For 10 years, friends Ruth and Suz dreamed of transforming their passion for stylish, contemporary homeware into their own business. Find out how, just over a year ago, they finally launched HomeCandy, and how their PR backgrounds helped.
What are your career backgrounds?
We’re both PR girls by profession, clocking up more than 15 years apiece in various roles and sectors, including working for companies like American Express, Very and Ebay.
We were lucky enough to sometimes get a sniff of the glamorous life PR is famous for and pick up some really useful skills along the way.
How did you meet?
We were introduced by a mutual friend, more years ago than either of us like to think about! The night we were introduced we went clubbing together and became firm friends – well, after we lost one another when the club closed at 6am, but that’s another story!
What is HomeCandy, and what gave you the idea for starting it?
HomeCandy is a handpicked collection of home and personal accessories combining urban style with beautiful design, introducing the unusual into the everyday.
We’re both passionate about making our own homes beautiful and unique and and, as long term friends, we often lamented on how long it had taken us to find the perfect cushion, wall art, duvet cover and in fact anything else we wanted in our own homes, and we saw an opportunity.
We started to think about the unique style that we have an eye for; an urban influence, beautiful, wondrous and playful, and uncompromising on quality. We found the name HomeCandy.com which seemed to fit and our journey to launch the collection began.
How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to act on your idea, and what were your first steps?
More than 10 years! We have friends who are business owners and an inspiration to us, but taking the step to launch was a big decision.
Even after deciding to take the plunge, there were a number of stages where we doubted ourselves. We took advice wherever we could find it and showed our ideas to anyone who would look. We started to get some really positive and constructive feedback which drove us on. We continue to do the same – as a two woman team, advice and input from others is invaluable.
What skills from your previous careers have been most helpful in HomeCandy?
With our background in PR, contacting the media was our first and most obvious route to getting HomeCandy out into the world and making the first steps in reaching people who will be interested in our collection. We’ve had a really positive response from the media and were given a really great boost when we launched from a national journalist who tweeted that our collection was ‘stunning’.
Generally, having communications skills has stood us in good stead, from writing our product descriptions to creating our recently launched monthly customer newsletter as well as speaking to customers and suppliers.
And what has been your biggest learning curve to date?
There are so many things we’ve had to learn, but probably the biggest is our technical understanding. As an online retailer, we’ve had to learn how to manage our CMS and most recently communicate our design vision of our new mobile site to our technical support. Luckily, we love a new challenge!
Who is your ideal customer, and how do you find them?
Anyone who is looking to inject the unusual into their interior decor, add the season’s latest trend or find a thoughtful gift, should check out HomeCandy.com.
As a new brand of just over a year, we are constantly looking for new opportunities to help people find us. We’re active on social media, run competitions with bloggers and have started to concentrate on our SEO strategy. We do ‘pop up’ occasionally too – it’s a great way to get direct customer feedback on the range.
What makes HomeCandy different from other homeware sites?
We’ve concentrated on creating a unique style that customers will come to expect from all the products in our collection, and strive to provide great customer service. We have a no quibble returns policy, free delivery on all orders over £50 and we are now looking at introducing a next day delivery option.
What is it like starting a business with a friend?
Of course, it has its highs and lows but overall it’s worked really well for us – in fact, without each other we probably wouldn’t have started the business at all.
We’re quite pragmatic people and accept that our working relationship is the same as any other, and that means we might annoy as well as delight each other, but being friends does mean that we’ve learnt quickly to discuss pretty much anything and everything, from finances to personal stuff.
Luckily we also both have the same work ethic and are motivated by doing something we love, which goes a long way to keeping us on track.
How do you balance your business around your families?
It’s more of a juggling act than a balancing one, but running an online business means that we can get things done anywhere at anytime. It’s more flexible than an office job, but there can sometimes be the tendency to work at 3am – still, it’s a labour of love and means we can fit in everything (well, just about!).
What’s your vision for HomeCandy?
In the short term, we’re really concentrating on continuing to grow the collection and keep it fresh while staying true to the HomeCandy style. We’re really interested in introducing more products that are exclusive to us that people can’t find anywhere else. We’re starting to do a lot more marketing and looking for collaboration opportunities this year.
Into the future, we want to make HomeCandy into a household name across the UK and beyond (well, we figure you have to have high aims!)
What advice do you have for other aspiring business mums?
A few things which have helped us to get this far are being passionate about what we do, having a strong idea of what we want to achieve and the conviction to go for it.
We also use anyone and everyone as a soundboard, from friends and family to business contacts, and not forgetting, the other mum’s in the playground – often a wealth of knowledge and support. This help us to pick up new ideas, from technology tweaks to make our site more user friendly, to getting feedback on new product ranges before we launch. And not forgetting, the other mums in the playground – often a wealth of knowledge and support.
You can find out more about HomeCandy and browse their beautiful contemporary homewards on their website.