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Celebrating 2 years in business – 10 things I've learned so far

Updated: May 5

woman holding afternoon tea tray

Wow! Can you believe Juliana Made This celebrates 2 years today? It’s hard to believe that this time two years ago I officially launched our website and social media. I was elated! It was like a dream coming true - to have a business to call my own. I honestly got such a high when I had to issue my very first invoice! To be honest I still love issuing invoices, makes me happy to this day.

When I decided to set up my own business I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I just had this vision that I would love to work for myself and that was all I needed to start researching a field I could invest my time and money in. As it turns out, you can figure out almost anything you set your mind to! And here come the candles. I became utterly obsessed with candles and all there was to learn about them. I dreamed about candles, listened to podcasts, YouTube and Tik Tok, spoke to people and spent numerous hours on blog posts trying to learn all I possibly could about the craft and two years later I can call myself a chandler!

Woman holding afternoon tea tray
Fancy a little afternoon tea of wax melts anyone?

Once I felt confident enough I took the plunge and quit my corporate job to fully dedicate myself to my new project and what a gamble that was! Here is what we’ve learned during these two roller-coaster years:

1.Take your time with branding

So now that you’ve found your niche you’re ready to crack on right? Well, not quite just yet. Having a fabulous business idea is fantastic and you might be super excited to start right away but getting a clear image of your branding right at the beginning of your journey is a fundamental step to help you establish a strong foothold in the market. The devil is in the detail like they say so developing a meaningful logo, a cohesive colour scheme, and carefully choosing fonts that complement each other are some of the things you could spend a little extra time to get it right the first time.

Getting to know your market is also key to a successful launch so getting beta testers and carrying out surveys are useful options to assist you with this process. We used Google Forms to help us with that process. By knowing your customer profile you can identify and anticipate their needs which allows you to develop a tailored product or service. Well worth your time and effort!

Google forms results in pie chart
Set of results from our market survey using Google forms

2.Sometimes you fall, sometimes you fly

When I set up the business I was expecting hardship but I just wasn’t mentally prepared for the lows (and by God there were many) I would experience during this process. At times it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's impossible not to question all of your decisions. Was I ready to be the captain of my own ship? Was I ready to sail the torturous waters of entrepreneurship? Should I have quit my job? Should I take a loan? Should I, could I, would I…the doubt that creeps all along the way is honestly one of the hardest things about owning a business.

At the beginning I used to fight this feeling, interpreting my doubts as a bad sign or regret when in reality it's a very natural process in life. Today I look back and I’ve learned that having questions is OK and part of the journey as long as you keep going with it. Imagine the sheer number of amazing opportunities I would've missed if I had given up because of fear. I can now look back and say I’m so happy I kept going. Sometimes you make bad decisions but it’s knowing how to navigate them that keeps you above water. And sometimes you'll make the best decision ever – sometimes you fly so go all in!

3.Money momentum takes time – keep going

Don’t you wish money grew on trees? Like all you had to do was to remember to water your money plant once a week, place it by a bright window and remember to turn it a few times a month and ta-da, moolah is coming your way! To my sadness this is far from the truth. Money is hard to get and when you own a small business it can take even longer. It takes time to build a brand, gather enough stock and learn how to navigate all areas of a business before you acquire enough customers to pay your expenses, never mind having so many customers that you can start turning a profit.

Some people say it can take about two years before your business can start to make money. Having said that not everybody has the financial resources to sustain this limbo situation for that length of time and unfortunately many give up on a great idea too soon. I understand that setting up a business is a huge commitment and you cannot wait to be paid for your efforts so it can be discouraging when it doesn't happen right away. Well, have faith! If you can, you should keep going! You never know if your big breakthrough is just around the corner.

Chinese money plant
One of my favourite plants - Chinese money tree

4.Social media is your friend

When you own a small business you end up being all of the departments of that company. The manufacturing, logistics, accountancy, product development and marketing are all done by the same person – ME! And let me tell you, forgetting to look after your socials is easily done. You can get so focused on the other areas of the business that social media tends to get a bit neglected. For many people it does not make money the same way that making products or going to the post office does. But I learned the hard way that we are playing the long shot when it comes to socials. People are watching even if they don’t engage with you.

Social media might not generate money right away but it is a formidable source of ideas and ways to connect with your customers, establish your brand and get to know what’s going on in your area like markets and festivals, just to mention a few of the magical benefits of socials. At the beginning I used to hate it! But after a while I actually really enjoyed the whole thing as it gave me an extra space to express myself artistically. In no time our following grew and that was the extra fuel I needed to keep investing into it. My favourite part was the photoshoots! But be careful because it’s highly addictive! I enjoyed it so much that sometimes I would spend more time on a social media post than actually making candles. It’s an easy trap to fall into! Like everything in life, finding balance is key.

