Generate Good Quality Content — top tips, how to guides, blogs, videos… focus on your content — it all helps with customer interaction. We aim to make it easy too — so once our customers have viewed the content they can click and add everything to the cart in one go. We know that the more quality content we produce the more sales we get on the back of it.
As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicky Story. As the CEO of Supplies For Candles and The Soap Kitchen — online suppliers of candle and soap making ingredients to a growing craft industry, Nicky is at the helm of the largest online company in Europe within the industry.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
At school I was an A-grade student but with little effort put in — I got the grades, but I didn’t push myself. My sister was super academic and went on to study law, I, on the contrary — did the bare minimum and was more interested in technology, playing games and learning basic coding, excel, image editing etc — which, in the long run helped greatly when I was setting up my businesses. I went on to study Business and Management at Leeds University and when I graduated in 2012, I set up Soap Suppliers Limited from my dad’s garage. However, four years in this business, I was getting nowhere — in those years I had made a loss of £3,000, I had no idea about e-commerce or marketing and made a ton of mistakes. It had taken me 4 years to build a business that was making no money at all. I was on my own, working in the freezing cold every day, with no support, I was just failing and I was so miserable because I thought, I’m meant to be successful and I felt like I had no purpose. Doctors gave me anti-depressants as I couldn’t even get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, my parents were so worried about me and I just felt like a failure. I really wanted to give up, I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed anymore to even pack a few orders in the garage. I didn’t want to do it anymore because whatever I did, didn’t work. Eventually, I had to get a job because he had no money, or motivation, and realised that my business, as it was then, wasn’t going anywhere so I ended up working as a Buyer for a manufacturing company in Leeds. Longing for my business to be a success, I still tried to run it on an evening and weekend whilst working full time, all the time being petrified of going back into my previous mental state.
With hindsight, I sees now that this one year experience in employment taught me how not to be — my boss wasn’t a great leader and lots of staff were unhappy and I remembers one day sat in the office looking at my previous boss thinking — ‘when I run my own multi-figure company — I will never act like you do or treat my staff like you do.’ However, what this job did do was enable me to save up £10,000 from my salary and I decided I had the confidence to take another shot at running my own business full time. Even after 4 years of failure, I knew I didn’t want to work for somebody else, I wanted to make a success of myself. So, the money that I had saved- which was originally for a deposit on a house, I invested into Supplies For Candles. I quit my job, bought some wax, glass and fragrance and I set that up company officially in February 2016. Only six months later things just started changing, sales started coming through and the next thing I know I needed a helping hand so I employed my best friend and everything just started going crazy.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
One of our acquisitions was rather interesting… it was just at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, The Soap Kitchen was an attractive purchase, not only because of its financial success, but because of its loyal customer base and strong reputation as one of the leading hand-made soap manufacturers and ingredients stockists in the UK. When I went to Devon, I soon realised that the previous owners hadn’t told the staff of the acquisition, who I was or anything about the purchase and there was no handover at all. So, when I showed up on site I was like, “Hi — I am the new owner!” Fortunately, this initial meeting went well and as we have continued to grow, there has been some real significant opportunities for the existing and new staff at The Soap Kitchen.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Over time, I have also surrounded myself with people who have the correct skillset — and that only comes with time and growing your network. I think it is vitally important to use people who have got similar experiences to you — so when I met John Leech, who had many successful business ventures from an early age, including running a jewellery making and craft suppliers, I asked if he would be my Business Adviser. I have worked with him over the past 2.5 years and he’s guided me from a small business to where we are today, he pops in everyday to see us at the factory. I play to other people’s strengths to help my decision making and guide my growth and expansion opportunities.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Muhammad Ali — don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
I have this quote in my gym and I think it’s a great motto to live by in life but also in business.
My message to other entrepreneurs is Keep Going! Business can be tough but it can also be incredible — I lost £3K in 4 years with my first business and I made £15 million+ in 5 years with my second business.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Supplies for Candles is a distributor of candle and soap making ingredients. Supplies for Candles primarily sells candle supplies for retail and wholesale across the UK and to micro businesses who manufacture their own candles, soaps and air fresheners which they then sell online. The Soap Kitchen — are suppliers of personal care and soap making ingredients. These companies allow people who are at home to set up their own enterprises easily whether that is a candle making business, a wax melt business or a home fragrance business –we are a one stop shop for advice, supplies and products — we fulfil their business needs and aim to make it a easier journey.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Without wanting to sound big-headed, a lot of it is down to me as a leader and my collaborative leadership style — the brand, values, culture and drive comes from me and all staff are on board with that.
I am passionate about ensuring staff are happy, that they have opportunities to feedback and also to progress and grow and that together we all ensure our customer care is exquisite in order to help them succeed and grow too.
When I set up Supplies For Candles, it was evident that there wasn’t a lot of information out there which I felt I could make use of when it came to the business side of operations. This is the reason why I’ve decided to curate content that is relevant and helpful with the aim to give back to the community by sharing my knowledge and know-how. I want to give others the tools to grow their own business to then to go on to write their own success story.
Being at the helm of the largest online company in Europe within the industry, we’ve been able to help thousands of others become successful entrepreneurs too including; Ava May Aromas loved by many celebs including cleaning sensation Mrs Hinch.
When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?
