What a crazy 7 months it has been.
From the moment me and Chris decided that we'd start a natural and environmentally friendly candle company, based on products I'd been making for over a year, we finally arrived at our launch day on September 1st 2020, and it took us completely by surprise as we nearly sold out of products at our first event. Our stall was crowded and I'm glad we had 4 people working that day. If we hadn't sorted all the small things prior to launch, it could've been a disaster.
Me and Chris thought we'd share some of our little hints and tips we learnt along the way, turning this idea into a reality and being truly ready for a small business launch and online business days going forward.
The Product: We already had the product. I'd been making essential oil soy wax candles for just over a year. We use them in the house and were also giving them away to friends and family. So actually coming up with something to start a small business with was already sat on our coffee table. I love making them and we'd already had great reviews from everyone who had tried them.
Don't rush into a product that might appear to be great seller, but you know nothing about. Have some experience and knowledge about what you're going to sell and make sure you're passionate about it. There's nothing worse than a customer asking a question you can't answer or running into a product problem you don't know how to deal with. It can be very, very costly and very embarrassing. We had a myriad of questions on launch day and we were in a well educated position when it came to our products, able to answer all of them confidently. Some local candlemakers even went away with some atmospheric and temperature advice from us for a product of theirs that would not cure correctly.
Company Name: We got the whole family involved in creating a company name. We sat one morning, (me, Chris, and our 2 children Josh and Alice) around the dining table and threw names at each other all morning. Nothing clicked. Chris was adamant that he wanted the word 'calm' in the title, as that's how the products made him feel when he used them. It was actually Josh who shouted the name at Chris while he was playing Minecraft (Josh was playing it, not Chris lol). We fell in love with the name immediately but slept on it for a few days before deciding to adopt it. Try not to rush when deciding a name for your start-up. We know how exciting can things can get when you decide to make the leap, but make sure you're 100% happy with the name. Sleep on it for a few days before confirming, as it will be part of your company's image going forward. A company name is almost like having a tattoo!
Branding: Having the name we loved was great, but how could we translate it into a logo or brand. It had to carry the same tones. This was another 'round the table' session, and whilst Josh was suggesting pictures of Minecraft and Alice was demanding images of unicorns, they both had something well worth listening to. They wanted to see what they liked on the branding. We shuffled that over to our potential customers and thought about our product. Our targeted customers would hopefully be after some naturally scented candles. Flame and Flora. Essential oils are pure, natural oils derived from flowers, herbs, bark, wood, grass, fruits and vegetables. Even the soy wax is plant based wax, so we had to have the flower in there. Then the rest was obvious, the candle light, inside which we placed the flower and thus became an icon which now adorns our hand-written company logo.
It all started to fall into place. Don't be shy or scared of new ideas or suggestions. We had a few new aspects of the company created during the branding phase, that did not exist at that time. We decided to become as eco-friendly as possible and go plastic free during these discussions and we also created the Glow n' Grow initiative, where you can grow kitchen herbs with seeded paper that we would provide with our candles. This was to encourage candle jar reuse.
Marketing: How on earth, without a small fortune, does anybody get this right? I've watched a million videos on YouTube about backlinking, SEO, social media, listings, branded content etc. and just felt like I was in a sales pitch every single time. So, we stopped listening to sales pitches and started with the basics.
- Email: We secured our own company email address to engage professionally with our suppliers and customers. Nobody likes to buy from an online store with a public email address. Suppliers won't even take you seriously. Get rid of that 'hotmail' or 'Gmail' and get a company branded email address and create a nice professional signature block for your emails. We even abandoned a very important buy recently because the wholesaler had a 'Gmail' account as the primary contact email.
- Social Media: As soon as we had our own private email, we jumped onto all of the social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. and secured our names. We weren't using the platforms at this stage, but the last thing you want is the early bird catching the worm and your social media preferred usernames being taken. This happens a lot apparently?
- Business Name Registration: We took the time to register the company name at Companies House, even though we weren't trading at that time. It would save a lot of heartache if later we jumped on the site to register CandleCalm, only to find out it had been taken. In fact, make this a part of your business name selection process. It's relatively cheap at around £12 and very easy to do.
- Domain Name Registration: It became very apparent later on, that the more time you give yourself to start laying the foundations of your website, the better it will look when you're ready to go live and it will free up a hell of a lot of time for the other crazy things that happen just before a launch date. We purchased our domain name the same day as we decided to launch a company, even though we knew it would months away from going live. I've come across many stories where business ideas and names are leaked, only then for the poor business-starters to go and begin all of the above administration to find out that their company domain name has recently been registered and all social media accounts have been taken and are lying dormant. People literally hold new names to ransom and demand stupid amounts of money to free up the name for use.
- Opening a Business Bank Account: I was told I was doing this too early, but I'm so, so happy I did it when I did! This took over 8 weeks to achieve due to the pandemic and our bank account went live 2 days before our launch event. It was nail biting stuff, as we had all of our contactless payment modules linked to this account. They're free to set up and most banks will only start the account fees a year or 2 after trading. Why wait?
With the above in place, we were pretty much committed and secured, and so we pushed forward with even a bit more passion and aggression than before. Things become visual, you can see and touch them, your idea is coming to life and it's a great feeling.
Apart from the products part, the above can be achieved for well below £100 and it gives you so much breathing space to deal with the more important things when you go live.
Oh, and one last thing! If you're going to announce a launch date, make sure you can 100% meet it on time. Add a month or so on top of your planned date and give yourself breathing space. The last thing you want is a long list of pre-launch subscribers being upset at you before you've even had a chance to put your product in front of them.
If you're going for it, we'd like to give you our very best wishes. Be passionate, be confident and never be afraid of failure for it is not fatal!