Leaders and entrepreneurs in focus: Nicky Story, Supplies for Candles

An entrepreneur who has seen his fair share of setbacks, Nicky Story offers advice based on his experience and five tips for growing a successful business

‘“Overnight success” is a total misnomer,’ says Nicky Story, a 29-year-old entrepreneur and owner of successful online companies, Supplies for Candles and the Soap Kitchen, with more than 100,000 customers and 100 employees across two UK locations.

After graduating with a degree in business and management from Leeds University, Nicky set up his first enterprise from his dad’s garage but found the road to success is riddled with pitfalls and that it can take years and some serious failures and lessons to get there.

In this interview for Business Impact, he details his experiences, before offering five tips for growing a successful business.

Tell us about your first setback as an entrepreneur

I was working on my own in the freezing cold every day with no support and I was just failing. I was utterly miserable and I didn’t want to get out of bed anymore to even pack a few orders in the garage. I didn’t want to do it – whatever I did, didn’t work. I had no money, or motivation, and realised that my business, as it was then, wasn’t going anywhere. My parents were so worried that I sought help and was prescribed antidepressants.

What made you want to try again?

This one year working for someone else made me realise what kind of boss I didn’t want to be. This guy wasn’t a great leader and lots of the staff were unhappy. I remember sitting in the office thinking, ‘when I run my own company, I’ll never act like you do or treat my staff like you.’ I also knew that owning and running my own business was exactly what I wanted to do.

I quit my job, bought some wax, glass and fragrance and set up Supplies for Candles in 2016. Just six months later, sales started to boom and I needed a helping hand. I employed my best friend and everything took off.

What advice would you give to business graduates and budding entrepreneurs?

My message to other entrepreneurs and business leaders is keep going. Business can be tough, but it can also be incredible. One of my favourite quotes is from the late, great Muhammad Ali who said: ‘Don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ I have this quote in my gym and I think it’s a great motto to live by in life, but also in business.

I want to encourage entrepreneurs, from their kitchen tables to their online marketplaces that they can do it! But, it takes determination, flexibility and teamwork.

Five tips for growing a successful business

In the below, Nicky Story offers five tips for entrepreneurs who are seeking to set up and sustain a successful business:  

1. Determine what drives you

Even after four years of failure, I knew I didn’t want to work for somebody else, I wanted to make a success of myself. Everything I learnt in the four years of a failing business and also within employment for a year, I applied to my business, and see that experience not as wasted time, but as lessons learnt that are now enabling me to reach my full potential. I kept visualising what I wanted and that kept me motivated daily.

2. Understand yourself and your market

The market I went into initially wasn’t big enough and that’s why it didn’t make money… and I wasn’t in the right place in myself either. That year in employment really helped me to see the kind of entrepreneur I wanted to be and why it was so important to me. We often forget about the ‘why’ in pursuit of the ‘what’ and for me, it’s not just about being successful, but bringing other people with me.

3. Be fearless

One of the biggest lessons second time around was having the resilience and confidence to just go for it — I’d lost everything once already and decided it was time to take some risks. I learnt to be fearless — I invested all my money into marketing to make Supplies for Candles work — I really drained it down to my last £1 GBP this time. Previously, I played safe and was constantly so scared of it failing that I was really conservative but continued to fail anyway. This time, I took some risks in order to gain.

4. Generate good quality content

Top tips, how to guides, blogs, videos… focus on your content — it all helps with customer interaction. We aim to make it easy too — so once our customers have viewed the content they can click and add everything to the cart in one go. We know that the more quality content we produce, the more sales we get on the back of it.

5. Be prepared for the long haul

Cue Muhammad Ali – don’t quit. Your dream is worth pursuing. And now that we’ve determined that success isn’t going to come overnight, you can develop realistic strategies based on realistic timescales. If it happens more quickly, then great, but it will help you from becoming despondent. Keep going!

Nicky Story is the Director and Founder of Supplies For Candles, and Director of the Soap Kitchen.

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