I have never worked so hard on a new product than I did for my recently launched soy candle making kits. It was a moment of euphoria and genuine anxiety as I pushed the share button on my iPhone and let them out into the world last month.
I launched them on Friday the 27th September at 6pm. The date is forever etched in my mind as it took me over 8 months of blood, sweat and tears, happiness and sheer joy to get them to the point of the launch.
I have learnt so much over this time, from working with new creative colleagues and businesses, to learning about POS (point of sale) retail signs to the smallest detail on a thank you card.
So I would love to share with you a few things I have learnt from launching a new product as a growing small creative business.
There Is No Manual
Before I started Hazel & Blue I worked as a Nurse for most of my adult career and subsequently when learning a new procedure or a skill, I automatically look for some written guidelines to use which is normally based on expert high quality research. However in a small independent business, there is no such guidelines or manual to adhere to or work with. When working for yourself, you are on your own and are left to navigate and learn new skills independently.
There is something very energising about this though. Any new skills you learn are entirely on your own basis and own path that you choose. The down side is, you have to research a lot and filter out the noise till you get to the good stuff you need, and even then there is no right way to do it.
Some days during the last 8 months, I wish there was a 'Launch a New Handmade Product Manual' out there! That may be a future business idea for me and someone out there somewhere....a joint project maybe?
Outsource as much as you can
I would say in my experience there are two types of launches for a small handmade product based business. Low level and high level. A low level launch I would describe as launching a new handmade business, a new seasonal candle coming out etc. A high level would be more like a new website launch, new branding, a brand new collection, or a brand new product. I have had experience of the both, having launched my Hazel & Blue as a side hustle in 2017 and a website and new collection in 2018.
However I have never had experience of launching a new product having invested so much blood, sweat and tears in as much as I have had for the soy candle making kits.
I suspected that the kits were something that my customers liked as when I launched the first edition kits in April 2019, they were popular with my customers and had a great response both verbally and in actual sales.
However I knew they could be better. I wanted to design and create a product that I could see in in big online stores and in bigger retail shops, that was my dream. I knew I had the basis of a good product, but it needed to look better, feel better and be better.
It was time to invest.
I knew I wanted to work with someone who had retail experience as well as product development, as I was lucky enough to be recommended by Therese Ortenblad to the lovely Joanne Griffin from Arnold & Bird, who not only had previously worked in Not on the High Street but had experience in product development.
Joanne helped me to work out what the kits would do, who they be aimed for and what they would look like as well as directing me to think about them in a much more customer and retail focus. working with Joanne really helped me focus on the retail and aesthetic look of the kits and was fundamental in the both the branding and the design. This was one of the best investments I made and worth every penny!
I also wanted the kits to look the best they could and although I love taking photos, here in my make shift photography studio, in my office, they wouldn't look nearly as good as a professional photography would be able do.
I knew immediately who I wanted to use - Georgia De Lotz. Georgia De Lotz is a Bristol based styled based photographer and social media creator and I was lucky enough to previously work with her on her 'Capture my brand' campaign in 2018. Georgia did the most amazing photos of the kits and understand my brief perfectly, and when I received the kit photos from her, I think I cried because I was so happy with them and couldn't believe they could look so professional. This was another brilliant investment I made for the launch of the kits.
Design your product through your customers eyes
Detail, detail, detail. It was all about the detail and everything that would go into the kits was thoroughly analysed and picked apart. Every component had to fit into my four key non-negotiable components, they had to be:
Eco friendly and sustainable
Ethically and UK sourced
I spend days looking at each of the individual kit components from the size of the labels on the essential oil bottles, the texture of the paper for the thank you cards, to the right sized eco friendly cotton wicks. I tested and tested each one vigorously until I was satisfied and it felt right. I remember the last thing I worked on was the kit box sleeves and spend a much longer time than anticipated finding the right printing company to print them on the glossy paper that they needed. (in the end I used my local printers who where so brilliant and made them look so amazing!)
Marketing and Social Media (the long game)
This was one area, I really wished there was a manual. There was so much to consider/to put into action when thinking about marketing a new product launch. I scoured the internet, listened to several podcasts, social media experts and Facebook groups to find some/any advice on what to do when launching a new product. Thankfully along the way I picked up some really useful tips and advice to put into place.
The most useful thing I took away and put into place was to start talking about and showing the development of the kits behind the scenes, in my posts, in stories on Instagram, and in my monthly Hazel & Blue newsletters. I also found setting a date and then announcing it on social media, gave me a goal to work towards and provided me with the accountability I needed.
I also wanted to gauge if there was any interest in the kits, so talking about them behind the scenes gave my customers an opportunity to respond and let me know what they thought. This was so beneficial and really gave me a boost when I needed it.
The last thing I wanted to do was offer a discount or a special offer to customers who generously offered to purchase a kit during the launch and so I offered free shipping to everyone who pre-ordered.
On the eve of the launch I actually felt sick with nerves mixed with excitement. I was petrified that the launch would fail and nobody would like them, or buy one. The fear was real.
I strategically set the launch time for 6pm on a Friday, keeping myself busy and distracted all day so I wouldn't fret. As the minutes lead up to 6pm, I knew I had to take my Daughter to her ballet lesson just before 6pm and by the time I got back, I had minutes left to hit share on my Instagram post, so with sweaty palms and a huge amount of nerves, I hit share at 6pm. It was now in the hands of the universe.
I need not have worried because after I hit send, I had the biggest amount of orders online I have ever had. I was ecstatic, in a state of euphoria and beaming from ear to ear, but most of all I had a huge sense of pride and relief. 8 months of planning, creating, designing, working and I had done it!
Self Care After The Launch
Ask anyone after they have launched a new product, whether it is product or service based, and they will tell you it’s exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, the euphoria afterwards is second to none, and you will hopefully have a good outcome. However, be prepared to be emotionally and mentally spent afterward.
It’s really important to factor in some much needed self care after the launch, perhaps a day or two off, a day trip somewhere nice, or treat yourself to something for you e.g buy that dress you’ve had your eye on. Josephine Brooks 'Make it Happen' Mentor advocates this a lot and messaged me soon after with these exact words. So I had a few days off a week later and brought a new Boden dress! It’s really important to celebrate your achievements whether you hit your targets or not, because afterwards you need to pick yourself up and move on to the next thing.
I am so proud of the kits and I really couldn't have done it without the help of so many other experts around me. Some times I pinch myself when I look at them and can't believe that I actually created them. But I know the proof will be in the pudding, my customers will tell me, and the sales will dictate the overall success of them, I am under no illusion. However for now I am going to celebrate the launch, because as someone very wise once told me (Fiona Barrows) 'Just launching anything is a success in itself.' And this my dear readers is the truth.
As a special thank you for reading my Kit launch post here is a discount for FREE SHIPPING if you fancy purchasing a kit for yourself! Use KITLOVE at the checkout here www.hazelandbluecandles.co.uk/store