Even after 4 years of failure, I knew I didn’t want to work for somebody else, I wanted to make a success of myself. Everything I learnt in the 4 years of a failing business and also within employment for that one year, I applied to my business, and see that experience not as wasted time, but as lessons learnt that are now enabling me to reach my full potential. One of the biggest lesson second time around was having the resilience and confidence to just go for it — I’d lost everything once already and decided it was time to take some risks. I learnt to be fearless — I invested all my money into marketing to make Supplies for Candles work — I really drained it down to my last £1 this time. Previously, I played really safe and was constantly so scared of it failing I was really conservative — but continued to fail anyway… this time I risked it all in order to hopefully gain. I kept visualising what I wanted and that kept me motivated daily.
What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?
Now I am at this level, I am fulfilled with everything we have achieved as a company — Helping and supporting others is what drives me now.
I now focus on building my team, ensuring everyone has opportunity to grow and develop and get the most out of the business — team spirit and culture is crucially important.
I am passionate about helping others and love to give back through various avenues — I am an ambassador of the children’s cancer charity Candlelighters — hosting fundraisers and events, when we can.
I also speaks in schools and colleges about my entrepreneurial journey to inspire and encourage young people, especially those from deprived areas, to believe that they can achieve things they might not think possible.
I was also passionate about fuelling the entrepreneurial economy during Covid, we have helped thousands of new businesses get off the ground. I have also shown that entrepreneurs stick together and since the beginning of the pandemic, Supplies for Candles has given away £100,000-worth of candle making kits and business start-up support to people who have been financially affected by the pandemic to help them launch businesses from home and I also gifted 10K to a local business women — the value of what it had cost me to set up my business — to help her business grow.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently exploring new business markets, more acquisitions and global expansions. We want to continue to reach and help more business startups and grow our online community so we can share and offer even more support and guidance.
The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?
The hardest part to reach my first million pounds was getting there! It’s really important to understanding your market — the market I initially went into wasn’t big enough and that’s why it didn’t make money. Also, my online strategy wasn’t right and Google didn’t like my website so wasn’t helping SEO. Getting the online visibility is crucial, getting Google to recognise you as a company so that you are listed at the top — in my industry, is the only way you get sales and the way to do this is by ensuring you have great content, a fast website, quality images and videos…
Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?
Marketing and positioning were the key strategies in order to reach the seven figures. When things started to go well, I didn’t get carried away, I paid myself £12K in order to survive and pay the bills and the rest I invested back into the business predominantly into marketing as I wanted the lifetime value — I was focusing on growth and the future of the company. We penetrated the market using Google ad words to buy customers attention — however, once we’d given them a good service we intend to keep them for life. We focus on the life longevity of a customer and try to ensure they come back with our high quality vast product range, our key knowledge, expertise and customer care and finally our ease of ordering and speed of deliveries.
Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
We have a marketing team — for us, it’s all about providing customers with tips, guide, videos and content — the more content we produce the more sales we get on the back of it. The key to our business success is quality content, alongside Google ads and Facebook ads…
Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Understand Your Market — It’s really important to understanding your market — the market I initially went into wasn’t big enough and that’s why it didn’t make money.
- Generate Good Quality Content — top tips, how to guides, blogs, videos… focus on your content — it all helps with customer interaction. We aim to make it easy too — so once our customers have viewed the content they can click and add everything to the cart in one go. We know that the more quality content we produce the more sales we get on the back of it.
- Expand and Grow Your Network — Over time, I have also surrounded myself with people who have the correct skillset to advise and mentor me — and that only comes with time and by growing your network.
- Focus on Your Team — I am passionate about ensuring staff are happy and that they have opportunities to feedback and to personally progress and grow. I spend a lot of my time and focus on building the team, ensuring everyone has opportunity to get the most out of the business — team spirit and culture is crucially important to me.
- Keep Going! Business can be tough but it can also be incredible — I lost £3K in 4 years with my first business and I made £15 million+ in 5 years with my second business.
What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
Churning out new content — keeping it fresh — visuals, videos, tips and guidance all help with customer interaction which leads to more sales.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
If we focus on e-commerce specifically, it’s all about Google ad words — ensure you optimise your account to get the key words that you know people buy from. For example, I bid on the words ‘candle making supplies’ — so, if you google that, I come up to the top — however, if someone googles ‘candle supplies’ without the word ‘making’ — I might not come up but that’s ok — it’s about understanding data. It’s just as important to build your negative key word data base as much as your positive ones — to ensure you are using the right words, reaching the right people and optimising the opportunities as much as possible.
Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
For us, it all comes back to content — videos of how to use waxes, how to make your own wax melt or reed diffuser… we aim to make it easy — once our customers have viewed the content they can click and add everything to the cart in one go. We also pride ourselves with our helpful customer service team. Every key question asked is one the site — if it’s not, we ensure it is, to ensure the customer has a great experience. We endeavour to ensure they have quality service from initial content through to delivery…. to ensure they come back to us.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
Our sales show that new customer on average spends £50 and our overall average order is £70 — so, we know a new customer spends less than an existing customer. Therefore, it’s crucial for sales to develop your existing customers. We have a select few VIP customers who get free samples, they skip the queue and access to our customer service manager — they receive a platinum level of service to help them grow and it turn this also helps us grow as well. it’s more cost effective to develop and retain existing customers.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am passionate about helping people become entrepreneurs and be entrepreneurial — so, that there is no need to be unhappy in the work place. A lot of people have the spirit within but often not the confidence and that is what I’d love to influence.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
It would have to be Elon Musk — I love all his different projects and businesses and as we say here in Yorkshire, I know that I could learn ‘a heck of a lot’ from him.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!