Above: chocolates from Marlene’s Chocolate Haven in Westport, County Mayo
Suppose for a moment that you are an Irish ex-pat living in Delaware County. Your mom and dad and all your other relatives and friends still live in Ireland. Because of coronavirus travel restrictions, you aren’t able to make it back home for a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding—or just your annual visit.
For all too many, it’s a heartbreak. Nothing completely makes up for that, but now you can let all those folks back home know you’re thinking of them—and you can help Irish businesses survive the pandemic as well.
It’s called the Ireland E-Commerce Diaspora Directory, put together by the Philadelphia-based consulting firm Littus—Latin for “seashore.”
“Littus is a company that developed out of work that I’d been doing in our accounting firm Maguire Hegarty, and another chap, Rob Rae, had been doing with his company, Columbus Business Partners,” says Paul Maguire, managing director of Littus. “The idea was to work with Irish companies that were looking to enter the U.S. marketplace. Our target companies are small- and medium-sized enterprises that we can provide ground coverage for in the United States. So we decided to formalize our informal arrangement into this company, Littus.”
So let’s suppose you have a business in Westport, County Mayo—say, a chocolate shop—and you want to try to expand into the United States, Littus provides all the services necessary to do business on our shores.
That was the plan—and then Covid struck. Littus executives would have visited Ireland three times last quarter, and business representatives would have visited the United States to pursue their aims. The pandemic put the kibosh on those plans.
“We saw that we couldn’t go there, and they couldn’t come here,” says Maguire. “And then it just struck us that people like ourselves who would normally go back who now can’t go back could use a directory, basically, where they could shop from their local towns and counties—and that’s where the directory came from.”
Available products include food and beverages, consumer goods, health and beauty items, and travel and outdoor activities.
All of it is searchable by province, county and product types. Big names like Newbridge Silver and O’Neill’s, maker of Gaelic Athletic goods and apparel, are part of the directory, but smaller shops and companies are also listed.
Here’s how it works.
If you hail from Donegal, you can gift your friends and relatives with wearable art from Taryn de Vere or Irish whiskey from Sliabh Liag Distillers—or treat them to a luxurious holiday at the five-star Lough Eske Castle. If all your relations live in Kilkenny, you might satisfy their sweet tooth with baked goodies from Cakeface Patisserie or present them with a gift of handmade glass from Jerpoint Glass Studio or ceramics from Nicholas Mosse Pottery. Or suppose they live in Mayo, send them skin care products from Ella & Jo Cosmetics, Belgian-style beers from Mescan Brewery—or the aforementioned gourmet chocolates from Marlene’s Chocolate Haven.
In all, nearly 400 shops and vendors offer their products and services on the directory, and Littus hopes to add many more.
Maguire has availed himself of the directory himself.
“I have four sisters, and we have weekly Zoom calls,” he says. “So one of the girls said one day, ‘We should all do an afternoon tea.’ So I ordered a scone mix from Donegal and we all had the same scone mix.”
It’s a no-risk proposition for the vendors, Maguire says, who have lost a good deal of business from summer tourists. Currently, there is no cost to list products and services on the directory.
“The loss of revenue for those companies, just from the absence of tourists, is staggering,” says Maguire. “Probably about 25 percent of their business last year was just from American tourists. That’s all revenue that’s gone.”
In the absence of a way to be with loved ones in Ireland, up close and personal, the directory provides the means to continue to make that all-important connection—and Maguire, for one, finds that enormously gratifying.
“It’s an easy way to help out, if you will,” says Maguire. “It’s been very satisfying for Rob and me to get this launched and work away at it. As I say, it’ll be interesting. Right now, everything in Ireland is interesting.”
To place orders on the e-commerce directory, visit https://littus.us/diaspora/.