Hey everyone, Kat here 🤗
Although we have some exciting news to share today (our Happiest Birthday Candle is now available online at Anthropologie US!), this celebration came with some f***ups along the way…
So this blog post is about realness and highlights a mistake we made as business owners.
Last month, Victoria and I attended FuckUp Nights Toronto and it was one of the most humbling experiences to attend as an entrepreneur.
There were three speakers, each discussing different traumatic, yet eye-opening experiences they had and how far they’ve come since then.
The first speaker worked a series of dead end jobs that eventually led to his family losing their house, the second speaker had recently lost her job and her f*** up was that she let her ego get in the way and didn’t listen to her gut to quit earlier, and the last speaker ran a gym for ten years that kept losing money and eventually had to re-start his career in his mid-30's.
Despite these heart-wrenching stories, the vibes were immaculate. The audience was at ease.
Everyone felt connected to the speakers, because we all make mistakes.
This isn’t news to any of you, I am sure, but more often than not, the world of social media presents us with the highs, and rarely the lows (hence why I delete Instagram every weekend).
These very real experiences made Victoria and I realize that we should share our experiences more openly, and share the difficult times we’ve endured instead of only presenting our community with all of our wins.
So here we go!
A year ago today, Victoria and I were on a flight to London, UK to celebrate the launch of LOHN at a major retailer. How exciting, right? Hmmm... not quite.
Let’s rewind a bit.
10 months prior to launching, we were approached by a sales agency that promised to grow our brand in the UK and provided us with impressive sales projections for LOHN. After hearing from a glowing reference, we said why not?! Why wouldn’t we attempt to grow the brand in a new market? So we signed on to work with them starting in August 2021.
We decided to take this partnership on rather quickly… We had just undergone massive changes in the business due to COVID-19, we were navigating local retailer shutdowns, we experienced supply chain delays (to name a few) and yet we decided to launch in a market that was completely foreign to us. But, we were excited to grow the business.
And this is where the fun starts. Throughout six months of working together, we received one small purchase order from one retailer.
After spending thousands of dollars on the sales agency retainer, to support this retailer launch, we then had to spend additional funds on legal/trademarks, PR, travel, and the list goes on… expenses we didn’t think about before we decided to expand internationally.
Listen, it was pretty cool to fly to London and see our products on shelves. We met with a few really inspiring influencers and told them all about LOHN, as well as trained the sales staff who were super excited to carry our line. It was a memorable experience, but launching in a new market after undergoing the small business challenges of COVID-19 wasn’t the right call for our small team.
After our launch event, we ran around London for two days, delivering sample sets to every retailer we could find. The buyers’ initial questions were all very similar: “How do you deal with shipping fees? Do have a VAT number?”
Hmmmm. Not sure yet. And nope.
That's when we realized that no one would want to purchase our products until we had a distributor lined up in the UK who could handle all of the logistics and shipping fees.
Let’s just say that our short term business plan has changed significantly since then. Our strategy now centres around expanding our business in Canada and the United States. Makes sense, right?
If there are any lessons we can offer from this experience as business owners, here they are:
- Take a step method approach to growth. As a self-funded and independently owned brand, we take pride in how far we’ve come, while building the business in a sustainable way. We are focused on strategically growing our sales and building our team by carefully selecting the ideal partners, retailers and markets for LOHN.
- Don’t follow the shiny objects. Were all of the headaches worth seeing our products on Regent St. for one day? Heck no. Don't let your ego get in the way of your purpose, values & overall strategy.
- Make sure to thoroughly research your potential partners. We only checked one reference for the sales agency that ended up costing us money, and we should have checked at least 2-3.
- Do not underestimate the expenses required to enter a new market. As we mentioned, the costs kept piling up and we were lucky enough to tap into the CanExport grant, but we were not thinking of legal fees, PR, etc when we signed on with the sales agency.
Thanks for reading, and remember that mistakes are an integral part of your journey.
P.S. We WILL be speaking at Fuck Up Nights in September, if any of you are interested in coming and hearing our story IRL 😁
*Every purchase of the Happiest Birthday Candle at Anthropologie gets us one step closer to being in their stores. Want to support a small biz, or just have more LOHN near you? Order a candle or two — we'd appreciate it more than you know.