29 year-old Nicky Story, from South Yorkshire, started his business from his garage just 5 years ago. He’s now the proud owner of a multi-million-pound business empire, employing over 100 people and serving over 60,000 customers. As the CEO of; Supplies For Candles, The Soap Kitchen and Glassprints Ltd – this b2b empire, is the go-to for candle and soap making ingredients and products, Nicky is at the helm of the largest online company in Europe within the industry, helping thousands of others become successful entrepreneurs and business leaders too. TSF caught up with Nicky recently to discover more about his entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I studied Business and Management at Leeds University and when I graduated in 2012, I set up Soap Suppliers Limited from my dad’s garage. However, four years in this business, I was getting nowhere — in those years I had made a loss of £3,000, I had no idea about e-commerce or marketing and made a ton of mistakes. It had taken me 4 years to build a business that was making no money at all. I was on my own, working in the freezing cold every day, with no support, I was just failing and I was so miserable because I thought, I’m meant to be successful and I felt like I had no purpose. Doctors gave me anti-depressants as I couldn’t even get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, my parents were so worried about me and I just felt like a failure. I really wanted to give up, I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed anymore to even pack a few orders in the garage. I didn’t want to do it anymore because whatever I did, didn’t work.
Eventually, I had to get a job because I had no money, or motivation, and realised that my business, as it was then, wasn’t going anywhere so, I ended up working as a Buyer for a manufacturing company in Leeds. Longing for my business to be a success, I still tried to run it on an evening and weekend whilst working full time, all the time being petrified of going back into my previous mental state.
With hindsight, I sees now that this one year experience in employment taught me how not to be — my boss wasn’t a great leader and lots of staff were unhappy and I remembers one day sat in the office looking at my previous boss thinking — ‘when I run my own multi-figure company — I will never act like you do or treat my staff like you do.’
However, what this job did do was enable me to save up £10,000 from my salary and I decided I had the confidence to take another shot at running my own business full time.
I am now the proud owner of a multi-million-pound business empire, employing over 100 people and serving over 60,000 customers.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
After previously not succeeding in my first business and returning to employment, I knew I didn’t want to work for somebody else, I wanted to make a success of myself. So, I looked at what was popular in the market and invested the money that I had saved for a deposit on a house, I invested into launching Supplies For Candles. I quit my job, bought some wax, glass and fragrance and I set that up company in 2016.
Supplies for Candles is a distributor of candle and soap making ingredients. Supplies for Candles primarily sells candle supplies for retail and wholesale across the UK and to micro businesses who manufacture their own candles, soaps and air fresheners which they then sell online.
Only six months later things just started changing, sales started coming through and the next thing I know, I needed a helping hand… we then rapidly continued to grow and grow…
How did you achieve awareness?
It’s really important to understanding your market — the market I initially went into wasn’t big enough and that’s why it didn’t make money. Also, my online strategy wasn’t right and Google didn’t like my website so that wasn’t helping SEO. Getting the online visibility is crucial, getting Google to recognise you as a company so that you are listed at the top — in my industry, is the only way you get sales and the way to do this is by ensuring you have great content, a fast website, quality images and videos…
Generating good quality content — top tips, how to guides, blogs, videos… is key for awareness building and 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.
We penetrated the market using Google ad words to buy customers attention — however, once we’d given them a good service we intend to keep them for life. We focus on the life longevity of a customer and try to ensure they come back with our high quality vast product range, our key knowledge, expertise and customer care and finally our ease of ordering and speed of deliveries.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Marketing and positioning were the key strategies in order to reach the seven figures. When things started to go well, I didn’t get carried away, I paid myself £12K in order to survive and pay the bills and the rest I invested back into the business predominantly into marketing as I wanted the lifetime value — I was focusing on growth and the future of the company.
In order to gain funding, we have used expert advisors who specialise in acquisition and funding. Using professionals will ensure not only do you get the best deal, but also the best funders who will work well with the business. Believing in yourself and your business is the best way to get investors on board, if you believe in yourself and capabilities, so will the investors.
We have recently undertaken two acquisitions of The Soap Kitchen and Glassprint Ltd – these deal opportunities were presented to specialist alternative finance provider to mid-sized SMEs ThinCats by Leeds-based corporate finance firm Sentio Partners.
What are the key successes?
Rapid growth…. our Mexborough-headquartered company has doubled in size over the past year and is predicted to turn over £20m in 2021. It currently serves about 100,000 customers and employ more than 100 members of staff across two locations in the UK.
Our latest £2.5m investment includes the acquisition of Glassprint Ltd, stock of new products and the purchase of a 20,000 sq ft warehouse in Mexborough close to the headquarters. Glassprint, established in 2002, specialises in printing on glass products such as candle glasses, perfume bottles and beer bottles, with customers including Ted Baker and the White Company. This acquisition is the second for Supplies for Candles during the Covid-19 pandemic, following on from The Soap Kitchen in Devon in 2020.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Even after 4 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 4 years of a failing business and also within employment for that one 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.
One of the biggest lesson 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 this time. Previously, I played really safe and was constantly so scared of it failing I was really conservative — but continued to fail anyway… this time I risked it all in order to hopefully gain. I kept visualising what I wanted and that kept me motivated daily.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We are currently exploring new business markets, more acquisitions and global expansions. We want to continue to reach and help more business startups and grow our online community so we can share and offer even more support and guidance.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
My message to other entrepreneurs is Keep Going! Business can be tough but it can also be incredible — I lost £3K in 4 years with my first business and I made £15 million+ in 5 years with my second business.
Helping and supporting others is what drives me now. I am passionate about helping others and love to give back through various avenues — I like to speak in schools and colleges about my entrepreneurial journey to inspire and encourage young people, especially those from deprived areas, to believe that they can achieve things they might not think possible.
I am also passionate about fuelling the entrepreneurial economy – especially during Covid, we have helped thousands of new businesses get off the ground. I have also shown that entrepreneurs stick together and since the beginning of the pandemic, Supplies for Candles has given away £100,000-worth of candle making kits and business start-up support to people who have been financially affected by the pandemic to help them launch businesses from home and I also gifted 10K to a local business women — the value of what it had cost me to set up my business — to help her business grow.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Connect with your why – “That year in employment really helped me to visualise 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’.”
Understand your market. – “The market I went into initially wasn’t big enough and that’s why it didn’t make money… you really need to understand your market.”
Grow your network and surround yourself with skilled people.“You have to give yourself time to grow your network. I believe anyone is capable of achieving their dreams….but, it helps to have someone in your corner who has learnt a few of the hard lessons! Find yourself a mentor and also know your cheerleaders!”
Turn your failure into ‘fearless.’ – “One of the biggest lessons, second time around, was having the resilience and confidence to just go for it.”
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.
Focus on Your Team — I am passionate about ensuring staff are happy and that they have opportunities to feedback and to personally progress and grow. I spend a lot of my time and focus on building the team, ensuring everyone has opportunity to get the most out of the business — team spirit and culture is crucially important to me.
Keep Going! Business can be tough but it can also be incredible!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
Elon Musk — I love all his different projects and businesses
Muhammad Ali — I love his quote “don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Over time, I have also surrounded myself with people who have the correct skillset — and that only comes with time and growing your network. I think it is vitally important to use people who have got similar experiences to you — so, when I met John Leech, who had many successful business ventures from an early age, including running a jewellery making and craft suppliers, I asked if he would be my Business Adviser. I have worked with him over the past 2.5 years and he’s guided me from a small business to where we are today, he pops in everyday to see us at the factory. I play to other people’s strengths to help my decision-making and guide my growth and expansion opportunities.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Muhammad Ali — 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.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?