Croía Ireland : Why Community is at the Heart of Sustainable Business.
This week I spoke to the founder of Croía Ireland, a one-stop shop for Irish products. Croía, which roughly translates to “of the heart” in Gaelic, is a business born out of a passion to support local business with a singular goal - to give back. A fitting name as this platform showcases the heart and soul of Irish artisans and business-makers. This multi-vendor platform stocks over 100 suppliers who all share a common denominator - They are all 100% run and made on the beautiful Emerald Isle!
They commit themselves to supporting local enterprises and thus contribute to the development of a sustainable Irish economy.
The heart and soul of Croía Ireland
When I spoke to Ciara Hennebry, I was immediately struck by her passion and altruistic disposition. She attributes her passion for Ireland, caring nature, and entrepreneurial spirit to her parents who themselves engage in charity work and run their own farm. After starting her own business at the modest age of 16, she progressed further in marketing roles for a number of charities before spotting a gap in the market for a common platform to shop Irish products.
Caring deeply about Ireland; the Irish people, communities and economy, she shares that this venture does not just focus on the bottom line of their own enterprise but actively works to support local creators and their livelihoods.
Wondering what the knock-on positive effects of shopping with Croía are? For starters you are keeping money within the Irish economy. Consequently this creates more jobs within Ireland and preserves the vitality of smaller communities. All of this ultimately renders a more sustainable Irish economy in the long term.
One-Stop Shop for Irish
What Differentiates Croía from other multi-vendor platforms you ask? Well firstly, in order to collaborate with Croía Ireland, suppliers must meet their High Quality Standard. Unlike their competitors, these hand-picked suppliers range from brands still in their infancy such as Orla of Ireland and Peelo to more established brands such as Carter Beauty. They aspire to become the Irish equivalent of ASOS by providing vast product categories as they stock fashion, homewares, health & wellness, and food to name but a few. I believe the key aspect that differentiates them is that Croía Ireland is more than a website - It's an online community that celebrates everything Irish. They emulate this sense of community with the way they interact with suppliers, offering them advice and development support.
Demand for locally sourced products skyrockets
Today's consumer is no longer buying products solely for its functional use but to also support the livelihoods of those who make them. Deloitte’s State of the Consumer Tracker 2020 shows that 48% of consumers are willing to pay more for locally sourced products. The appetite for locally sourced goods in Ireland peaked in Q4 of 2020. Alice Mansergh, Director of Small Business at Google Ireland confirmed that “The people of Ireland are actively searching for ways to support their local creators and business owners” and the statistics speak for themselves folks. Google search data shows an astonishing increase of +3,495% for the term “Just buy Irish”, +540% for “Shop local Ireland”, and +200% for “buy Irish gifts”. Croía Ireland is facilitating this desire to support local business within Ireland.
I think we can all agree that the pandemic has made people realise what is important to them. Although Croía Ireland is a business born from the pandemic it is not a slave to the “shop local” trend. Ciara affirms that “the Croía Ireland business model would be viable pandemic or no pandemic”. We both agree that the appetite to shop local is here to stay.
Why Shopping local is a sustainable option
But are shopping local and sustainability intrinsically linked? The answers is a big fat YES! From a social perspective, supporting local enterprise strengthens the foundation of our local communities. It stimulates the Local multiplier effect i.e. the additional economic benefits which are accumulated when buying locally-sourced goods. Every €100 spent locally is worth €500 to the Irish Economy as our expenditure benefits not only the immediate seller but a host of local businesses. It essentially means that funds are recirculated back into the local economy.
The benefits of shopping local in terms of the environment are equally impressive. The environmental impact of importing raw materials is reduced as locally-owned companies are more likely to engage with producers within their vicinity. Also, the carbon footprint of each product is significantly smaller than those which have been flown around the world. This is because goods are travelling a much shorter distance compared to those transported by international couriers. And the cherry on top - packaging waste is reduced as the less a good travels, the less packaging it needs.
Proudest moments and Future plans
After achieving such success so early in their journey, I had to ask Ciara to share her proudest moment so far and her response was nothing short of heartwarming.
“I am grateful that we generate sales everyday for our suppliers but if I had to pick one proud moment it would have to be when one of our suppliers shared that they expanded their team thanks to the influx of sales generated by Croía Ireland’s site”.
Ciara shares “its moments like this when you realise what a positive impact we are making.”
We spoke about where she hoped the company would be in 1-3 years. Unfazed by a challenge, Ciara shared her ambitious goals with me. She hopes to expand their suppliers to 1000 by 2022 and to 3000 by 2024 reasoning that “the more suppliers we have, the more Irish businesses we can help!”.
Sustainability relies on collaboration and placing people and communities at the forefront of business decisions. Croía Ireland empowers their suppliers to do this. Not only is shopping local financially and environmentally compelling, but it provides communities with unique value propositions and fosters an environment where business decisions consider the impact on communities, not just profitability. To put it simply, when we shop locally we are making a positive contribution to our community and by extension, the country as a whole.