Spotlight on Brown and Drury
We all love a gorgeously scented candle and Gail Drury of Brown and Drury creates some amazingly candles. Originally from Scotland but now living in Warwickshire, Gail first started making candles from her Aga.
You can shop through the button below, but read on to hear how she got started.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
Well, I've always been a candle obsessive! Like many women (and men) I just love when you enter a space and it smells special. I’ve always thought there was something beautiful about candlelight, it creates an ambiance whether relaxing on a winters evening, creating a chilled-out atmosphere with friends or simply enjoying your favourite scent. That’s why I was inspired to learn the art of candle making and start creating my own home scents.
I'm originally from Scotland but settled in Warwickshire where I live with my family and Ruby our black lab, but my Celtic roots have never been far from my heart as you can see in my logo! The name Brown is a tribute to my Mother's maiden name and Drury is my family name. After working as an international buyer for an accessories company for 15 years the time was right to branch out on my own and create something I was passionate about and somewhere I could channel my creative flair - Brown & Drury.
I learnt a lot about sourcing during my time as a buyer, which has helped me tremendously on my candle journey! I have to think months ahead and forecast what volumes I think I will sell, so I can place the orders for my various jars, wax etc. in volume to get the best prices.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
Yes! I literally started melting wax at my Aga!
I was having lunch on a beautiful summers day a couple of years ago outside at our local pub and I met a friend of a friend who started to tell me how she made candles from her kitchen in the Cotswolds. One thing led to the other and I ended up spending a great day with her learning all her skills. that was the start of it for me. a hobby that developed into my business.
When I discovered Instagram, I didn't have a web site and found people were really interested in buying from me! So, from there I set a Shopify site. I’m not technically minded, so I have to say it took a lot longer that I would have liked, but I got there!
Now I have 2 rooms at home, one is the production area where I have a large melter for the wax, and the other is my office which also acts as dispatch (literally full of boxes, candles & diffusers!)
3. How did you fund your business?
I used some savings to start up. I was able to buy stock, but also pay a graphics designer who helped with packaging and branding.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
The most difficult part for me was trying to get people to my site. I knew this could be done through social media - I met an old business colleague who started 12 months before me designing & selling jewellery (@sorujewellery) and she was making such a success of it she now sells to the Duchess of Cornwall, so I knew that it really was possible! Once my website was set up it only took a few days until I received my first order which was solely down to Instagram. It took a while for momentum to build but that first order was a major moment for me. I always had family and friends who loved my scents but getting that first order was a really amazing feeling.
My current objective is getting into smaller independent retailers. this is a challenge in itself as I’m about to do my first trade fair in May selling to prospective shops. I’ve managed successfully to get into many throughout Warwickshire, but now I need expand… wish me luck!
I would also say that going from years working with a team, bouncing ideas about, working to budgets to working entirely on my own has been a challenge. You have to learn to stay focused and believe in what you are doing.
5. What help was missing for you?
To begin with I could have done with a beginner’s guide to social media! But on the whole, I wouldn't say there was anything missing for me. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was a photographer and another who ran an interiors shop so I was able to sell a few candles through her in the beginning, so that gave me the confidence to take it further.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
There wasn't anything specific that went wrong in the first year. However, I do remember spending a lot of time working on a large order for a customer in America (I couldn't quite believe how big it was) to find out that it was a scam. (naivety on my part) luckily, I didn't ship anything or give out any bank details. You don't get warned about this when you first set up a web site, you get contacted a lot through your contact form asking to ship to different countries and if you accept credit cards, but now I know what to look out for.
7. What have you learnt?
Customer service is key! People will always remember you for this plus uniqueness. I get so many questions about some scented fir cones I put in the delivery when I send packages out. customers love the quirkiness and ask what the scent is and this leads to further orders.
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Do your research! Find out as much as possible about your market place before you dive in and find your niche. Always be original and truly believe in what you are doing. If you can work from home that is a huge bonus as it saves so much money, plus always, always listen to your customers.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
The thing I enjoy most is being my own boss. The flexibility of being able to work around family is priceless. I can suit myself when to take holidays, when to meet friends for coffee and especially when I can take my lab Ruby for a walk!
However, the thing that gives me the biggest thrill is getting such lovely feedback from customers! I love seeing how they style their candles on Instagram and when I get personal messages it brings a huge smile to my face.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
That’s a difficult question. Each day is different and also depends on how much pressure you put on yourself. My goals can change from one week to the next, and as a growing business it’s difficult to say no to any opportunities. However, I wouldn't change it as being your own boss is the best feeling in the world. For anyone thinking about it, I’d just say go for it, however don't forget to do your market research first.
Nicola says "Gail gives some great advice. First and foremost, that you work for you, so how hard that will be, depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to take things slowly, grow organically, that's in your hands. Customer service is key as is the quality of your product, the personal touch which really adds to the experience of shopping independent. And I like that Gail did her research and found her niche before starting out"
The Girl with The Green Sofa