Sunday 21 January 2018

Lisa's a real chip off the old block

Tony Collins works closely with his daughter Lisa in their manufacturing, design and retail interiors businesses

Tony and Lisa Collins in their Red Earth store in Sandyford. Photo: Mark Condren
Tony and Lisa Collins in their Red Earth store in Sandyford. Photo: Mark Condren
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

What drives Lisa Collins mad about her dad Tony is that he never wants to have proper scheduled meetings with her during the day at work. Instead, he decides to start chatting about business when they sit down together at 9pm to watch a film.

Lisa is living at home in Mullingar at present as she and her partner Stephen are saving for a mortgage.

Father and daughter try to keep the shop talk to a minimum after hours, but it doesn't really happen. "Sometimes it leads to arguments and tears, but it also leads to really good business decisions at other times," Lisa says. "Good ideas can flourish when you're sitting around a dinner table with a lot of different opinions in the mix."

Tony (57), grew up in Mullingar in the middle of Paddy and Aedine's seven children. His dad passed away 22 years ago and his mum is "amazing".

He trained as a toolmaker and decided to set up Genesis Fine Arts manufacturing bronze sculptures, aged 28 as he had a great interest in sculpture. Within four years, Tony had 17 people working for him.

He met his wife Jackie at a party in Dublin and they married in 1985. They have three children, Lisa (29), Alex (25) and Ruth (24). "Becoming a father was a shock, but it kind of consolidated our marriage and was something we both wanted very much," he says. "Jackie was nursing when we met, but she is very much involved with the business now."

Tony says that Lisa was a wonderful, "very forward" child. She was very theatrical - always singing and dancing - and is still involved with the R&R Musical Society. She and her dad were interested in horse-riding, and travelled around together to different shows and events.

So what was her dad like when she started dating? "Lisa's an attractive young lady so she always had plenty of visitors," Tony teases. "I was beating off the fellas! She has a lovely temperament and is always in good humour. If I'm not, she'll try to pull me out of it. We're both terrible procrastinators though and take ages to make a decision."

Lisa says that her dad, whom she calls by his first name, wasn't strict, and was very encouraging to them all around their studies and school. She studied communications and journalism at Griffith College for three years, followed by a master's in marketing at DIT. She also worked at their concession in Arnotts and realised that her passion lay in retail marketing.

At that point, around 2000, the family business had expanded to include Mindy Brownes, which designs and distributes stunning lighting and home accessories. They now have around 1,000 customers across Ireland and Europe, which is likely to increase when they showcase their fabulous products at the forthcoming house 2017 at the RDS for the second year. As if that wasn't enough work, the family decided to open two Red Earth retail stores.

The Mullingar branch opened in 2011 and also contains a restaurant. Sandyford has been open for 18 months. Lisa was heavily involved in setting them both up. They retail Mindy Brownes and a range of furniture and accessories like mirrors, picture frames and sofas. "Retail is still very much alive and is completely different to shopping online," says Lisa. "You get a real feel for the brand and the story when you meet salespeople who are passionate about interiors."

Having helped establish the stores, Lisa moved for a year to New York in 2012 and worked in marketing with the Geneva Watch Group. Her dad was devastated to see her go, and broke down at the airport. "I cried for half an hour," he says. "A lot of young people were emigrating at that time so I really thought she would never come back. It was great though, because she did and I got to visit New York five times."

When she came back, Lisa worked with Harvey Nichols as an intern and then with the Chanel marketing team. She rejoined the family business two years ago. They have 94 staff members and Tony is MD, while Lisa is group brand manager, looking after advertising, PR and the online business. However, in the past year she has begun working in every aspect of the business, liaising with designers and going on buying trips.

"Tony is a very fair man and isn't judgemental, and he gives everyone a chance, no matter what," says Lisa. "He sees the good in people and is more than willing to help them progress, career wise. As my dad, he is very loving and supportive and lets us make our own mistakes."

Lisa's brother Alex is off travelling around Asia with his girlfriend, while her sister Ruth works for Oracle in sales. Her mum Jackie is a real people's person, and Lisa and Tony say she is more personable than they are.

"Tony and I are a little bit more direct and businesslike but I think you need that mix," says Lisa. "We get on really well at work although there are days where we want to kill each other, of course. Although Jackie told me that if I have something I really want to get around Dad, to plant the seed in his mind first and let him think that it was his idea." Ireland's new high end interiors event, house 2017, showcasing world class interiors, art and design, is taking place in Dublin's RDS from May 26-28. Tickets:

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