Categorized | Shoestring Startup

Why a 24 Year Old Male Decided to Sell Candles

Name of your company?

AromaPersona – www.AromaPersona.com

Date started?

July 2010

What is your product or service?

AromaPersona is a monthly service for discovering scented décor. We make it extremely easy to explore new and exciting combinations each and every month. Each month new selections become available and you may customize by combining the exact color and scent combinations with your preferred container/décor choices. If you are not happy with the selections available for a given month, you can always choose to pick something from the previous month(s); our catalog of products is growing bigger and better every month.

Why did you start your company?

It’s not like I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to sell candles, a lot of things came together to lead me down this path. I love e-commerce and I love the business model of these “co-creation” sites; the consumer builds their own product; whatever it may be, and then it is custom made to order. I also knew whatever I sold, had to be directed at the female demographic, why fight an uphill battle when they are the largest spenders online. So when my co-founder and I really sat down and started to evaluate potential ecommerce type businesses it didn’t take us long before we decided that this is what we wanted to do.

One of our biggest concerns when getting started was that our idea would be considered just another “candle and soap” company. While we knew this would be the case for awhile, we would have to slowly change those opinions over time with our products, offerings, and the way we conducted business.

The idea behind AromaPersona was really to provide people access to scent choices they couldn’t get in stores. But we also realized what other potential we had with our business. AromaPersona was becoming more than just an online store to sell custom candles. It soon became a tool for discovering Décor. One-of-a-kind home décor pieces that have a central focus on providing unique and different ways of displaying and celebrating your fragrances. Providing options and choices that are not available anywhere else, we are able to keep our customers happy, keep them longer, they love us, and we enjoy finding the next great scented décor piece to offer them.

How was it financed?

We are self funded so far, however we are about to close on a small angel round to help us get to the next step. I can say, it is amazing, how far so little money can actually get you when you are willing to work extremely hard. Both My co-founder and I are both non-technical, so we hired a freelancer to do all of our technical work, but because we couldn’t afford a designer, I took on that role, along with many, many other roles.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

If you’re an avid follower of the startup community you will probably already know of most of these tools, but some that I use for my business, is charbeat.com, indinero.com, feefighters.com, Google analytics, snapengage.com, uservoice.com, mixpanel.com, grasshopper.com, chargify.com, mailchimp.com, and typekit.com. Most of these have free starter plans, so try out their services.

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

Including contract workers and freelancers, we are up to 5 people working. This doesn’t seem like it would be nearly enough considering we are hand making and shipping most of the products; but it is amazing what we can get done when we are each highly focused on each one of our tasks.

What is the best advice you never got?

“Be your own devil’s advocate”. A lot of times, when you are building your product and so highly focus at the task at hand, you lose sense of direction and scope of the broader image. Ask yourself questions all the time, what is this good for, why would I use this, why would they use this. It is best to start with a purpose; you can’t be everything to everybody, so have a goal in mind and stick to it. If there is a clear line in the sand on exactly what your product does, you will easily convert visitors, and create followers. Also it is a good thing to have negative feedback, because most likely there is also positive feedback, you just haven’t heard it yet.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

As a founder I had to take on a multitude of different roles. This included, but definitely not limited to CEO, spokesperson, blogger, designer, copywriter, marketer, project manager, and sometimes even programmer. I wish I was already versed in most of these skills, but it is just something that I had to learn on the fly. For example I got myself a copy of Photoshop and just started playing with it. When designing pages for the site, I would come up with a layout, then tweak it over and over again till I was happy. It was just something I had to learn, so I did.

Another skill that is really not a skill but an important factor in the success AromaPersona was focus and motivation. In the beginning after initial launch, I felt great; we went live and made some sales, but after the initial rush left, I realized the hard part was not over, it was just beginning. The saying, “you build it and they will come” is just not true. It takes extreme motivation and belief in what you are doing, and if I did not have this, I would have given up. Every day I would pound the pavement, creating value for the company. I evaluated every one of my decisions, and asked myself “how is this benefiting the company”. Even the most basic of decisions, like “should I got out with friends”, are evaluated. More times than I can count, I stayed and worked on my business, I knew the hustle would pay off.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Once we realized a large factor in our success was not only providing new exciting scent options, but also with providing exceptional matching decor options, we quickly started putting primary focus on these efforts. Plain glass jars are boring, although we have them for the people that want them; we have expanded our offerings to include these one of a kind pieces. We realized it was these pieces that drove our membership rates thru the roof. They loved waiting for and choosing these décor options, and then having the ability to match it with their preferred scent combination is just icing on the cake.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

This is definitely a question I have thought about. The obvious answer is of course, if however it is at the right price. I know there will be other factors that will influence my decision as well, including current success and how far I feel like I can still take the company, but I have no intentions of just flipping the company. I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am, and I will feel like I have short changed myself if I sell too early. There is still much more work to do, it is only the beginning!

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