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18 May 2022

Big Kildare Interview: What’s next after you manage to tame an Irish Dragon? Newbridge businesswoman Noelle O' Connor has the answer

Big Kildare Interview: What’s next after you manage to tame an Irish Dragon? Newbridge businesswoman Noelle O' Connor has the answer

File Pic: Noelle O' Connor and original investor Gavin Duffy

Between tanning and taming Dragons, it is safe to say that Newbridge native Noelle O’Connor has an impressive CV.

She first found success when she appeared on Dragon’s Den back in 2010, and secured investment in her company TanOrganic from Gavin Duffy, in what was described as a move that 'took everyone by surprise', according to the show’s presenter, Richard Currin.

Noelle notably gave away 45 per cent equity to him, but later bought the shares back from Mr Duffy in 2014.

She also later appeared on the UK version of Dragon’s Den in 2018 along with fellow colleague Aaron Lubrani, but turned down offers from all four Dragons.

The CEO behind TanOrganic first worked in a Dunnes Stores and in bars, before setting up her own beauty salon in her hometown in 1996.

She later gained expertise in the business world running a chain of six luxury medi-spas (located in Newbridge, Naas, Kildare, Maynooth, Portlaoise, Limerick and Carlow) and later went on to study Entrepreneurship in MIT in Boston.

INSPIRATION

Noelle said that after a while of working with a variety of different products over the years, she wanted to do something different.

She explained: "As I am a natural red head with pale skin, I noticed that the tanning products that people were using were not suited to me or people like me: I wanted to create a tanning product that would be a one size fits all, without cutting corners on the quality and ensuring that we were not doing any damage or harm to the environment."

Noelle said that while the Dragon’s Den experience was 'nerve-wracking,' she would never forget it, adding: "It has had nothing but a positive impact on my business."

EMPOWERING WOMEN

Noelle also said that she is dedicated to helping women feel empowered, a trait she learned from her role model: “My mother was my biggest role model and inspiration... being the only daughter, she was my mother, sister and best friend rolled into one.

"I got so much of my strength and determination to succeed from her, and growing up, I saw the amount of work and effort she put into her work, friends and her family.

"She was fearless, funny, positive, popular, and really good with people," Noelle added.

NO SPECIAL TREATMENT

Noelle also credits her determination as a working mother with being a big factor behind her success, and further pointed to the fact of how being the only girl in a family of boys was acually a strength.

"Having been brought up the only girl in a family full of boys; I was raised to be their equal and got no special treatment," she explained.

"I think this has stood to me and given me the strength I have today."

She notably echoed this mindset during her appearance on Dragon’s Den Ireland, confidently telling the Dragons that she 'eats, breathes and sleeps TanOrganic.'

Today TanOrganic operates from its headquarters in Newbridge.

As to how her company specifically helps women feel empowered, Noelle elaborated: "TanOrganic is all about loving the skin you have, treating it with kindness and making sure you are not harming your body with harsh chemicals.

"Women get a great boost of confidence after tanning, as both themselves and us can instantly see a healthy glow and feel-good factor that comes with it," she added.

ADVICE

As for her outlook of the future, Noelle maintained that looking into the future should always be done through a bright lens.

She explained: "It is far easier to achieve anything with a positive outlook rather than a negative," she said.

"Change is up to the individual and we all have the power to succeed with a little help. There is always help or someone who wants to help, so just ask."

Noelle also enthusiastically encouraged any aspiring female entrepreneurs to give their dreams a shot.

"As long as it’s something you believe in, have a passion for and it addresses a market need, what have you got to lose?"

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