We caught up with Peigin Crowley for an insight into the past 12 months, a period that concluded on a high note with her triumphs at the Tatler Ireland Wellness & Spa Awards.
It’s something of an understatement to say friend of the BMW brand and entrepreneur Peigin Crowley had a busy 2023. With her sustainable wellness brand GROUND catching the eye of high-end spas and five-star hotels across the globe looking for sustainably-sourced products, it’s helped Peigin build a business that has gone from strength to strength.
We caught up with Peigin for an insight into the past 12 months, which was recently capped off by wins at the Tatler Ireland Wellness & Spa Awards.
“Well this time last year we were just entering the US and Canadian market,” Peigin explains. “And that’s been brilliant for us, working and developing partnerships with really stunning hotel businesses, such as Rosewood Hotels, The Four Seasons and the Fairmont Group. Then in Europe we have beautiful partnerships supplying Comporta Hotels in Portugal, the Waldorf Astoria in Berlin and the Rosewood in Munich, so we’re really spreading our wings. This year we are moving into the Middle East and Southeast Asian Markets, which is very exciting.”
So how is it that these hotels and spas from across the globe are coming to GROUND for their wellness products? “Lots of businesses are moving away from single-use plastics and want to work with sustainable brands like ourselves for refills, and they are looking for products that are for the purpose of sleep, rather than a perfume or fragrance that would actually keep you awake.”
As well as creating a global reach for the business, GROUND’s wellness products have seen an expansion. “We had exciting developments working with sensory dolls for children with learning differences and autism,” Peigin tells us. “It helps to build rituals – how kids wake in the morning, how they sleep at night – and how to make a comfortable routine. It’s also very good for adults as well with post-traumatic shock disorder, so that’s been lovely learning how we can help there.
“We’ve also worked a lot on gut health and developed interesting treatments, working on the physical area of the abdomen. Historically in Ireland and the UK we’re quite prudish, and when we do a full body massage, it’s not actually full body – it’s arms, legs and back – and we ignore this ‘sacred space’ in our body, which houses in a physical sense our energy system, our digestive system and the organs that support that, the liver, kidneys and pancreas.
“Really, this ‘second brain’ of ours that lives in the abdomen is our powerhouse in terms of not just metabolising and having energy for our day, but it also connects us to our intuition and our subconscious. It has just as much capability at releasing chemicals that make us feel good or make us feel bad as the brain, and it really does house our wellbeing. So our abdominal cleansing treatment has focused on cleansing the area through the blood circulation, through the lymph and detoxification as well as through soothing the nerve endings through touch. We’ve developed an oil to complement that which uses castor oil, which is deeply detoxifying, and essential oils like cardamom, fennel, ginger, peppermint, marjoram, all of the oils that are associated to reduce spasm in the gut and indigestion, so that things are running smoothly.”
All of these developments couldn’t have been possible without funding, and Enterprise Ireland has really stepped up to help GROUND with its ambitions for expansion. “We took investment from the EIS fund with Quintus, which really moves us into a different level in terms of capability of manufacturing, fulfilment and marketing. And also Enterprise Ireland have been excellent in giving us a key hire grant to bring on a head of operations.
“There was a point where I was doing everything,” explains Peigin. “But now we have appointed a lead for operations to help with the manufacturing side, so that’s been brilliant. And I suppose as a company we’re growing faster than we imagined, but the circles we’re moving in now mean we’re launching products with the Six Senses wellbeing hotels, which is a real regenerative hotel in terms of ecology and sustainability. We’ve also launched in the Lanesborough Hotel in London, and we’re launching at the Bulgari hotels in London and Rome. These are really high-end companies who have placed a strong value on our ethos.”
GROUND wouldn’t be able to find space in these specialised spa hotels without the people behind the scenes making their contributions felt. “We have a wonderful lady, Rachel O’Malley, who heads up our massage training and treatment development team, and we’re just so fortunate to work with the best, and it’s recognised now with the industry. We’ve never had to go to a trade show or a market and sell our wares, or knock on a door, they’ve all come to us, which is incredible. I keep thinking our luck will run out, so thank God we’re doing something, right!”
As for the key hire grant, Peigin had somebody in mind for this important job almost straight away. “When Enterprise Ireland told me about the grant for a key hire, the first thing I thought was that it was great, but what we do is so unique in terms of manufacturing, we make everything from scratch and fulfil everything ourselves. And the hospitality industry is a tricky industry to work with, so my hire had to cover a broad spectrum of skills, and be a real ‘unicorn’.
“I had worked with Aiden O’Mahony who was the spa manager at Inchydoney, maybe 20 years ago, and he’d gone on to build his own distribution success. So one morning, about four or five months ago, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and I saw he was open for opportunities. So I texted him, we met a few times and thankfully he jumped in just at the right time for us. We have a good framework in place now and its moving at high speed. He jumped in at a really tricky time of the year, but we have a framework now and it’s moving at such speed. He’s incredible, a great person to have on board.”
Sustainability is a cornerstone of what Peigin does, and it’s something that she’s not going to abandon. “As an entrepreneur I continue to make mistakes every day and learn from them and enjoy the journey, as opposed to any kind of destination. It’s learning for my own wellbeing as well, and for my family. There’s merit in being sustainable and eco-friendly, and every decision we make is through the lens of the planet. Could we do this a different way? Could we source differently? Is it an ethical supplier? That has stood us in good stead and ties in well with our partnership with BMW.”
To Peigin’s surprise, the relationship with BMW is one of mutual partners, rather than her expanding business working alongside a global giant. “It’s a solid partnership where we work together, we brainstorm together, and I work with their team helping their wellbeing. They’re a giant company, but they meet me as an equal, and really the brand alignment has been invaluable because we work at a five-star level. There’s always a fuss made over the BMW iX3 I currently use, you know, the fact that it’s electric, the fact that it’s gangster looking, it’s just incredible.
“And in Ireland, there’s a lot of good wishes and a lot of kindness there. So I’m always grateful for that. BMW share all of their events and launches, and let me showcase my brand alongside them, which has much more value to me than it’ll ever have to them. So I think on the inside BMW is just really good at supporting us.”
With the company’s growth comes expansion, which is one of the aims this year. “Once we catch our breath, we’ll be buying equipment, because everything we’ve done to this point, every product is made by hand and boxed by hand. Basically we’re an artisan company that expanded too fast.”
With big plans in place, Peigin is glad that the iX3 is there as a reliable constant. “I love it. The ability to set the climate control ahead of going into it is great, but one of my favourite parts is that as my husband uses it sometimes, the car remembers your seat, your phone and your settings. It’s really intuitive. The electric range is excellent, too, and it’s even interesting how city driving is different to country driving, and how it regenerates itself. You get in tune with the car, and it has an atmosphere with the lighting, it’s almost a personal experience with the car. I know people have names for their cars, but while I haven’t named the iX3, it minds you and it’s experiential. I suppose you could say that I drive first class and I fly economy, I think that’s it in a nutshell!”