This is a follow up story for Vintage Vegan Candle Co. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Adam and I am the founder of Vintage Vegan Candle Co. We create travel-inspired candles and diffusers as well as candle accessories.
My original Starter Story interview can be found here.
Each candle and diffuser is named after a country and comes wrapped in a vintage newspaper. Our collection of newspapers ranges from the 1920s to the 1980s to offer the customer a unique shopping experience.
Our revenue has increased by 631% year on year as we now offer wholesale and have a strong returning customer base.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
The business has become busy enough to allow my partner to work full time on it.
Since we launched on wholesale platforms, we are now stocked in 35 stores across Europe and North America, including Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Spain, to name a few. We work with Faire, Ankorstore, Creoate & Orderchamp.
The process is simple, you sign up for each company and once you are approved you can upload your product catalog. Some wholesalers allow you to link your account to Shopify and the products can be imported across.
Each company takes between 20% - 25% of the first customer order, however, they do pay for shipping and there are various opportunities to refer brands and get 100% of the commission. The percentage taken by the wholesale company decreases from the second order onwards.
In terms of growing our customer base through social media, we have continued to run competitions and promotions across Facebook and Instagram. We have found Instagram to be the most effective in driving traffic to our website.
We create an image on Canva with full details of each competition in one image. The entrant usually has to tag 3 friends, share the post to their story, and like the image. We then pay for the post to be promoted, usually around £20. When people see the image on Instagram they immediately know that it is a competition.
This usually generates around 2000 - 4000 impressions on our Instagram and gains us, new followers. If one new follower eventually makes a purchase then the competition has been worth it.
In quieter periods, we use Instagram ads and we always use “Etsy ads”. Etsy ads boost the product up the Etsy search engine. This is sometimes vital when selling a product that is frequently sold on the platform.
There are thousands of candle brands on Etsy so the advertising helps generate more views. The return in revenue on Etsy has been worth the advertising costs for us due to the platform being so saturated with other candle brands.
We have also recently offered new customers discounts on their second order to encourage future purchases and this has been working well.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
We are trading through challenging times. Our main customer base is in the UK where we are currently experiencing a cost of living crisis.
People are spending less money in general, and this has had an impact on our online sales and at our local markets. We decided to rebrand the products to incorporate travel and countries into the designs to make the product more unique and stand out from other candle brands.
This has also encouraged people who do want to buy a gift for someone to come to us as different countries have different sentiments toward people and their loved ones. We have also begun offering discounts on products to our customer base to encourage sales but are careful not to cheapen the brand too much.
As we enter into autumn, candle season, and Christmas we are anticipating a big increase in sales which will alleviate any anxieties we have now with everything going on.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Once you find your niche, work on expanding that. If you know something sells, then sell it, and don’t keep coming up with new designs that might not fit your brand.
We are always trying to create new products that are sometimes not on brand. Our range of candles people love is the amber jar, vintage-looking designs shown in the photos, however, sometimes we go off track with new ideas that just don’t work.
For example, for the Queen's jubilee, we released a red, white, and blue candle with a retro image of the queen's head on it. On paper, this was a great idea, however, when we launched this in markets, people were more interested in our amber designs.
The jubilee has now passed and we are now stuck with a large amount of these candles!
We have learned to focus on what we know sells well and what our customers want.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
The long-term plan is to rebrand ‘Vintage Vegan Candle Co’ to ‘Vintage Vegan’ and expand the business to other products, not just candles.
We are looking at creating a range (keeping with the amber designs) of room sprays, beard oils, soaps, and other eco-friendly products. We initially launched the business as ‘Bamboo Valley’ selling bamboo cotton buds and toothbrushes and this would also fit into the business structure we are looking to create.
We also want to expand our wholesale opportunities and spend more time promoting this side of the business. Although we are listed on a few wholesale platforms, we have not spent much time on this.
In terms of the range of candles and diffusers, we plan to expand on the travel range and offer continental gift boxes containing various candles from a specific continent along with incense and a diffuser.
We have also found that personalized products sell better on Etsy, so we want to launch some new gifting ideas across that platform.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
The advice that I took with me at the beginning is ‘Why to reinvent the wheel when you can find ways to change and improve it’.
When we began thinking of a business idea we were looking at new innovative ideas that might sell, however, this comes with risk. Why create a new idea that might not sell, when you can adapt an idea that has been proven to sell for decades?
We knew that candles are a huge market so it was finding a way to create a product that won’t get lost in the shuffle. It is about finding a niche with your product no matter how many other people sell it. With the candles, our unique spin is the vintage newspapers.
There are millions of candle brands, but there are not millions of candle brands that wrap their products in old newspaper articles. It is small touches like this that may encourage someone to buy from us rather than another brand.
As I mentioned earlier, once you find your niche, then work on expanding that. If you know something sells, then sell it, and don’t keep coming up with new designs that might not fit your brand.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you would like to learn more then please visit our website. It contains some information on how we launched this business in the middle of the pandemic and why.
Also, give us a follow on Instagram and get in touch, we would love to hear from people! Here you can also see photos from the markets we trade at and the beginnings of some puppy spam (we have just got a rescue dog.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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