Vision to Grow - by Iris Waller

Why I chose a Platform to bring my Business to the next Level

- By Iris Waller, .......

3 years ago I made the decision to take my hobby and passion one step further and make a business plan. Like many of you, I started to display my wares at Christmas markets, summer fetes and school fairs. I also attempted to sell via my home-made website, and I tried an online crafts and vintage market, all with mixed successes.

Let me introduce my products: I am a maker of scented luxury candles and linen sprays. They are not only luxurious however, they are marvellous for your mental and physical wellbeing: organic, toxin free, sourced ethically and scented with therapy grade essential oils - I am an aromatherapist and put a lot of thought into my scents. In the luxury candle market that is something that makes me stand out from the crowd, but it also means that I had to find my audience. Plus, in a saturated and highly competitive market I had to learn to price my candles competitively, while still making a profit.

So here are just some of the hurdles from my journey - you probably recognise them all:

Fairs and markets are fun. But to be honest, there are only so many weekends you can give up, and more often than not, it cost me more to be there, than I sold. School-fair mums had their pockets full of coins and where happy to part with 5-10 pounds to support another mum. My luxury candles were not well placed.

Shows with high traffic or venues that would lead to wholesale orders were simply out of my reach: a stand can easily cost £3000 a pop, plus travel and hotel costs. Not an option.

My own website was laboriously built by yours truly, but I had no idea how to get traffic. Almost 7 weeks spent to get the blooming shop working, and no sales, literally. No visits, apart from my besties, who always were very complimentary, but not paying customers.

Which brings me to the online crafts market; it already hosted 100eds of other makers who call their candles all-natural, and to fit in I slashed my prices, figuring that a little profit is better than no profit. I got loads of traffic. I started selling almost immediately, and at the end of the first month had a handsome sum in the early 3 digits. “This is going well” I thought. My business did not grow though - I was still about a third more expensive than most competitors.

I was lucky that an accountant friend of mine looked at my sales for me and pointed out that I actually was selling at or below cost price. I had not noticed because I was using existing stock, and up to then I did not actually really know how to read a spreadsheet.
Firstly, each listing was temporary and cost me - pennies, to be sure, but it added up to a substantial amount. Then he taught me to incorporate production time and not just material costs, packaging, and not forgetting breakage and refunds.

In addition to that we found a host of other costs hidden somewhere in my final payouts, and I made much, much less than I thought (this is why spread-sheet reading is a very important art form). If I wanted to have a business, there was no way I could compete with the other sellers. 

Most importantly, I learned this: I don’t need to. I have a unique product of outstanding quality, and my mission is wellbeing and kindness to our planet. Never try to fit in - you take your own edge away.

If you are a single entrepreneur, like me, you NEED a platform that has an audience. And I needed it to correspond with my business values. There are a number of online shopping fronts/markets in various sizes and with various missions, and I chose Inclusive Trade.

We are a perfect fit. Here is why

  • I love their mission. Everything on the site is ethical, high quality, connecting straight to the source and uses sustainable trade guidelines as set out by the United Nations.

  • I can manage my own shop which is hosted at super competitive prices, a fair commission structure and no hidden costs.

  • I run another business and chose the option to have my products shipped for me (with branded packaging materials, all beautifully wrapped), but you can also chose to do it yourself.
  • I tapped into a large audience of returning customers and started selling immediately.

  • My candles are represented at a host of relevant fairs with paying customers, leaving me time to develop more products, like my linen sprays. For a little extra I can be represented at large shows, such as Om Yoga, which was totally prohibitive for me before.

  • My brand gets promoted and recognised on social media.

  • I have the option to start selling to a wholesale market, and really grow - when I am ready.

    I am actually really proud that I got accepted to the site. Because it means that all my sourcing and authenticity is up to scratch. Inclusive Trade take their vetting seriously, and I know I am in good company.

    And since I am represented alongside other talented entrepreneurs to the right clientele, my products sell at a profitable value. If you are ready to take your business to the next level, I cannot recommend it more!.

1 comment

So delighted to hear your journey and experience Iris! It is such an inspiration for many independent entrepreneurs looking for options to grow while remaining sustainable!
Thanks so much for sharing!

Rupa September 08, 2020

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