Nicola Mealia is managing director of Chleo Enterprises, which was founded in 1987 by her mother Katherine Hurley. They chat to Salon and Spa Ireland Magazine about what makes the family business special.
Chleo Enterprises was born in 1987 when Nicola Mealia was just 14 years old and her mother Katherine Hurley started the business from scratch. “Nicola worked most of her school
holidays with me in Chleo out of choice,” explains Katherine. “She studied at third level and then worked in the UK for a few years where she learned a lot and later brought these new experiences home.”
“I admired my mum from such an early age,” says Nicola. “She managed to juggle Chleo and rear four children. None of us were ever handed anything on a plate and it was not a given that we would be able to enter the family business. Family policy was that we had to do our own thing first and bring something to the business.”
Nicola therefore set about getting a degree in fashion design and followed this up with a couple of years working in the buying team in the then Burton Group in London (Debenhams, Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins, Burton Menswear). She returned home nearly 20 years ago to join the family business before taking over as managing director in 2003 when her mother retired. “I asked my mum for an opportunity to join Chleo and I haven’t looked back. Working together was great. Mum saw Chleo as another child and still does to this day. She retired about 16 years ago but I don’t think she will ever fully let go!
”Having a family member who was committed, loyal and computer literate was a brilliant asset, says Katherine. “Having someone to share the highs and the anxieties over the years was great. Our suppliers and customers loved the family connection. It gave them confidence in the service we could offer and credibility in our business plans going forward.”
Nicola believes that while her mum was still an active part of the business they complemented each other with their strengths. “We have the same standards and beliefs and always understood that it is all about the customer. I was lucky to be able to learn from someone who knew the industry and was so highly regarded. We understood that choosing a product range was a decision not to be taken lightly, she chose incredible brands and I have added one or two to our portfolio since. However, we always believed that people buy people and the customer journey with Chleo was so important to us both. Mum had a flair for sales and an honesty about her that I hope I have inherited!”
Trust in a relationship, be it business or personal, is key, stresses Nicola. “We trusted each other to get the job done to the highest standard and we had lots of laughter and tears along the way. I am very proud to have grown and developed on what she started and I am very
fortunate now to work with my younger brother Richard who has also brought his experiences to Chleo. Richard joined the family business over 5 years ago bringing his banking and retail experience with him enabling us to get
stronger in other distribution channels.”
Nicola’s dad Jim was also always a rock behind them, even though he had a successful business of his own, adds Nicola. “If we need advice we are lucky to still have him. He was definitely an important part of this family team. We truly are a family affair!”