For today’s biz column I would like you to meet HomeCandy. Founded by Ruth and Suz, two women who to quote “are now less about town and more about home’. Having spent many hours, months and even years sometimes looking for the perfect accessories for their homes, they wanted to create a ‘home’ for beautifully funky homewares. I whizzed the guys over some questions to drill a little further into their business.
What lead you to start your own business?
We’re both passionate about making our own homes beautiful and unique and this is quite simply where it started. We’ve always been the kind of people who move furniture about until we find the perfect space and paint walls to see what it looks like (we can always paint them back if it doesn’t quite work!). As long term friends we often lamented on how long it had taken us to find the perfect cushion, wall art, duvet cover or and in fact anything else we wanted in our own homes. We saw an opportunity. Looking back it was probably quite inevitable, but up until a few years ago we were both in PR and just happened to finish our respective contracts at the same time. That’s when we started to think about what we might be able to do in an area we loved, and the idea of HomeCandy started to take shape. We started to think about the unique style that we have an eye for; an urban influence, beautiful, wondrous and playful, and uncompromising on quality. We found the name HomeCandy.com which seemed to fit and, importantly, was available!
There were a number of stages where we doubted ourselves (I guess this is usual with any start up?) and we took advice wherever we could find it and showed our ideas to anyone who would look. We started to get some really positive and constructive feedback which drove us on.The ‘end’ result is our handpicked collection of home and personal accessories combining urban style with beautiful design, injecting the unusual into the everyday, but of course we’re now continuously working to keep it fresh and grow the range, constantly on the look out for new items.
What has been the most difficult?
Starting the business has been great fun, but has its mix of difficulties. Getting the site up and running took a lot longer than we first anticipated and to keep us going financially we created our own cleaning business and were very hands-on. But it meant that we continued to have the time and head space to create HomeCandy.com, which we wouldn’t have had in other jobs.
It takes a lot of time to source the items that we feel our customers will be interested in – luckily it’s a labour of love! When we first started selecting our collection, long before the site was up and running, we also had to persuade some suppliers to allow us to stock their products. This wasn’t always easy, as most suppliers prefer to work with established brands. However, once they saw our site design in development, product base and personal commitment, we were able to launch the site with the items we wanted.
It can be difficult to prioritize tasks, particularly in areas we’re new to where you don’t know what to expect in terms of end results. We’ve found that we have to be brave, get out of our comfort zones and test things, playing a limited budget to its best advantage. It’s tough sometimes, but absolutely worth it.
How do you get your work seen by customers?
With our background in PR, this was our first and most obvious route to market (not to mention, the cheapest in terms of cold hard cash) so we use the full raft of media available, from traditional to on-line and social. In the last few months we’ve also started to create regular customer newsletters to keep our customers up to date with our latest promotions and new items in the HomeCandy collection. Getting our SEO and digital marketing strategy right is also playing a role in getting as many people to see our beautiful collection as possible. We’re novices in this area but we’re learning fast! We do ‘pop-up’ occasionally too – it’s a great way to get direct customer feedback on the range, but we keep our focus quite tightly on-line. As a small Company it’s been great to have the flexibility to try new ways to get out there.
Any tips for people starting out?
Talk to everyone and anyone as often and as much as possible. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from casual conversations which can lead to ideas, new conversations and exciting new opportunities. And be passionate about what you do – our passion for HomeCandy.com and the collection drives us forward and has certainly seen us through the many hours spent and investment needed to get up and running.
What has been the most successful about the business?
Bringing together the HomeCandy.com collection that we’re proud of and feel brings something fresh and new to customers feels like a real success. We’ve had an amazing response to our unique style – when you have national newspaper journalists emailing you to say ‘Wow – your stuff is stunning!’ you know you are doing something right.
Have you read any business books you could recommend?
We’re currently reading The Monocle Guide to Good Business. It was a Christmas present from family and the bite size articles make it easy to dip in and out of for a bit of daily inspiration from other business owners.
Thank you so much guys for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish you continued success.