What It's About
A nurse keeps her candle hustle shining brightly amidst times of uncertainty and change.
Words of Wisdom
Fiona launched and then quickly had to adapt her business because of a global crisis, “I launched Milis at the beginning of March and four days after my first retailer went live, they had to close their doors due to Covid-19! So adapting to the changes that has brought has taken up a lot of time over the last few weeks. Like so many others have said, there is never a good time to start a business. The important thing is to just start.”
Some of the world's greatest innovations and biggest companies have come about through times of crisis. For example, General Electric, IBM, and Disney all began during times of recession.
Notes from Chris
Fiona Young ran the oncology ward at a hospital in Waterford, Ireland—but in 2019, an injury kept her off work for six weeks. The downtime was far from wasted. Fiona loved creative pursuits—a nice break from the intense day job—and started making small candles in vintage teacups for her friends. While learning about candle making, she realized something. Most candles on the market were made from harmful ingredients like paraffin wax. She set about making her own alternative, a candle that's healthy and natural. Fiona soon returned to work at the hospital, but found time over the next year to experiment. She really felt like she’d found that spark. Her candles were one hundred percent natural soy wax with cotton wicks and essential oils for fragrance. She created three different scents she called Morning, Zest, and Sparkle. The next step was to try and get stocked into retail stores. To do that, professional design and packaging was essential. Fiona invested around three thousand dollars into graphic design and manufacturing of her packaging. That produced three hundred candles, one-hundred of each scent. The boxes were made of recyclable brown paper to keep the entire product eco-friendly. A product which Fiona now called Milis [Mil-ish], Irish for sweet. Soon, she’d made her first deal. A local homewares store put in an order for thirty candles. Fiona was proud as a peach-scented candle at seeing her product out in the wild on a retailer's shelves. It was the culmination of fourteen months’ hard work. Now was the time to celebrate, and wait for customers to arrive like moths being drawn to a flame. Unfortunately ... all of this happened in March 2020. Right before the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world. Within a few days, the store had shut its doors along with most retail outlets across the country. What’s more, Fiona’s messaging around Milis has changed. She has spent much of her outbound messaging talking about other local vendors and stores that could use a helping hand during these difficult times. Meanwhile, she’s still working full-time at the hospital and running Milis on the side. The plus side is, that when she isn’t at work she’s been isolating at home which has given her a lot of downtime to develop new scents and products which she hopes to launch over each season in the coming year. Who knows if she’d have found the time to do that under usual circumstances. Since launching right before this pandemic, Fiona has already sold over one hundred and fifty candles earning just over three thousand dollars, meaning that she’s now profitable. She’s continuing to push on with her PR plans, and is sending samples to magazines around the country to promote Milis. And once shops are open again, she plans to reintroduce her original retail strategy.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Learn more about Fiona and her all-natural candles at her website, MyMilis.com.
- Bank Employee Kindles Candle Profits: When her favorite candle shop leaves town, a Portland woman lights the way and starts her own.
- Oklahoman Spreads Light, Sells Candles, and Shares Profits: A project manager for an oil & gas company burns the midnight oil and makes eco-conscious candles for profit and charity.
- Trip to Target Inspires Aromatic Hustle: While browsing the candle aisle at Target, a social worker discovers an illuminating opportunity to make money.
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