Joe O’Regan had built a career in financial services, from working with Canada Life to establishing Blackthorn Capital in 2009. However, when his 50th birthday came around, he decided it was time for a change.

O’Regan’s father, a businessman, was diagnosed with cancer in his fifties and passed away weeks later. As O’Regan entered his fifties, the realisation dawned on him that it was “now or never” to start doing what he actually wanted to do.

“I spent 20 plus years in quite a straitlaced world. It’s very regulated. There’s a lot of processes. There’s a lot of structure to it. And I was keen as I turned 50, to be brave enough to make a change in terms of what I was at,” O’Regan said.

O’Regan spent a lot of his life advising people on whether or not they should make various moves that would impact their life financially. He knew that not a lot of people manage to pull off the riskier moves like setting up businesses, but he took the decision to give it a try during the lockdown.

“Over the years I had been advising lots of people, a couple of thousand clients, business owners, self-employed people, so I used to spend my days advising these people on their own finances and financial planning,” O’Regan said.

“Every week I would have been having meetings with people talking about how can they get out of their business, how can they retire, could they go and live in Portugal or whatever? All of the various dreams and aspirations that people have. And I had also seen over the years that virtually nobody actually manages to pull it off. Everyone talks about it, but virtually nobody pulls it off. You could simplistically say that’s down to financial means, but it’s actually probably not really. It’s probably more so down to just having the bravery.”

In terms of finding the money to start something new, O’Regan already had some reserves after selling Blackthorn Capital in 2019 to MMPI for an undisclosed sum. The sale provided him with a buffer to move onto something new, which he did with his wife Deirdre O’Connor, who was also a director in Blackthorn Capital.

“It was a decent amount of money, but it wasn’t an amount of money that one could never work again. I mean, we want to work anyway. We like work,” said O’Regan.


O’Regan had some ideas about what his next project would be after Blackthorn Capital. His first idea was to buy a share in someone else’s business, but, after a lot of due diligence, it didn’t work out. So, he went with his second idea: candles.

“I was attracted to having an online business. So, I was looking at a lot of different ideas of what would actually be a good online business. And eventually, that landed us on the candles,” he said.

“Candles are an interesting product in that they’re quite a good gift product. You might see them as a winter product but they are a good gift product as well. Like Irish whiskey and so on I see that as a very strong gift type product.”

After months of planning their new venture over the course of the first and second lockdowns and converting their TV room into a candle laboratory, O’Regan and O’Connor launched Put Your Feet Up Candles on October 2, 2020. The business now has six employees.

“As we were going into June/July 2020, we knew that if we were going to kick off, that winter is a big time and if we could get into the Q4 market, it was critical,” said O’Regan.

“We were working 20 hours a day in the run-up to all of that and to get out there. And that all proved very helpful because we then caught the wave of the huge ‘support Irish’ push.”

A selection of candles from Put Your Feet Up

The candles come in three sizes and are priced from €15. They are made from natural wax and come in a range of scents from honey and tobacco to driftwood and rock salt. They come in a rustic brown case, giving the product a more unisex look.

Most of the candles have been sold online since the company’s launch due to the shuttering of retail during the pandemic. O’Regan is in talks with some wholesalers which he wants to partner with once normality resumes.

“In terms of selling direct to consumer, we’ve done well. We’ve sold, many, many tens of thousands of candles,” said O’Regan.

“I would hope that we would eventually get ourselves, for example, onto the Aer Lingus planes, all that kind of stuff as the world returns to normal. We’ve had a number of enquiries from abroad. So, again, in time we hope to have a fair bit of export going on. We’re obviously exporting individual transactions, but we hope to develop the export side as things open up.”


Launching a business from scratch can be difficult but launching one during a pandemic brings about new obstacles as well, O’Regan found out.

“What’s a little bit different about starting a business in a pandemic is this is far less predictable than starting a business in normal times. You’re obviously funding all of that because you have to think a number of months ahead,” said O’Regan.

Brexit has also been a challenge as the business needed to receive a UK Vat number in order to sell the candles in the UK. O’Regan filed for the number in October 2020 and only received it in March 2021.

Although he does want to grow the export side of the business, O’Regan wants to focus on the Irish market, which means he is less likely to need funding from investors.

“We’ll plough our own furrow. Because we sold the business, we, financially, are in a position to be able to do it ourselves. And unless you are really trying to go extremely large as an exporter and so on, I don’t see the need to bring in outside funds,” said O’Regan.