Keep your team or employees happy. A little counter to the old statement of keep the customer happy, but if your team is happy, that’ll show through to the customers…ultimately keeping them happy.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eva Eckerblad & David Bronkie, Founders of Siblings
When Eva & David returned to the United States after living in Sweden for several years, some- thing didn’t feel right. It took them a while to put a finger on it: In Sweden, people take a lot of pride in designing their home. They use materials and buy products that are made to last. They invest in household items and rarely toss them out. Back home, in the U.S., they noticed the opposite. America has a throwaway culture.
They started Siblings because they strongly believe that this culture of wastefulness can be changed. They grew up on a farm outside of Buffalo, NY. They saw their mother compost before it was cool. They saw their dad build things with meticulous craftsmanship, things that were made to last. They saw an American family live sustainably, without compromising on the comforts that made us happy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I returned to the United States after living in Sweden for several years, something didn’t feel right. It took me a while to put my finger on it: In Sweden, people take a lot of pride in designing their home. They use materials and buy products that are made to last. They invest in household items and rarely toss them out. Back home, in the U.S., I noticed the opposite. America has a throwaway culture. I started Siblings with my brother, David (yes, we’re actual siblings!) because we strongly believe that this culture of wastefulness can be changed.
Tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
With a bootstrapped company, there are many challenges, but in particular a stressful one was keeping up with demand while working with large manufacturers. This creates stressful cash flow positions, and limits growth. You’re constantly juggling to keep supply up and keep customers happy.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
It comes back to the mission, at Siblings, we’re on a mission to tackle throwaway culture, and our first step is doing candles right — right by the environment, right by your home, right for your health. Knowing Siblings is trying to put forth a positive message keeps us moving forward.
How are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
The business is thriving, not just on a sales level, but on a customer satisfaction level. Seeing and hearing from happy customers is amazing. A lot of entrepreneurship is stubbornness… giving up is easy but challenging yourself and enjoying the small victories feels way better than accepting defeat, so you just trudge on.
Share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson did you learn from that?
Well, we almost burned up a few microwaves during the R&D phase. We spent a long time finding and developing the right packaging to fit our unique product.
We definitely learned what can’t go in the microwave.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
For as long as people have been using candles, they’ve been creating waste. It’s a problem that has only gotten worse over time.
Most candles are mass-produced using paraffin — a byproduct of petroleum; most tumblers never get reused or recycled — contributing to landfill; and an empty candle glass you toss out today can take up to a million years to break down.
We believe there’s a better, more sustainable way of doing candles.
At Siblings, we’re on a mission to tackle throwaway culture, and our first step is doing candles right — right by the environment, right by your home, right for your health.
Candles may be a small piece of the problem, but every step towards living more sustainably matters, and every Siblings candle — with its plant-based packaging and natural coconut blend wax — makes a difference.
We’ve had many reviews, and customer comments, but one that stands out is a user who tried the candle and reached out right away to tell us she was never going back to buying candles in glass vessels again. That was great to hear.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Ask for help, people are more willing to give it than you think. And find balance. Every day will be a new problem, they get solved, but they don’t go away, so find balance between the business and life. The best ideas for the business come from time spent away from the business.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Too many to mention without leaving someone out. We appreciate the people who said it can’t be done for giving us motivation, and the people who cheered us on for giving us hope.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It really does relate back to our mission and trying to bring better solutions to everyday essentials. In 2019, our founding year, we offset 83 tonnes of CO2 through projects working to protect and restore forests — the most valuable resource we have to combat climate change. We look forward to maintaining a net zero carbon footprint every year and will always be striving to make the most sustainable products possible.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- As cliche as it sounds, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon. Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight, its small victories done day in day out.
- Whatever you think you need for cash, double it. Everything usually ends up costing more than you anticipate.
- Think twice before spending that cash. Is there an alternative? There’s always a guerrilla tactic that rivals whatever you’re thinking of spending on.
- Keep your team or employees happy. A little counter to the old statement of keep the customer happy, but if your team is happy, that’ll show through to the customers…ultimately keeping them happy.
- Find balance. That walk in the woods, that time with family, it might just be what’s needed to help you solve the latest business challenge. Odd how that works.
Thank you for these great insights!