Welcome to Let’s Talk Money with Sage. In this series, we’re highlighting Canadian small business owners and their finances. Talking about money shouldn’t be taboo so we’re here to make business finances transparent.
Meet Melody from @malathebrand
My name’s Melody and I make scented candles. I started my business in fall of 2019. I’m located in Vancouver, BC. I sell candles to customers all over North America but the majority come from Canada.
As of May 2022, we’ve grown our Instagram account to over 62k followers. We’re in over 200 stores across North America including Nordstrom, Indigo and Bloomingdales. I now have a team of 10 people!
How it started
In 2019, I invested $5000 into my candle business. I was still working as a full time marketing coordinator for a local skincare start up at the time. On the side, I was dabbling in candle making for fun. This involved market research, testing lots of different scents, creating an Instagram and building a website using a theme I found on Shopify.
My expenses to get started included a wax melter, a basic candle making kit which included wax, wicks, and fragrance, as well as a few different types of vessels I was debating between. I started out growing my social media accounts organically and did not use paid advertising until about 6 months into the business. I remember being super hush hush when i started the business and i didn’t tell anyone except my family and close friends, because i was nervous it would flop. And honestly- it did in the first little bit. When i officially “launched” ( i didn’t even have a real launch strategy if i’m being honest) – i think i had three sales. I was truly faking it till i was makin it! Over the next few months, I kept pushing through and starting collaborating with other businesses and people in Vancouver, and we slowly started gaining more traction as time passed. It took around 5-6 months to finally break even – which was very scary as Covid had just hit around that time.
Making the transition to full time
One month after I officially “started” Mala, my boss at the time fired me for having my own side hustle – he could not see eye to eye with me having my own business, even though it did not affect my work performance. (Way more to it, but I’ll leave it at that…) Perhaps I never would’ve had the guts to try Mala out for real if I had not been let go from my job. After all the drama surrounding that ended, I decided to give myself three months to give Mala a real shot – and it turned out to be the perfect timing as I felt as if I didn’t really have anything more to lose at that point.
Biggest financial challenge / learning
I had no prior knowledge about business and so I wish that someone would’ve told me to get a dedicated business bank account to separate my business expenses from my personal stuff! It didn’t seem like a big deal in the beginning but after a month, things started to get messy.
Another thing – invest in an accounting software system to help automate the admin! I found that side of the business so much easier when I had a system to track my expenses, issue invoices, and to make taxes ten times more simple.
Top tools for small businesses
When it comes to my business, here are some tools I would recommend investing in:
- Feed planning app for social, such as Later or Preview: A large part of my business growth came from overall awareness from Instagram. I have used an app since I started to plan out my feed well in advance so that the brand always looks cohesive upon first impression. There are free versions as well as paid.
- Trello and Asana: Trello is a tool I use everyday to plan my weekly to-dos. It’s like using sticky notes digitally. Asana is a great project planning tool to keep all the details in one place instead of having multiple spreadsheets! There are free versions as well as paid.
- Sage Accounting: Last but not least, Sage! It’s an easy to use software designed for small business owners in Canada and it helps you to keep track of your cash flow, you can send professional looking invoices, and it makes taxes really simple to do. I really struggled and still do with the numbers side of things, but Sage has really helped me to automate a lot of the admin work and to stay organized.
My advice for you…
If you’re looking to start a business…. Just do it. Don’t obsess over the small details, it’s a constant work in progress and you’ll learn as you go. It’s the best “business school” course I could ever take!
Support Canadian small businesses, like Melody, by checking out Mala the Brand! Handcrafted in Vancouver, BC. Hand poured scented coconut-soy candles that use simple and sustainable materials. Use code SAGE15 for 15% off anything via malathebrand.com