herald

Monday 20 August 2018

I quit Dragons' Den business to run a charity shop...and I love it

A DRAGONS' Den contestant has left behind the cut-throat business world to help run a charity shop in Ireland.

Penny Morgan was in the retail industry for 15 years and set up her own successful shop which she eventually sold as a going concern.

Three years ago she entered the competition to find new entrepreneurs, on the UK version of Dragons' Den.

She brought the idea of so-called 'soap pods' to the Dragons, which come from the soap nut tree Sapindus mukorossi and can be used instead of washing powder to do the laundry.

"I got through the first stage -- past thousands of people's applications," she said. "You only get through if you have the passion."

Vintage

Penny said that the experience taught her about the business world and she said that she had no regrets about the experience, even though she wasn't backed by the Dragons.

But she left it all behind to come to Dublin and establish a charity shop on Camden Street for Debra Ireland, the charity that supports those with the crippling skin condition EB.

"I'm here doing what I love best," Penny said. "Debra being a small charity, I wanted to look at how to develop the shop. I wanted it to be well designed inside and with vintage and designer clothes. In the UK there is room for the charity shop market to upgrade -- it's not just fuddy duddy clothes," she added.

In the UK, Debra has 125 shops but this is the first in Ireland.

But there is growing competition among other charities.

"I've always been a charity shopper myself and there are big changes going on in charity shops in the UK particularly with the popularity of programmes like Mary Queen of Shops," she said.

"It's all about getting creative. With the competition on the street, it has been a challenge."

And although the amount of donations has been steady, the charity said that it was eager for more.

"We've been hitting our targets from day one," she said. "There is a worry that we will be able to keep it going."

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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