Interview with Isla Macaulay, founder of Candle Jar

Read how Isla Macaulay founded Candle Jar, an ecommerce website showcasing the finest handmade candles and wax melts from Scotland.

What’s your career background?

After graduating with a Degree in Hospitality Management I had various management roles within either the hospitality or leisure industry usually for large companies.

Jointly running my catering business gave me a taste of working for myself and gave me the confidence to finally strike out on my own.

How did your career change after having children?

After I had my daughter I continued to work for a large company as I had a lot of support in terms of childcare.

However, as she approached starting school, I made the decision to find a job that I could work around the school run and this is when I started my catering company.

Where this gave me flexibility in some places it did start impacting on family time in the evenings and weekends so after three years it was time to look for something else which would give me the work-life balance that I was looking for.

Where did the idea for Candle Jar come from?

Candle Jar came about after I had met some friends for breakfast in a local garden centre which had dedicated half their shop to candles in the run up to Christmas.

We lost track of time wandering about smelling all the candles and diffusers and joked about how selling candles would be the perfect job. By the time I had driven home the idea had started to form.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I started researching candle brands and businesses and the sheer volume of options overwhelmed me. I struggled with questions such as, should I make my own? If I sell other brands which ones?

While researching, the same big brand names kept appearing and while I enjoy these myself, I felt they were not brands I could get passionate about.

I then attended the Scottish Trade Fair and met with candle makers such as The Melt Pool, Lovescottishcandles, Shearer Candles to name a few and realised that these are brands I could get passionate about. My aim is to support Scottish makers and highlighting the talent we have on our own doorstep.

What’s your USP?

All my products are handpoured in Scotland. I stock big brands such as Shearer Candles, and strive to find up and coming Scottish brands, such as Dawsonbrown.

Who’s your target audience?

Although predominately my audience is women over the age of 30, and historically candles were seen as more of a feminine item, I enjoy speaking with my ever-growing male customers as they seem keener to try new products and experiment with new scents.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

Social Media is a great free way to get information out there, I also do outreach such as pop up’s, stalls at fayres etc, but as with most businesses word of mouth from my existing customers is the holy grail.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

Candle Jar is still in its early beginnings so it’s very much a test and learn approach. Ecommerce is a new venture for me as well, if you had said SEO or PPC to me last year I would have had no idea what you were on about. But it’s always exciting to learn new things.

I have a digital marketing strategy in place looking to get more traffic to my website from search engines, as well as looking at ways I can improve transactions once people get there. I’m hoping that will be my most successful strategy and build the candle jar brand!

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

It’s not so much as one big obstacle but more a mental challenge to keep going when things don’t go as planned. Realising its ok for something not to work, learn from it and move on but don’t stop trying.

And your proudest moment so far?

Not the most original, but when I made my first online sale that wasn’t family or friends!

Why is work so important to you?

I wouldn’t say work is so important to me, given the choice I would take the lottery win and lie on a beach.

What’s more important is having the right job. Job satisfaction is what drives me and as March Anthony said “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”.

Who inspires you?

There is not one single person; it has been more about the people I have met throughout my life. Teachers that were passionate about their subject, managers that pushed me to the next promotion and anybody that has the courage and determination to start their own business

How do you balance your business with your family?

School holidays are a struggle for most parents and while I have great support from family, pushing my online business means I can work from home most of the time. It’s great when my daughter shows an interest we can spend time together while I work and she is learning too.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. Go for it, there will always reasons for not doing it, remember the reasons why you want to do it!
  2. Don’t underestimate the cost of setting up, if you can, have another form of income until you are established.
  3. Nobody knows your business better than you, so take advice, listen to others, but have faith in your vision.

You can find out more about Candle Jar on their website.