every purchase.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone who has started their own business?

Stick at it – the first few years will be a very tough slog but being your own boss is amazing, if you have the right product or service and you are committed and determined you can make it happen, but it’s not going to happen overnight!

You have extensive experience in the fashion industry as Founder of Style Gallery. What is your greatest learning to date?

I’ve been in the fashion industry for over 25 years now and my greatest learning has definitely been to remember that I am not buying for me! When I am buying for the seasons ahead I have to think, not of what I would like to wear, but also what will suit my younger and my older customers. I make sure to bring some eye-catching and unique pieces and encourage my customers to be brave and dress out of their comfort zones.

In startup businesses, every day brings challenges and victories. If you could go back to day one, what advice would you give yourself?

Enjoy the challenges and celebrate the victories, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the day to day running of the business, you’ll spend most of your days doing this so enjoy it!

What does 2022 hold for Style Gallery? Any exciting plans in the pipeline?

I am awaiting delivery of some exciting new brands to NI, so you’ll have to watch our socials for more info!

Why do you continue to choose Precious Packaging above others to create custom packaging?

Customer Service, creativity and commitment.

Find the latest innovative packaging solutions from Precious Packaging and the latest new-season clothing at Style Gallery.

Follow on Instagram: @preciouspackaging | @stylegalleryclothing

Image by THAM YUAN YUAN from Pixabay

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