Photo courtesy of Chalk On StoneI’m often asked by customers who are also small business owners for advice on running a small business. With a big business background I guess I’ve brought a lot of those lessons and learnings with me into Queen B. Whether you’re running a small business, you’re running a big business or you’re a small cog in a big business, what I’ve learned is universally applicable. First amongst those things is that in order to survive, you need to stand for something (but always keep your mind open to evolving). Over the years we’ve had literally hundreds of retailers selling Queen B candles and over the years I’ve seen many of them fail. If I had to pick a trend or lesson, it is that the businesses that are very clear on what they stand for are the ones that are still standing (and growing and thriving). One of our most successful retailers is a shop in Carlton (Melbourne) called Make Designed Objects. Pat, who owns Make, is absolutely clear on stocking “the best designed product from around the world”. Over the years we’ve seen the size of his store double, he’s set up stores for the National Gallery of Victoria and the Powerhouse Museum and his sales of Queen B candles have increased 7 fold since he first stocked our candles. Anyone looking for a gift for someone who is hard to buy for or someone who has a design aesthetic knows exactly where to go. We’re all busier than ever so we’ll go where our needs are most likely to be met. Another success story is our retailer Biome. In the eight or so years that Biome has stocked Queen B we’ve seen them grow from one store to four. Again, they are absolutely clear on what they stand for. When you go into a Biome store, you’re going to find a product that is organic, natural, recycled or fair trade. At one stage, the business of the metal turner who makes our metal candleholders was on its last legs because all of the big mining and manufacturing companies thought they’d save a lot of money having their bits made in China. He wasn’t prepared to compromise on the metals that he used and so he couldn’t compete on price, so he went back to TAFE and did night school. But his previous clients soon learned that the cheaper bits failed, costing them more than they’d saved and now our metal turning friend is so busy we’re having to book our jobs in weeks in advance. The story is the same for one of the local printing companies we use, for the foundry we use and even for us. We’re all crystal clear on what we stand for and that makes us a known quantity. The one caveat that I’d add is that whilst it is important not to compromise, it is essential to evolve. I always thought our two most compelling features were that we were non-toxic to burn and Australian made but it was conversations with Make and Dinosaur Designs that made me realise that we’re also a design company and that is just as important. More recently I had to look at our values as it related to packaging. I had always been absolutely committed to packaging Queen B in beautiful, environmentally responsible packaging. I wouldn’t do elaborate, tree felling packaging that was going to go in the bin as soon as the product was removed. That precluded me from seeing the opportunity of Black Label for well over a decade. When I started thinking about the Black Label range, I realised that I could still be absolutely committed to beautiful, environmentally responsible packaging by making the packaging so rigid that it would have many lifetimes once the candle was removed. Sure, it means we have 12 cubic metres of Black Label packaging to house at the moment, but it allowed us to evolve. The real ‘juice’ in any idea comes from the conversation. I’d love you to add to the discussion. What do you think? What other brands or businesses have you come across who are absolutely clear on what they stand for and how does that make life easier for you in your decision making or in your commitment to their product? Cate xx At Queen B we strive to create beautiful and stylish things that nourish the human spirit and nurture our environment. We would love you to join our community. You can do that by subscribing to our newsletters. We promise we won’t spam you.
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