Many people from Donegal will be forgiven for not knowing who the charismatic Oonagh O’Hagan is or for even not knowing of her chain of pharmacies ‘Meaghers’. Donegal Woman was lucky enough to catch up with the business mogul and discuss a range of topics with her.
Oonagh O’Hagan hails from just over the bridge in Co.Tyrone, she is originally from Plumbridge. As a child, Oonagh and her family would pack up and head for Rossnowlagh every summer. To this day she still loves to take her children to the place she thinks of so fondly.
After completing her A-Levels Oonagh accepted her second choice to study pharmacy. Medicine was her first choice but a bad experience as a child with needles left her feeling pharmacy would be a better choice.
Today Oonagh O’Hagan is one of Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs. Meaghers Beauty and Pharmacy is going from strength to strength with a host of Irelands top bloggers fawning over their fantastic range of products available both in-store and online. At the moment Meaghers is a successful chain of eight stores across Dublin, with the first to open outside Dublin in the New Year. It is also one of the leading on-line pharmacy stores in Ireland.
On top of running an empire of pharmacies Oonagh is the outgoing chairperson of Retail Excellence Ireland, Oonagh is also the acting Chair of the Preliminary Proceedings Committee in the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, she sits on the wholesale advisory board of United Drug Group PLC and has been appointed as an external member to the finance committee of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. She also sits on the Strategic Advisory Board of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science s in Trinity College Dublin. She is a one of a very few selected Lead Entrepreneurs in the Going For Growth programme in Ireland. Oh and did we mention she has TDF (To Die For) style and is a busy mum to two kids. Oh and we almost forgot, Oonagh is Image Magazine’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the year.
Donegal Woman was lucky enough to get an in-sight into Oonagh’s life. We spoke with her about everything from the most recent success of being Entrepreneur of the year, to her style, balancing her career and family. How she stays so grounded with success and what is next for the Meaghers group.
“Oonagh congratulations on picking up the Image magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. What does this mean to you? Can you talk to us about the TDF gown you wore to the awards?”
Gosh, firstly Donegal Woman thanks a million for contacting me, it’s always great to speak to someone from up home! I’m still in shock over the Image Entrepreneur of the Year award and indeed on winning the €10,000 Newstalk award on the night but I’m slowly coming back to earth over the last week. I know many of the women who were shortlisted in my category and many of them are true inspirations to me in my business. In particular, I have huge admiration for Ellen Kavanagh Jones in bringing her brand Waxperts global and for Mary Mc Kenna who has an amazing business and is a fellow lead entrepreneur with me in Going For Growth and then of course Ollwyn Moran who was actually one of my own round table members in Going For Growth and again who has brought her products global.
I guess sometimes us Women in Business think what we do day to day is just normal day to day activity and that everyone else is doing the same thing but it’s only when someone else taps you on the shoulder and tells you that you are doing something well that you take a moment to reflect and appreciate all that we do do. So, for me the award just made me take a breather and reflect on how far my team and I have come and it’s lovely to get third party recognition for that and the tsunami of heartfelt congratulations from our customers, suppliers, collaborators, fellow business colleagues, friends and family. It’s all been very emotional really.
As for the gown it came from a little boutique in Galway called Harper. It’s one of those little hidden gems where I always pick up something. The thing I love about the store though is the staff. They are always totally honest with me and will say “ Maybe we have something more suitable” when I’m trying on things that my 20 year old self would wear!!
“Meagher’s recently launched a very worthwhile Christmas campaign #wrap4homeless, how did this come about?”
Well anyone who has purchased from our online store meaghers.ie will know that we always individually wrap all of our customers purchases in our signature yellow tissue paper with a quality seal attached. We do this because we always want our customers to experience opening their order as you would do a birthday gift. Really it’s all about the customer experience for us, and in particular the attention to detail in packing each order. So, one day it occurred to me that this Christmas we would be wrapping our customers’ orders as usual in the yellow tissue paper but many of those orders could be gifts for their loved ones and so our customers would be removing the tissue paper only to gift wrap their purchases themselves again. So, I figured let’s do that for them. I knew some of our competitors already offered this service and charged for it and after doing a little research and seeing the quality that arrived for the price charged I knew we could do it much better. So, I decided let’s do it charge something small but hand all his money over to a charity close to our hearts.
I have always admired Peter Mc Verry and his commitment to the homeless crisis in Ireland. He totally understands what needs to be done, is very solution driven and is a voice for people on the margins. So, to make a long story short I met with Peter to understand the issue and was appalled by what I learnt. My perception of the homeless crisis was all wrong and I was shocked to hear that 6700 people in Ireland are declared homeless of which over 2500 are children. I knew I needed to team up with Peter Mc Verry Trust to help in any way we could. I was also shocked to learn that it actually only costs €4.50 to get a person who is homeless a bed for a night in emergency accommodation. Hence the reason we chose €2.25 per product wrapped in our stores and online, because for every two products wrapped we can get a person who is homeless a bed for a night.
