How word of mouth saved my business


In 2005 I was very close to walking away from my business. After some great growth in the first few years, the economy was changing, and I was feeling this acutely. I spent hour upon hour trying to get my products out there – to think outside the box, approach new stores and restaurants, and send samples to magazines, wineries, and function centres. Everything I could think of, I tried. But after months of pushing and pushing without it making any noticeable difference, I had to ask myself the questions I feared most: Is this really worth it? Is it worth the sleepless nights? Is it worth spending all my time trying to make this business work, when I have nothing to show for it?

After some dark nights of soul searching, I decided that I could walk away. And with no need for shame. I realised that I didn’t regret anything. If I had never tried this path, then I would still be dreaming about giving it a go. And I realised that even if I couldn’t make a living doing this, I was proud to have made something beautiful, something that resonated with others.

I decided that I would give it until the end of the year, and then consider 2006 as a fresh start. With this burden of fear and doubt lifted off my shoulders, I kept going, and found the joy in my business again. Things that I’d put into motion months and years before, started to take effect, and everything shifted. It had mattered that I’d always kept my word and delivered quality products each time I received an order. It had mattered that I’d always cared to get to know my stockists and supporters, and that they knew me and believed in what I was doing. Because, unbeknownst to me, I had a secret champion. The owner of one of the stores I supplied recommended my candles for a new book showcasing the work of Melbourne artists & designers. I don’t think she realised how much her simple commendation meant to my business. Soon enough I was having my first real interview, followed by a photo shoot in my workshop. (If you’d like to read the resulting story from Handmade In Melbourne, just click here.)



The book, Handmade In Melbourne, then came to the attention of the organisers of a new trade event, Life inStyle, which offered store owners and interior designers a curated collection of high-end homewares, with a strong representation by Australian designers. This was just the opportunity I needed, however I never would have known about it if they hadn’t have contacted the makers from Handmade In Melbourne and invited us to apply.

Almost a year to the day when I had very seriously considered closing my business, I found myself featured in a beautiful book, and about to embark on my second tradefair with Life inStyle, which led to the opportunity to expand my business and open my own store.

I didn’t get to that point by myself. So many people helped me, and some without really realising it. I feel incredibly grateful for all the support I received, and I’m very passionate that if you believe in someone’s work, tell people about it. Recommend their business to any friends that might be interested, or give them a shout out on social media. Because it really can make the difference and give someone an opportunity that they can’t always make for themselves.