2019 felt like a year of figuring things out and testing the waters, it also felt like a year of firsts and some key milestones achieved in the business. After the Kit launch in September, and the mad rush of the festive period, Christmas markets, six candle making workshops over 6 weeks and wholesale orders, the end of the year felt like a bit of whirlwind! But this wasn’t always the case....
This last year fell into three different phases,the quiet, the planning and the busy, with each one having its own highs and lows and learning in it and here’s why:
The Quiet - January to March
At the beginning of the year, things were initially busy and I had a couple of new wholesale orders to keep me busy, sales weren’t high in my online shop. I had a few workshops planned and a new increase in wholesale orders to keep me busy. The problem was, that once I had completed the order or workshop, it was quiet, and I wasn’t used to it. In all of the employed roles I have ever had, I have been busy, or keep busy, or made myself busy. I was used to be busy.
Busy can mean likes of things to different people, you can be busy doing not much at all, but for me busy was doing something or many things consistently for the duration of my work hours. I would have several tasks to complete and I would complete it as efficiently as I could. I liked been busy, it was one of my skills to multi task effectively.
So when I had finished my task or order, I suddenly had this big gap of time which I wasn’t used to, and therefore didn’t know to how to fill it. I wasn’t used to not been busy. I also on reflection, didn’t have the knowledge or experience of realising that this free time in quieter periods is a brilliant time, to plan, to develop and to re-charge.
I would also say, that when you are first establishing a business, you are probably not at the stage to be busy, because you do not have the client base, the customer demand or the growth in order for you need to be busy. I know there are always exceptions to the rules, but certainly in my case this was the reality.
When I spoke to Josephine Brooks on her podcast in March, I was trying to articulate in our session, this exact dilemma, that I found myself to have this big gap of time which I was frankly quite uncomfortable with and felt a bit lost. After our session I learnt that I needed to switch things around. I needed to understand the flow of a seasonal business and its peaks and troughs, and to use my time wisely. I also had to learn that in this quieter times, you had the space now to plan, to think and to develop products and to adopt some self care. I didn’t see this as been busy, because I wasn’t used to it, I do now and going forward, I feel that during the quieter times, is the time adopt some self care, re-charge and reflection, it is probably the most important time for you to grow the business.
Planning and and Developing - April to July
Soon after my chat with Josephine, I launched my first soy candle making kit, which ended up doing really well online. It was during this second phase that I started to make plans to develop the kits further, to make them more professional both visually and physically. I spent the next few months planning and developing the kits, both in design, sourcing new materials, marketing and social media.
I also tested and launched four new candle scents for the Spring and Summer and had planned my Autumn and Winter range.
Developing products takes time, and is incredibly effective when done probably. The detail in planning each component is significant and involves a lot of brain space and testing. I learnt a huge amount during this phase and found the process to be both inspiring and a lot of headaches, you also need to be patient, as it can take a long time to do.
Busy - August to December
In the Autumn everything went a bit crazy, like one thing after another, and I spent the most time in the studio making during the whole year.
After the successful launch of the new soy candle making kit collection in September, I then spent alot of time, fulfilling and packing up orders. Sometimes during that period I would fleetingly think why didn’t I write book or make cards, because then I could package them quickly into a book wrap and send it on its way. With candles and the kits it’s not as easy, they are fragile and require extra care when posting, a lot of careful packaging and eco void fillers required. The kits also have 20 different elements to them, and each one can take up to an hour to complete. E.g Filling 20 wax bags takes approx 1 hour.
As orders picked up, my planning time diminished and I would spend most of my time, making in the studio, prepping the kits or packing and delivering.
I also had several wholesale orders to fulfill, and new stockists to honour, I spent a lot of October and November in the studio making, labelling and packing. I also spend time re ordering stock, putting stock away and keeping in touch with stockists.
In October and November I ran 6 candle making workshops, with each one taking about day to prep for, drive to and from and deliver the workshop. I love teaching the workshops and find so much joy doing them, and interacting with customers and new people, this will defenitly be staying this year. Although I will probably reduce them to one each season this year.
By the beginning of December I was in the peak flow of attending local Christmas Markets and fairs, again another favourite thing to do as you have the opportunity to meet your existing customers and new customers. It’s a lovely way to interact and talk about your products outside of your own four walls.
It was all getting pretty busy, when I received the most exciting news of the year that I was to become a Not on the High Street partner! Things suddenly got real. I have never experienced an increase in orders as I did for those two weeks before Christmas last year.
It was unreal.
It was amazing and I was working 14 -16 hour days, 7 days a week to fulfill the orders.
I totally wasn’t prepared for the amount of orders to come through, but being an eternal ‘doer’ I keep going, called in help and managed to get every single order through. I was exhausted by the end of it, but couldn’t stop smiling. It was the best end to my year and I still had to pinch myself that I was a partner. I learnt quite a lot by the end of it.
So this is where my new word of the year comes in - Simplify
I want to simplify things this year. I want to make everything more efficient and more effective, by putting in better processes and procedures. I want to simplify my offer to you by continuing to make high quality, eco friendly apothecary products, but with more focus. I want to celebrate both the small and big things in the business and find joy in the simple. I want to make it uncomplicated. I also (finally) want to get a studio of my dreams!
I feel I am now at the stage of the business where I know where I want to go, the reasons why and hopefully how I am going to get there. Simplify feels like the right word for me this year and is something that I want to aspire to in the business.
I read a quote from Steve Jobs recently which said ‘That’s been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains’ This is so true as you can only make it simple if you know exactly what it is you want to do.
I am super excited about 2020 and what is in install for Hazel & Blue this year, I still have a lot to learn and do, and I will continue to listen to your feedback, create beautiful products with you and always keep you at the heart of Hazel & Blue.