In partnership with Sarafumi
Many of us dream of turning our hobby into a business and making a little extra income from it. Maybe even quitting our day jobs one day to be our own boss and find a better work life balance. But not every passion project needs to become a business. And not every great business comes from great passion - but it helps. We chatted to Sarafumi's founder Sarah Kelly, whose love of honey bees led her to follow her passion ‘down a path of fragrance discovery’ to set up her Guernsey-based business in 2016.
Here are a few things you need to know before deciding to take the leap.
Why are you doing this?
Your 'why' is what will drive you when you inevitably hit obstacles down the line. A second income or a more flexible lifestyle is absolutely a strong ‘why’ for a business. For many there’s often another layer though. Some can see a better way of doing things and want to make a positive impact on the world around them. “Sarafumi started off as a hobby while beekeeping. I got carried away thinking ‘I can make candles. Oh, I could make creams!’" said Sarah, who started her home fragrance company here in Guernsey a few years ago. But it’s the environmental story and the need for a mid-range fragrance range with little environmental impact on the market that made Sarah take things a little more seriously. She felt like she was plugging a gap, as well as enjoying herself.
Whatever your ‘why’, getting clear on the reasons for driving your business will undoubtedly help you to stay focused and push through when the going gets tough. And it’s worth noting that some of the things that motivated you to start your business may evolve with time, and that’s ok - as long as you don’t lose the passion that got you started on this road in the first place.
What is your business?
You've heard of the elusive elevator pitch. If you can't describe what you do in a simple sentence or two then you don’t have your business clear in your mind. For many, this can occasionally become blurry as their business grows and branches out, but in the beginning it should be crystal clear before you invest time and/or money into a project.
So what do you do? And what makes you different to other people doing this? We have a lot of small businesses here in Guernsey who do similar things to each other. What makes the most successful stand out? It’s likely because they do something differently to the others - they may have better core materials, they may have a different price point, they may offer different colours or flavours of a product or they may use their own story in their marketing. Sarah told us that she took her time working out her 'what'. “I took a few wrong turns along the way until I knew exactly what I wanted to produce. I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to use paraffin wax. I didn’t even want to use soya wax due to the environmental aspect. I definitely didn’t want to use any fragrance oils. These use petrochemicals and I didn’t want to put my name to something like that for people to burn in their homes. So I went into perfumery to learn about blending fragrance to create top, middle and base notes to achieve a unique blend and fragrance for Sarafumi.”
Who are you selling to?
Do you understand who your business is aimed at? Identifying your target market and fine tuning your products, services and crucially your pricing, to work for them will help your business to grow. The sooner you figure out who you are selling to, the sooner you can create solutions to the problems that they have. And dependent on your business, you don’t need to be solving the world’s problems. You just need to be clear who you are talking to and ensure that what you are saying is what they want to hear (because if it’s not, then you need a new audience - or product.) For Sarafumi, the audience is people looking for fragrance gifts for special occasions, who don’t want to break the bank. This mid-range positioning is important to Sarah. "The Sarafumi skincare range sits at a particularly good price point because I wanted this to be available as an affordable luxury treat for yourself too."
And it’s one thing knowing your target audience, but it’s another thing entirely engaging with them. Marketing is so important, and sometimes that means putting yourself out there to create a buzz (bee pun intended!). So if you have a special characteristic that helps you stand out from the crowd, shout about it. Sarafumi celebrates island life by naming its products in Guernsey Patois - keeping phrases alive like ‘Locque Respiraï’, meaning ‘Just Breathe’, is a lovely local twist worth praising.
What do you stand for as a brand?
More and more, the ethical and moral values that sit behind a company are just as important as the business itself. For example, people are more likely to buy into your products and services if they align with your social and environmental aims and beliefs. And most big brands now have to demonstrate a sense of care and duty for the world around us (it sadly doesn’t matter how good your business model is if you get cancelled.) So you have to put your ethos into action - saying all the right things won’t cut it if you don’t have the substance to back up your words. "My ethos remains where it began, marrying the aromas of my home island with eco-friendly ingredients & responsible practices. Using sustainable packaging was very important to me coming from an Island where we do so well at recycling. The packaging had to be recyclable or be able to upcycle and reuse" says Sarah.
What do you want to achieve?
What are your long and short term goals? What matters to you? Whether your goals are financial, creative, environmental or your aim is to find that ever elusive work life balance, try to make your goals measurable. For example, with financial goals you can work out how much money you need to make initially to cover your costs. Smashed that? Set a new goal to increase profit/reduce expenses/expand your business. Your bank balance won’t lie, so you can see how things are going.
Often transparently working towards goals is an authentic way to stick to your morals and ethics too. "I'm always evaluating if something can be done better in some way, whether that’s with packaging or an ingredient. Positive Luxury accreditation keeps the brand moving forwards, socially and environmentally." Constant evaluation of how to improve and grow demonstrates a commitment to ethical standards, which is a respectable place to be. Progress is better than perfection from the outset - ideal for a startup with limited funds to get things 100% from the outset.
Goals can change with time and experience, so it’s ok to be flexible and adapt, and be patient. Success rarely comes overnight. Many small businesses start as a side hustle, with the founders putting in the time and effort to start building their business while still doing their 9-5. Others never leave the 9-5, but fully enjoy making a few pennies at local markets and online. It all comes down to your personal goals.
What are your boundaries or limitations?
Running a small business means you have to wear many hats, and ultimately the buck stops with you. That doesn’t mean you have to know it all - but you do have to know your limitations and know when to reach out for help. "Getting products ready for final testing and approval & legislation was difficult in the beginning," says Sarah. "I have gone down plenty of rabbit holes trying to figure something out before finally getting help with the answer."
There will be times when you need to seek expert advice or ask for support and that's ok. It's the smart thing to do and prevents burn out. As a small business owner, you can expect to work hard. But it doesn't need to be all consuming, so ensure you have boundaries in place to avoid burning out. Set limits on your time and your finances to try to keep your stress levels in check. "When you work for yourself there’s no cut off and you do need to set yourself boundaries if you’re not getting any time to switch off." admits Sarah.
When should you be patting yourself on the back?
It’s important to celebrate both big & small wins along the way to building a successful business. In the early days it can be lonely, starting out on your own and self doubt can creep in. So take time to consider the many different ways of evaluating your progress. Financial returns are a tangible measure of success, but you can also look beyond commercial gains and take stock of the many other ways success can be measured. Has your business changed the way people think about traditional methods of production, are you offering service that has a positive social impact or helps the environment? Always come back to your ‘why’ - your passion - and celebrate that. “There’s nothing like a customer saying how much they love your products and coming back to purchase them again. I never get tired of it,” says Sarah. "It just makes it all worthwhile. And seeing my products on the shelf after all the hard work to get them there is priceless!"
Sarafumi is a local business based in Guernsey. Each product is made by hand with 100% natural ingredients from high quality natural waxes, vegan butters and essential oils. Sarah hand makes all of the products in small batches for the entire range.
The brand aims to promote the natural beauty of Guernsey through its products, and in keeping with the origins of the business, Sarafumi uses the language of Guernsey Patois to name the products and is inspired by local scents. You can shop Sarafumi products at The White Room or online at sarafumi.com.