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Mum’s hobby to help with brain injury now a thriving employer in Ballymena

Shauna and Declan O'Neill, with their daughter Ellie at the new expanded showroom.

Breathing new life into pre-loved furniture has remained the focus of the Ballymena based Chique Unique from the days when the thriving family business was merely a welcome outlet for Shauna O’Neill’s rehabilitation after she suffered a major brain injury caused by meningitis.

Mum of three Shauna took to restoring and painting items of furniture bought in charity shops as a way of keeping her mind busy, never thinking that, one day, her ‘hobby’ would become a successful company which, in the last year, has expanded to new premises and whose workforce is growing month on month.

As the business evolved, Shauna and husband Declan saw a potential in the kitchen refurb market.

Eventually Declan left his full-time job of 14 years to join the business, and the couple now offer the full kitchen makeover including painting, worktops, modifications and much more.

Orders for Chique Unique’s highly sought after kitchen respraying service come in from all over Ireland and such is the level of demand for that particular aspect of their expertise, it is all hands to the deck for Shauna, her husband Declan, and their team of craftsmen.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Business Client Manager, Ally McGarry, with the Chique Unique team.

The local firm is one of the success stories which has benefited from mentoring and specialist business advice under Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Business Escalator and Escalator Plus Programmes – which are part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

Council’s Business Client Manager, Ally McGarry, initially made contact with Declan and Shauna to assess the type of support the business would benefit from, including mentoring and help with social media content and marketing.

This resulted in an immediate increase in the number of requests for quotes and enquiries, which, in turn, led to more sales.

Shauna, who was then supported with Financial Management mentoring, in order to plan for the future, encourages other local businesses to avail of the support available from the council.

“The help for growing businesses was something we were not aware of until we were contacted by Ally. We discussed with him issues that we had within our business such as organisation, delegation and knowledge of social media and targeting our potential customers.

“We signed up to the Business Escalator Programme and received support on the use of social media and creating posts to reach our target market. This programme helped us immensely.

“We feel much more competent using Facebook and Instagram. Our posts have created more engagement with our target market and we have benefited from a massive increase in the number of followers.

“Following this success, we were eager to see what other support was on offer to assist us with the day to day running of our business. We got assigned another mentor to help with Financial Management and Accounts.

“This helped us deal with the high volume of enquiries and demand for quotes more efficiently and we also looked at the use of spreadsheets to prepare our yearly accounts. We tweaked the systems we already had in place, which enabled us to reduce the time and paperwork previously spent preparing our accounts using Microsoft Excel, something we were never competent in using before.

“The mentors were so supportive and helpful throughout every stage of the programme. From the first contact with them, we discussed any issues we felt we had and required help with and they came back to us with recommendations and valuable advice. They worked alongside us and supported us, helping us put these plans into place and continually followed up with us to ensure they were working well.

“Our business has continued to grow and we are delighted to be in the position to recruit more staff. We have also secured new contracts which will take our business to another level and are confident that the knowledge and skills we acquired through the programmes will enable us to service these contracts successfully and continue to expand our ever-growing business.”

Chique Unique are currently looking to increase the workforce to meet the large demand for their services and currently have opportunities open for fitters, sprayers and a joiner.

If interested please contact Shauna by email at:

To find out more about the support available to your business and how to access free mentoring make an enquiry today via:


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