When the wedding industry suddenly halted this year, a creative New Yorker switched her focus to a home decor business which celebrates all things made in Donegal.

Hundreds of Donegal businesses have got involved in the #BuyDonegal campaign to raise their profile and showcase the county’s talent, innovation and creativity to a global audience.

Jillian Leigh, a New Yorker now residing in Ramelton, founder of The Loveleigh Letter Studio tells us her #BuyDonegal story:

Jillian Leigh busy at work

So what was the decision behind relocating to Donegal and setting up a new business in Ramelton?

Jillian is engaged to Seamus McDaid, a name synonymous with the area. His grandfather James established the world famous McDaid’s Football Special in 1949. Having met and lived in New York, the allure of the emerald isle was strong for both so they decided to settle in Donegal to pursue their respective business careers, with Seamus moving back into the family business and Jillian looking to fulfill her dream of setting up her own lettering and wedding themed business. That was in late 2019 and with a marriage planned for July 2020, there was lots to look forward to with the advent of the new year!

Jillian laughs when asked how her business pivoted with the pandemic. “Essentially my whole business model changed. I realised after a few months that a wedding themed business in the short term just wasn’t going work. I had the time to think about how I could adapt and stated to explore a product based offering and the avenue of e-commerce.”

Her creativity and adaptation saw the business change focus and she decided to explore the home decor and products based market for Christmas. “For me this actually aligned perfectly with #BuyDonegalWeekend.”     

She heard about #BuyDonegalWeekend through word of mouth. “It helped to give me a focus and deadline to get my etsy (e-commerce) page set-up,” she said.

She saw a huge volume of business come through during the weekend and many customers left feedback with the comment #BuyDonegalWeekend. “For me this really showed a pride among people in Donegal and that they wanted to support both the campaign and Donegal businesses such as mine,” she said.

“The success The LoveLeigh Letter Studio has gained as a result of the campaign has given me the confidence I need to build up my business. Moving over here initially I was nervous and worried about how I would start. I’ve also found in Donegal there are so many people to help and share my story.”     

Outside of her core business Jillian is involved with two local ladies in Ramelton, Laura Buchanan of Laura Buchanan Designs & Art and Ceramicist Laura Ferguson of Little Grey Living “who share a love of craft and design.”

Their venture Designed Loved Gifts is an assortment of handmade or locally designed items for a Donegal Gift Box, where they have collaborated with several designers and makers based in Donegal to help share some handmade love from Donegal.

The Designed Loved Gifts Trio – Laura Buchanan, Gillian Leigh and Laura Ferguson

Jillian has also received support through Local Enterprise Office Donegal (LEO) where she has completed a Start Your Own Business Course which has been a huge help in setting up and she also plans to avail of further supports such as the Trading Online Voucher to assist with website development (for now you can find Jillian on Instagram @theloveleighletter_studio).

Further down the line when we are in a position to celebrate weddings in true Donegal style, Jillian is determined to resume her focus on a wedding themed business, added to her current product portfolio success. Of course there is also the matter of her own nuptials, currently planned for the summer of 2021, which will create another chapter in “The Loveleigh story”.