By Katelyn Cook

Siopaella is a gem hidden in the back streets of Dublin’s treasured tourist icon, Temple Bar. The shop has two locations within a two minute walking distance of each other.

The Crow Street shop opened its doors in 2011, with the Temple Lane South shop opening shortly after, in 2012. As Siopaella’s third anniversary approaches, there are rumours of a third location; with Cork, Galway and Kilkenny as potential destinations.

The idea of consignment is a relatively new concept on the Irish retail market. This innovative shop provides its customers with a unique shopping experience.  Shoppers are presented with high quality, pre-loved items for both men and women. The stock is updated daily, with online shopping made possible through the shop’s buzzing Facebook page.

Ella de Guzman is the mastermind behind the Siopaella concept. She owns the shop along with her partner, Limerick native, Stephen Ryan. Born and raised in Penticton, British Columbia, Ella moved to Ireland after meeting Stephen in Vancouver. De Guzman states “I followed him here after his visa ran out”.

Fashion had not always been de Guzman’s profession; she admitted to harbouring fashion faux pas, in the form of a polyester Adidas tracksuit. However, the business has thrived in an economical environment which has caused most retail organisations to suffer. De Guzman acknowledges her loyal customer and fan base and says “We get to know everyone really well and that is how we have survived in this business.”

Unlike the international high street shops that dominate Dublin’s streets and retail market, Siopaella provides an intimate setting with staff members that are genuinely interested in the merchandise and the customers. De Guzman says “I think that’s why I love this business so much because you get to know so much about people’s lives. Some of our consignors have moved across the world, so you hear stories of why they are moving away, moving back or moving in with each other.”

This loyal customer support is fed high end fashion bargains by over 1200 consigners. In order to begin a consignment plan with the shop, the customer must consign merchandise with a total sale value of €600 or higher. This value can be in the form of large amounts of clothing or one high end, designer piece.

While managing to flourish in recession, de Guzman does not attribute her success to the economic status of the country. De Guzman states “certain brands still maintain their value. You think a Chanel bag should be way cheaper but it is still €2,500. They are not going to ever go down. I think recession or not this business would work.”

Starting a new business venture in a foreign country is a daunting process. De Guzman managed to do this during recession and create a flourishing company. As an entrepreneur, de Guzman offers her advice to others looking to create and advance their own business concepts. She says “Be prepared for long hours, working seven days a week. Sometimes we are still responding to stuff at midnight on weekdays.”

The company has grown and now employs six extra staff members. The staff members are hired on an internship basis, with the potential to be considered for full time employment after four to six weeks. As consignment is a new concept within Irish retail, the shop must operate on this internship programme as experienced staff are not readily available. In regard to the internship, De Guzman states “it would suit someone who was a previous shopaholic that knows the prices of everything; from Zara to Topshop, up to Chanel and Louis Vuitton.”

The concept of consignment shops are a huge feature in Canadian retail, with nearly 560 shops listed in the Canadian Yellow Pages. De Guzman had previous personal experience of consignment retail when she arrived in Ireland. De Guzman shopped predominantly in vintage and consignment shops while living in Penticton and Vancouver. She said “Any of us, when we buy clothing we always think of the resale value”. Both de Guzman and Ryan continue to travel regularly to Canada and the USA to get unique items for the business.

After three years the company has managed to expand enough to allow De Guzman to focus on other aspirations. Louis and Raquel are the shops mascots, and the dogs can regularly be seen in one of the shops locations. De Guzman rescued Louis, her pet Schnauzer Poodle, from a pound in Portland, Oregon.

Both De Guzman and her partner are heavily involved with the charity, Dog’s Trust. The Irish charity aims to re-home stray and abandoned dogs. De Guzman’s personal experience with adopting caused her to start a regular fundraising venture for the charity. Siopaella hosts regular sales; with all proceeds going directly to the charity. De Guzman says “it means a lot to us to be able to put money into the organisation. It’s very rewarding when you hand over the cheque to them and you know it’s going to go for something good.”

De Guzman uses social media to promote the business and the fundraising events. She says “people themselves don’t have much money but they are still willing to help out. Irish people are very generous, that’s what I have noticed here.” Unsold items in the shops are often donated to the fundraising sales by consignors.

Siopaella will celebrate its third anniversary in January. With possible business expansions and a growing customer database, De Guzman has managed to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground. De Guzman’s dedication to the Dog’s Life charity highlights the generous ethos of the shop and its owners. Through all the stress and difficulties, De Guzman says “at the end of the day, it is just stuff”.