5.Network, network, network

Bespoke handmade ceramic mug
Bespoke mug developed in partnership with local artisan Rachael O'Leary

The saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ also applies so well to a business! I'm from Brazil and haven’t been living in NI for that long so I didn’t know an awful lot of people when I first started the business. Well let me tell you about the amazing bunch of people I met along the way. From suppliers and customers to even the post office people, they have all contributed to our business in more ways than I could count. Word of mouth is something powerful and having the ability to foster relationships can do wonders to help your business grow!

Going into partnership is one of the best things to help your business grow and reach a bigger audience than just your own. These past two years we’ve partnered with a number of people like ArtsForAll and JoobJoobs to host our workshops and I've teamed up with Rachael Leary ceramic to design our bespoke mug just to mention a few people. I’ve joined markets and got great deals because of networking. Since setting up the business I met so many new wonderful people and even made friends! These are the same people helping me to open new doors for these last 2 years. Thank you all of you and I cannot wait to meet many more!

6.Maternity is not the end of your business

Our last blog post was all about coming to terms with owning a business while being pregnant. Since then Pippa has arrived and as expected I had to adapt the way I handle the business to accommodate a life with my precious little baby (this deserves a whole blog post of its own because there is so much to unpack about this topic). The key word of this sentence is adapt and not close down.

For a while imagining having a business and a baby at the same time was completely incompatible but now that Pippa is here it has become a lot easier to figure things out. I can’t produce as much as I once could and the absolute FOMO that comes from seeing your fellow business owners growing is real. So far I've learned that accepting the change and using the resources at your disposal is a far better approach. Lots of women are mothers and CEO’s and business owners. If they can do it, I can do it too.

7.Boundaries are necessary

A lack of boundaries manifests itself in lots of different ways. It can be working for free, procrastinating until the last minute, giving discounts, not stopping working or taking too much all at once. These are all areas where setting boundaries is extremely important. Personally I was terrible when it came to working longer than I should, I would fixate on a new product and would not be able to stop thinking about it until I consumed all information available online about it. I was also terrible when it came to saying no to ‘opportunities’. Like if I was attending a market on a specific date and was invited to attend another market on the same day, rather than turn it down, I would stretch myself extremely thin so I could attend both. This can be very debilitating because it occupies a large portion of your emotional and physical wellbeing which can lead to negative feelings of burnout. Being able to say no can do wonders for your mental and physical health so start practising it. I still have a long way to go when it comes to this but being aware of the behaviour is already a huge step.

8.Have knowledge about a topic? Monetise it.

‘A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle’. I absolutely love this quote because it is the backbone of why I decided to set up our candle and origami workshops. Most people are afraid of sharing the knowledge they have in fear of competition. This is totally understandable since you’ve spent so many hours dedicating yourself to something you don’t want somebody to just snatch for free and run away with. But there is the other side of the coin where after so much dedication you now have some knowledge that people would pay money to have! So bank on it and monetise it! You don’t need to share every ounce of information like suppliers, prices etc, but there is a lot you can share! For me this has been a very enjoyable experience because people literally are paying me to listen to me talk about what I’m passionate about. It’s a win-win!

9.Remember your goals often and focus

This has to be one of the most important lessons. It is very easy to get carried away with excitement. You might struggle to have a business idea but once you do, you might have several and want to try them all at the same time. It takes so long to come across good insights so you want to act upon them - all of them. I am guilty of this so I fully empathise with the feeling but sometimes less is more. Instead of shooting aimlessly, keeping yourself focused on smaller goals can be a lot more effective. Like that you can concentrate your energy on becoming excellent at something rather than just good and standing out is key in a crowded marketplace.

As well as that, smaller goals are generally easier to achieve so you can see the results of your efforts more quickly. And who doesn't like morale boosting every now and again? Writing down your goals in a place you can be reminded of them often is a great tip to keep you going in a straight line, one step at the time.

Focus woman folding origmai

10.Down time is needed time

Sometimes you can be more productive by not working. It’s a funny sentence, I know, but it carries a large truth behind it. Building on the previous point, burning out of your business is rather easy considering the amount of time you spend exposed to it and can you think of a sadder thing? You really want it to work so you work really hard but it ends up working against you. It’s a lot of work for one sentence and sometimes all you need is right the opposite of it to grow.

Listening to upbeat songs (check out the Juliana Made This playlist) , spending time with family and friends, yoga, reading or cooking a nourishingly delicious meal are some of the ways you can recharge so you can come back to your business feeling energised and fresh. And guess what? It’s just when you're not thinking about it that really brilliant ideas come to light. Me time is important time.

Happy birthday to us! It has been an incredible two years – here is to twenty more!

I don’t expect the future to be less challenging but I hope it will be as rewarding as the past two years.

woman pouring Prosecco in glass
Celebrating with a cheeky Prosecco

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