Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dana Murphy-Love, Founder of Cierra Candle & Soap Supplies located in Everett, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cierra is a business focused on helping people make amazing things. Whether creating candles, wax melts, air freshers, soaps, lotions, or other bath and body products, we have the supplies to inspire you to be creative and grow your business. Our customers range from hobbyists to large wholesale candle and soap businesses. They are from all over the world as we ship internationally. We offer same-day shipping if placing your orders by 1 pm PT and free shipping on fragrance orders over $100. Our local customers love that they can come into our retail store and sniff fragrances before buying. And also pick up orders they have placed online to avoid shipping costs. We test all of our fragrances extensively before bringing them into our library. Only a few make the cut out of the hundreds of fragrances we test annually.
We also carry several original fragrances that you won't find at other suppliers. We are continually observing trends within the fragrance community. If the fragrance is soap safe, you will see the CP Testing Notes in the product description of each fragrance page on our website. And we also provide the regulation documents (IFRA and MSDS) for each fragrance. We know it sounds like a cliche', but our number one goal is to provide excellent customer service. Whether it's a small business or a crafting hobby, we know getting started can be intimidating. Everyone at Cierra is here to help, and we love watching our customers grow and be successful, learning along the way from the advice we can provide them with. We are also a small business with no plans to expand into a 'super store' type of business. We feel that when that happens, you lose a lot of that personal experience of knowing your customers well. People like to support small businesses because of that personal touch. Because we also have a retail outlet, we not only know our customers by name but also by face, being able to talk to them about their kids and their successes and challenges. People want to be listened to. We love being able to do that.
Tell us about yourself
Both my husband and I come from different backgrounds. Scott's background is in technology as a software engineer, and I spent 34 years in association management, with the last 13 years as an owner of an association management company (AMC) here in the Pacific Northwest. When my partners and I sold the AMC, I decided to take a leap and look for a business that would allow me to use my business skills while also exploring my creative side. Scott had purchased a wood-working tool business, and we looked for a business that would compliment that by finding products that people can use to make things with their hands. We found that in 2016 when we purchased Cierra and moved the business from Montana to Washington.
My father always said, "Love what you do, do what you love." He was a pharmacist and owned several hometown pharmacies in Michigan. Throughout his 60+ years, he never had a day that he woke up not wanting to go to work because he loved what he did. That is how we feel every single morning. What we do in a day always varies it is never dull, and we get to inspire people to be creative and watch them grow. It is so exciting!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I feel guilty for saying this, but COVID gave our company a large push. During COVID, we saw the 'cottage industry' expand greatly. Because we provide products that allow people to be creative in their own homes, we benefited greatly from this. Candles give a 'coziness' factor, and people stuck in their homes wanted that feeling. Teaching people how to DIY was key, so we used the opportunity wisely and expanded our "How to Hub" on our website with detailed instructions/recipes as well as the DIY Kit offerings. We also grew our product base and efficiencies and hired more staff to serve more customers. We have several customers who started their own candle businesses out of their homes during COVID and have expanded to large operations with multiple wholesale accounts. It's been an amazing and gratifying time.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
This is somewhat difficult for me to answer, but I'd probably say staying on top of social media. It's almost a full-time job in itself. We had a contract social media manager for a bit, but I'm a bit of a control freak and wanted our SM to be fresher and more relevant. Now that we have trained staff, I've been able to move out of the chores in the warehouse and focus on 'the business of running the business,' which includes Social Media. I'm learning, learning, and I'm also finding it fun to step outside of my comfort zone.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Trust in your staff team. They have skills that you don't and can make your business life easier while making them feel relevant and contributing more to the business.
- Do step outside of your comfort zone and do something that makes you nervous and teaches you a new skill.
- Find time to focus on the business of running your business, not just the everyday mechanics or the tasks that you find fun.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We are hands-on owners. There is nothing we ask our team to do that we wouldn't do ourselves (well, actually, Dana has no desire how to learn to work the forklift!). You'll often find us in the warehouse helping to pull, pack and ship orders, and take out the trash.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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