Jo is the founder of Clement & Claude, which makes and distributes 100% pure soy wax candles that are hand poured in South West London. Having always been passionate about candles, she noticed how expensive they had become over the years. Then one day, she decided to make her own. After learning to pour candles and developing her branding for six months, she sold her first candles in September 2014. She operated the business out of her garage in Wimbledon for over a year before recently securing a dedicated workshop.
To date, Jo has sold over 1,600 candles, with revenues for the 2015 Christmas holiday period rising more than 50% over the prior year. While much of the growth has come through word of mouth (she has mainly marketed through social media), she current sells through 14 online and physical retailers. She also sells regularly at craft markets. One of her candles was featured in the Country Homes & Interiors magazine and was featured in a national television ad from British retailer, Bathstore.
Note: I was introduced to Jo by a great friend who works with her at her day job at McKinsey. Upon telling my friend, Patrik, a classmate from school, about The 10% Entrepreneur, he smiled and said “You must meet Joanna.” We grabbed coffee a few months later and she told me her story. I’ve got one of her candles in my apartment in New York and I can attest to the fact that she’s got a very special product on her hands.
What is your day job? If you’ve left that job, for how long did you maintain both a day job and your 10% endeavour?
I work as an Executive Assistant and also manage Corporate Hospitality at McKinsey & Company.
What was your inspiration for launching your company?
Firstly, I’ve always LOVED candles. I have treasured them as such a special and comforting treat but I also felt that most were either of cheap quality or were far too expensive. When my boyfriend suggested that I make one after complaining to him one day in a store, I immediately researched online and I was melting wax by the following day. Secondly, I loved the idea of having my own project that allowed me to be flexible and creative.
Why do you think your business is a good idea?
I provide an attractive and high-quality product at an affordable and attainable price range. Candles can be offered as a gift for all occasions – birthdays, Christmas, housewarmings, Mothers Day, Valentines Day, thank you presents… the list is endless. You can’t go wrong with candles, especially if they’re not ridiculously priced yet maintain a high-end feel.
What convinced you that you could succeed – why were you the right person to start and manage this business? What gave you the confidence to actually try and go for it?
I am very organised and work very quickly and systematically, so I didn’t doubt the organizational side of things. Equally, I didn’t really question if I could manage a business, because I didn’t really plan for it to be a business, just simply a project or hobby! Then when I realised that people liked the candles and wanted more, I decided to go for it and ordered big bulks of all of the materials. I don’t stress that easily and am a bit of a risk-taker so it felt like an easy decision to take it to the next step and launch a business!
How does this particular business idea fit within your life and who you are?
One of the nicest things about selling candles is that my main market is young professionals, aged 24 to 38 years old. This means that I’m targeting people like me and my group of friends. That also meant that my network offered the best way to get the product out there initially. I took my candles to friends’ houses, dinner parties, back home to my family, and to my workplace, all of which provided great ways to get the word out there and to solicit advice and opinions on branding and scents.
What have you invested in your company?
I’ve probably invested fifteen hours per week over the last 18 months. In terms of capital, I have invested over £20,000 and I have generated a profit thus far.
In what ways does this business play to your strengths?
I am very organised and efficient. With busy weeks of orders, market prepping, managing supplier orders, and delivering online shop orders, you need to be organised! I am also quite confident and happy to talk to anyone, which has helped me to find new places to sell and to establish partnerships.
How have the people at your day job been helpful (if they have) or encouraged you?
My company has been supportive, allowing me to work from home one day a week so that I can oversee deliveries and collections. They also let me sell my candles on a stall in the office restaurant around Christmas time. I have had a colleague, Rory who has worked with me on my financial planning and business plan, which has been hugely helpful.
What has been the biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge so far has been that the whole process can be lonely. Even though I have friends and family listening to my problems and offering advice, at the end of the day the responsibility falls on my shoulders. I like to talk over and analyse everything, so it’s hard when I have no one who is as invested or cares 100% as much as I do. I am slowly learning to deal with this and have recently moved from my garage to a studio which I will be sharing with an artist. The studio has lots of other makers and designers in the building, so already this will be nice having people around me when I’m there. The long-term goal will then be to have someone help me with all parts of the business and hopefully this person will be as excited as I am!
What are your top tips for managing time?
Planning ahead. I am a huge forward-planner and I’m constantly making plans and working out logistics in my head to keep me sane. I diarize everything and conservatively estimate how much time I will need to carry out a task. This generally helps with stress levels.
Who have you gone to for advice and what you do when you need help?
Mainly friends and family. I have a friend in particular, Elly, who because of her job, has strong marketing skills, so I bug her quite a lot and she acts as a kind unofficial advisor. Other friends have helped me sell at craft markets and I pay them in food and candles – so far they are still keen! Otherwise it is my boyfriend, Sam, who generally acts as my sounding board most days.
What do you see happening in the future?
I have just launched my online shop which is really exciting so hopefully that will get busier and busier. I also want to get more and more shops to stock C&C around the UK. Eventually, I’d like to work part time so I can focus on the candles at least two days a week, but I can’t see myself ever running my company full-time as I like the office environment and the stability and security that comes with it.
What books and blogs have you read and that have been helpful to you (if any)?
My boss at McKinsey very kindly gave me a few entrepreneurship and business plan books for Christmas. The first one I read was ‘Entrepreneurship – A Practical Guide’ by Alison & David Price which was really interesting and useful. I also try and regularly read the articles on The Guardian’s ‘Small Business Network’ feed for inspiration. I follow blogs from fellow designers and lastly I have recently started reading the Etsy blog which is full of interesting bits and bobs.
Anything funny, crazy, particularly memorable you haven’t mentioned?
Coming across my candle on the Bathstore advert whilst watching TV… I had no idea they were going to use it!