Alternatively if you cannot get into one of our stores or do not want to shop online you can simply text WRAP to 50300 to make a €4 donation of which €3.25 goes directly to Peter Mc Verry Trust.
Again, I have been blown away by the donations to date, after only a week we have collected close to €13,000 which will get 2888 people who are homeless a bed for a night or, 722 families of four a bed for a night. We hope to continue this well into the future and work with peter and his team to do all we can in giving as many people who have fallen into this awful situation a second chance in life and to help them restore their dignity.
“What would you say is the key to the success that you have had as MD of Meagher’s? Is there one thing you can pinpoint to that you feel is the ethos to your success?”
Without question it is the team that I have, without whom and their dedication to our customers I simply could not achieve so much or get involved in so many other networks, all of which have clear advantages to Meagher’s in general. We have six core values in our business: Customer first, Family, Community, Innovation, Expertise and Positivity. I’d be more than confident in saying that we hand select people to join our team who exhibit these values which are they are our absolute foundations of our business. They are the six key pillars we talk about every day and they rule every decision we all make and hence the culture of what Meagher’s is today.
“On top of all of your professional work commitments, you are married with two kids, which is hard work within itself. How to you manage to find the balance and ensure that you don’t burn out? “
To be honest work / life balance is my biggest challenge. I find it incredibly hard to get it right and the guilt that comes with being a working mum is with me daily. I try to rationalise it by telling myself that my own parents worked very hard and that is where a lot of my drive has been learnt which is great but there are days that I do wish I could collect my children every day from school myself and spend every afternoon with them.
My husband also works incredibly hard in his profession and so we have to really work hard at scheduling down time together. I try to never work weekends and I always take a half day on Fridays to chill with Luca and Cassie and allow them have some of their friends over to play. Plus I do love my holidays and in particular Italy and when I go I try my very best to switch off.
“How would you describe your style? Do you have go to pieces for when you are working? Do you have a favourite designer for when you are attending something glamorous? “
I always try to make an effort as best I can at work as I do believe first impressions always last and I also recognise that I need to set an appropriate example to my team too. I wear a lot of Zara clothes day to day as they tend to fit my shape and I like the fact every time you visit Zara there is something different too as I believe they turn their stock every six weeks.
For special pieces I love Dolce & Gabanna as I am a sucker for lace and their black dresses and suits are timeless. I also love Victoria Beckham, Oscar De la Renta and Roland Mouret and Max Mara for coats. but they are usually birthday or Christmas gifts from my hubbie and I certainly don’t go purchasing off every collection.
Then, there are some amazing Irish Designers I love to wear as I think it’s so important to support our own home grown talent. I tend to make a few trips to see Ashling Kilduff in the Irish Design Centre in Powerscourt, she knows what absolutely suits my shape. Some of my favourites are Caroline Kilkenny, Jill De Burca, Joanna Hynes, Lennon Courtney and Ashling’s own collection Tricotine.
“Donegal is home to a lot start ups and innovation. For anyone starting out in business, what advice would you give them?”
I’d say dream big and if you believe you can achieve something then you will find a way, or a way will appear before you and you will achieve what you set out to do. I’d say break down your dreams into realistic goals and hold yourself accountable for achieving each one of those goals. I’d also say don’t be afraid to fail. Some of my biggest regrets have been around missed opportunities because I thought I wasn’t good enough. If someone thinks you are good enough and offers you an opportunity just go for it because what is the worst that can happen? I have learnt more from my failures than I have from my successes and I truly believe if you are not failing regularly then you are not pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and it’s in that space where you get your biggest growth, both in business and personally.
“Being a pharmacist and Meaghers being one of the go to places for beauty what would you say is the best product available to women and men for the ageing process?”
I think it’s so important to look after your skin, hair and nails from within so my go to product at the moment without question is Quinton by Cell Nutrition. It’s a really innovative product that has only recently launched in Meagher’s and on meaghers.ie. It is a combination of 78 minerals and trace elements in proportions that mirror the ideal composition of your body cells. Essentially it restores and balances your normal cell and body function. Originally I wanted to stock it because it looks really cool and each dose comes packaged in a glass vial that you snap open and down like a shot. However, since I have started it almost four months ago I have noticed massive improvements in not only my skin, hair and nails but also in my energy levels. I have since discovered it was developed by a Doctor Quinton, hence the name over 120 years ago and is actually prescribed by medical practitioners in many European countries for lots of auto immune conditions and for psoriasis together with many other conditions. And as for energy boosters, Rafael Nadal calls it his “magic potion “ so if it can get Rafael the results he achieves then I’m converted!
Oonagh has very kindly given the readers of Donegal Woman a generous 15% off discount code when using VIP15 at the checkout on meaghers.ie. Perfect for those last minute Christmas gifts.