SHOP THE SQUARES MEETS THE BRANDS
Welcome to our meet the brands series of blog posts, where we take you behind the scenes to meet the makers and small brand owners that make Shop The Squares possible.
1. What made you decide to start your business?
Well, I’ve always been a candle obsessive! Like many women (and men) I just love when you enter a space and it smells special. I was having lunch on a beautiful summers day a couple of years ago outside at our local pub and I met a friend of a friend who started to tell me how she made candles from her kitchen in the Cotswolds. One thing led to the other and I ended up spending a great day with her learning all her skills- that was the start of it for me- a hobby that developed into my business.
After working as an international buyer for an accessories company for 15 years the time was right to branch out on my own and create something I was passionate about and somewhere I could channel my creative flair – Brown & Drury. I learnt a lot about sourcing during my time as a buyer, which has helped me tremendously on my candle journey! I have to think months ahead and forecast what volumes I think I will sell, so I can place the orders for my various jars, wax etc in volume to get the best prices.
2. What was the hardest thing about getting started?
I was lucky enough to have a friend who was a photographer and another who ran an interiors shop so I was able to sell a few candles through her in the beginning, so that gave me the confidence to take it further.
It took a while for momentum to build but that first order was a major moment for me. I always had family and friends who loved my scents but getting that first order was a really amazing feeling.
3. Describe a typical day
That’s a difficult question! Each day is different and also depends on how much pressure you put on yourself. My goals can change from one week to the next, and as a growing business it’s difficult to say no to any opportunities. However, I wouldn’t change it, as being your own boss is the best feeling in the world. For anyone thinking about it, I’d just say go for it, however don’t forget to do your market research first.
4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about setting up his/her own small business?
Customer service is key! People will always remember you for this plus uniqueness. I get so many questions about some scented fir cones I put in the delivery when I send packages out…customers love the quirkiness and ask what the scent is and this leads to further orders.
Do your research! Find out as much as possible about your market place before you dive in and find your niche. Always be original and truly believe in what you are doing. If you can work from home that is a huge bonus as it saves so much money, plus always, always listen to your customers.
5. How important is social media to your business?
To begin with I could have done with a beginners guide to social media! When I discovered Instagram, I didn’t have a web site and found people were really interested in buying from me! So, from there I set a Shopify site. I’m not technically minded, so I have to say it took a lot longer that I would have liked, but I got there!
The most difficult part for me was trying to get people to my web site. I knew this could be done through social media – I met an old business colleague who started 12 months before me designing & selling jewellery (@sorujewellery) and she was making such a success of it she now sells to the Duchess of Cornwall, so I knew that it really was possible! Once my website was set up it only took a few days until I received my first order which was solely down to Instagram.
6. What’s your current challenge?
My current objective is getting into more small independent retailers- this is a challenge in itself. I’ve managed successfully to get into many throughout Warwickshire, but now I need to expand… wish me luck!
I would also say that going from years working with a team, bouncing ideas about, working to budgets to working entirely on my own has been a challenge. You have to learn to stay focused and believe in what you are doing.
7. How is your work/life balance?
I literally started melting wax at my Aga! Now I have two rooms at home. One is the production area where I have a large melter for the wax, and the other is my office which also acts as dispatch (literally full of boxes, candles & diffusers!)
The thing I enjoy most is being my own boss. The flexibility of being able to work around family is priceless. I can suit myself when to take holidays, when to meet friends for coffee and especially when I can take my lab Ruby for a walk! However, the thing that gives me the biggest thrill is getting such lovely feedback from customers! I love seeing how they style their candles on Instagram and when I get personal messages it brings a huge smile to my face.
8. Where do you find your inspiration?
I’ve always thought there was something beautiful about candlelight. It creates an ambiance whether relaxing on a winters evening, creating a chilled out atmosphere with friends or simply enjoying your favourite scent. That’s why I was inspired to learn the art of candle making and start creating my own scents.
I’m originally from Scotland but settled in Warwickshire where I live with my family and Ruby our black lab, but my celtic roots have never been far from my heart as you can see in my logo! The name Brown is a tribute to my Mother’s maiden name and Drury is my family name.