While lots of us have been hunkering down and waiting for the pandemic to pass, some people have changed their lives. They have followed their dreams
Shauna Murray, 19, has entrepreneurship ‘in her blood’. Her mother is Ester Murray, of Ester’s Aromas and Es Naturally, wellness brands that Ester built while raising her family.
When Shauna launched her own clothing brand in February, her mother supported her.
“My mam has definitely played a massive role in this,” Shauna says. “Over the years, I’ve had priceless experience helping out in her business, taking product photos, speaking to customers, selling products, and, overall, seen and worked behind the scenes in business.”
It was this experience that gave the marketing student the confidence to launch SHAUNAMARIA, a unisex range of hoodies emblazoned with positive slogans like ‘Kind people are my kind of people.’ Aiming to make people smile and spread positivity, Shauna says that the brand’s message is heartfelt.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people are struggling mentally at the moment, with lack of human interaction and having every day feel the exact same,” Shauna says. “I know, for a fact, if I was upset or stuck in my own head, it’s the tiny little gestures that will stick out to me.”
In July 2020, Shauna was walking on Paul St, wearing her only sample of what would be her first piece: A hoodie with the slogan, ‘Dear person behind me, I hope today doesn’t suck. Lots of love, The person in front of you’. A woman tapped Shauna on the shoulder.
“She said, ‘Thank you for choosing to wear that today, I needed to hear that’, before strutting off,” Shauna says.
“This was the exact moment that solidified everything for me. At the time, I only had one sample and kept going back and forth on whether I should bite the bullet and start my business.”
Having established a bakery and coffee shop in Mitchelstown, pastry chef Norma Kelly utilised the pandemic to pivot her business toward a product that she had always wanted: Chocolate.
As well as transforming her business with an online offering of afternoon tea, little cakes, and bites, Norma began to produce chocolate, first as Easter eggs and then bars and truffles. “I had always wanted to incorporate handmade chocolates into the business, so as Easter approached last year, I took the opportunity to make Easter eggs, chocolate bars, and truffles,” Norma says. “They went down a treat and sold out in a couple of days, and that was the beginning of Praline Pastry and Chocolate shop!”
Local support was immediate and Norma began taking orders for collection-appointed times on Saturdays.
“There was a big uptake for orders,” Norma says. “Customers are always so supportive and kept ordering scones and cakes; enough to keep me busy during the week, along with juggling childcare, as our daughter was also home from her minder’s.”
Rebranding the business to include chocolate gave Norma the opportunity to refresh the retail space. “I decided to take the partition off some of the café floor and use the additional production space for chocolate,” Norma says. “I was nervous that customers might not like it, but I was conscious of the fact that because our café was so small, I wouldn’t be able to safely keep tables two metres apart and, also, there was always the threat of further waves of Covid and lockdowns. Thankfully, our customers’ reaction to the new shop was very positive and the changes have served us well, as we have been able to continue operating as a shop since we re-opened last summer.”
All changes were made possible thanks to her local enterprise office, Cork North and West, which was a huge support.
“They have been a massive help financially, with the trading online voucher, which has allowed us to take the business online. Cakes and afternoon tea can be purchased for ‘click and collect’,” Norma says.
“I also got business mentorship, provided by LEO, which gave me the opportunity to discuss my ideas for business change with a mentor who had experience in the area. This was great, because they gave me valuable advice and encouraged me to make the changes that have, ultimately, kept the business moving forward during such a difficult year.”
Marika Rea followed a lifelong dream during lockdown: She wrote her first novel, Her Blanket of Stars, under the pen name Maryjka Miller. “I was struck down with debilitating vertigo, and, of course, the Covid crisis happened at the same time, so I found myself with spare time on my hands,” Marika says.
“The vertigo lasted a year and is, thankfully, gone and I am optimistic that the Covid crisis is well on its way to being resolved as well,” Marika says. “I realised that there could not be a more perfect time to write my book, and they say ‘write the book you want to read’, so that’s what I did.”
Pre-pandemic, Marika was studying art and music and says that upon diagnosis, writing became her solace. “Writing provided me with an escape from everything,” Marika says. “It was a wonderful distraction.” Not having taken writing classes, Marika dived in at the deep end. “I feared if I did too much research, my writing might become mechanical and that might hamper my own natural creativity, as had happened with previous hobbies, so armed with little knowledge and a heartfelt desire, I took on the task of writing the book,” Marika says.
- Find ‘Her Blanket of Stars’ on Amazon and Bookdepository.com