How this candle company in the Outer Hebrides is reaching new audiences with one-to-one mentoring
Megan Macdonald’s candle-making company is a local favourite in the Outer Hebrides – and with one-to-one mentoring and training from Google to help her succeed online, she now hopes to reach more customers beyond the UK.
In 2016 Megan Macdonald spent a Scottish winter in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides learning how to make scented candles in her kitchen - before launching her company, Sandwick Bay Candles.
The business quickly gained popularity, enabling Megan to open up a gift shop attached to her workshop, allowing visitors to see and smell the vegan candles before purchasing. “It’s grown from just me making five candles on my kitchen table to having a workshop and employing seven people,” she explains. She sells other locally produced products, making her outlet a great find for present-shopping or souvenir-hunting tourists.
When restrictions were put in place in 2020, Megan had to be creative in her response, adapting as the rules changed. “We added a click-and-collect option to our website, and when the shop was allowed to reopen, we offered an ‘appointment-only service’,” she says.
Megan also had challenges with her supply chain, including fragrances, jars and other items going out of stock. At the same time, she knew she needed to develop her website and be more discoverable online to increase sales to sustain her business – especially with Scotland having tougher lockdown measures than much of the UK.
While discovering online tools to help her business adapt, Megan received free one-to-one mentoring and training from Google. This helped her develop a better online presence and she learnt new ways to maximise her opportunities online.
As Sandwick Bay Candles is based in the Outer Hebrides, Megan knew that she needed to build her brand online to increase sales. She says the mentoring sessions made a real difference: “We came away from each session buzzing with ideas and excited to get working on the plans we had discussed.”
She adds: “We got so much great advice from our mentor. He suggested using Google Analytics to track our website traffic and start building a digital marketing plan using data from Google trends, so I can see when and how people are searching for our products. In parallel, my mentor suggested that I start using social media to capture the process of candle making. I’m excited to explore having a YouTube channel.”
Megan has started to film video content as part of her upcoming social media strategy. She wants to increase her customer base beyond the UK. “We have a very loyal local customer base but are always looking to expand our customer reach into the rest of Scotland, the UK and globally,” she says.
Although nobody knows what’s around the corner in 2021, Megan at least has a plan: “2020 was such a strange year, full of highs and lows, but it feels good to have a structured plan for how we are going to market our business.”