src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2022/03/sixteen-miles-out-I8Lrm5rsoso-unsplash.jpg” alt=”From Etsy Store to Multimillion Dollar Candle Studio: How I Grew My Small Business”>
In 2013, I was thinking that selling candles on Etsy would be a side-job to my job as a graphic designer. Brooklyn Candle Studio is now a global company that produces over 500,000 candles per year. It has 20 employees in a 11,000-square-foot space. They also sell in over 500 shops worldwide.
Although I did not set out to be a global brand, it is the goal of many small business owners. These are the steps that helped me scale up my company, as well as some things I wish I would have done differently.
1. Try to appear more legitimate than you feel
My biggest asset in gaining early traction was that I appeared like a major brand before I was one. From the beginning, I was serious about my online presence. This included professional graphic design, engaging descriptions, product photography, and beautiful packaging. This strategy included a highly responsive customer service, even when I was working with one person. Buyers would be happy and recommend me to others.
Etsy featured my candles as a feature in their email newsletter. This was one of my first major breaks. It helped me to be taken seriously by early wholesale accounts.
Lucky for me, design was my first love and I could do everything on my own. If branding is not your forte, I recommend hiring someone to help you get it right from the beginning.
2. Be prepared to make investments before you feel ready
One thing I regret is not making large investments in my business sooner than I did. For example, I waited eight years to purchase an industrial wax melter. Even though it would have greatly helped us in terms of being more efficient and able to fill more orders faster, I bought one that was smaller than I should have. Another great example is trade shows. They are expensive, but it was worth the investment after four years of starting the business.
When I look back on every investment that I made to scale my business, it is obvious that I should have done it years ago. I was so cautious about taking on risk and wanted to be sure that we were ready before jumping in. It was a stressful strategy, which I now realize has caused me a lot of stress.
It’s unlikely that you will ever feel ready to invest in large-scale projects for your company. It’s a wise decision to take a calculated risk and have a plan in place for what might happen.
3. You can adapt to the market’s response
This is basic business advice.
My first range had candles that were brightly colored and one that was more minimalist. In-person markets showed that people were more interested in minimalist labels so I decided to change the line. We scaled by focusing on what is working. We were selling in major retailers and I decided to rebrand.
The beginning of anything, from narrowing down your product range to perfecting your marketing strategy to implementing it, is a lot of trial and error. You have to be willing to learn and adapt as you go. If you are putting yourself out there, and nothing seems to work, it’s time to reconsider. You might need to start over with your product. This is not an easy task, but it is essential if you want people to love your product.
4. Use your resources as best you can
Although I could list all of the marketing strategies that have helped us grow, things change so quickly that many of these strategies are no longer relevant. Participating in flash sales on sites such as Gilt was a major part of my growth. Today, however, it is more effective to invest in influencer marketing.
Instead, I recommend being resourceful in your search for the best avenues to get your product out there. Google University offers a wealth of information and forums. Ask small business owners at your stage, or just a few steps behind you, what has worked well for them. Ask your customer to tell you where they find new products.
You must be resourceful and not be afraid to ask for help. You’ll be out of your mind a lot. I can recall getting my first large order of wax, having to transport 50-pound boxes into my studio and working all night to complete it. It would have been much simpler to ask friends for help, or hire someone earlier.
Last but not least, believe in yourself and the potential to make something great. As I mentioned before, I didn’t imagine we would be where we are today. It took me a while to feel confident in my product. I was always waiting for failure, which prevented me from being as prepared for growth as I could have. You’ll feel inspired to work hard and take risks if you set your sights high.