Hello everyone! Holly here, I’ve set myself a challenge to blog every Tuesday. I’ve said it out loud now, it’s on the internet, there is NO going back.
I asked earlier on my Instagram stories and in our FB group (what you’ve not joined? Better do it now!) what you would like to hear about today, and it was a landslide to hear about how Holly’s Lollies started.
To be honest I am pretty glad, starting blogging with this is probably the most sensible place to begin. Here’s a picture of me recently so you can see who’s talking. I hope to be frank and honest. This whole small business thing is not easy! (This is the most recent photo of me, on holiday after the xmas rush, I am either drunk or hungover or both. There’s some honesty, it is not a good picture)
We’ll start at the very beginning. I’m 21 and I’m living in a house share after university (really making use of that Psychology BSc), there’s 21 of us in the house, it’s gross but the best time I’ve ever had. I’m pottering about in the kitchen (the only one that ever did) and for some reason I had decided to make lollipops. Raspberry gin. The first flavour I ever made. In a heart shaped mould with paper sticks. I ran down to the pool room (the basement with an old pool table in and a pile of empty beer bottles from parties past, fancy) and thrust them upon my friends. They were sticky, no one was really impressed. I forgot the idea.
Skip forward a few months, and I have a marketing job for a company that sells cleaning supplies (who says doing psychology is useless?). I had got the job because I was running a successful food blog, and I told them I was the bomb at marketing. I was not. I didn’t care enough. I started day dreaming. I came back to the lollipops. There had to be something else I could do.
In the mean time I had moved in with my sister, that house share had worn thin and I was about to move in with my boyfriend (co-owner of The Slabb now). Every night I came home and made lollipops trying to perfect the recipe. I also made fudge, peanut brittle, honeycomb, if it rots your teeth I was making it. As well as making my Sister’s kitchen sticky. (Sorry Vix, but you have a job with me now, so are we even?)
We moved house and I carried on, practice makes perfect, or sugar burns in my case.
Here is where I have had to look back at my FB feed to see what happened. The past 2.5 years have been a total blur, but those first 5 months? Ouch.
From the looks of things I got my first stockist. Berylune in Leamington, before I’d even made my first sale to the public. I am SO grateful to them.
I set up a Kickstarter and figured if that got fully funded, I could quit my job.
One week in, not even close to funded, I quit my job.
I’m not even joking. See below.
Well Holly of the past, that was a ballsy move.
I look back at how my lollipops looked and absolutely crack up. They looked fine, but I was printing and HAND CUTTING every one of those tags. Including snipping the corners to be rounded. Then tying them all on with bakers twine. WHAT WAS I THINKING?
Incidentally, this photo was take at another milestone. My first food festival. I sold next to nothing. It cost me a fortune.
Worst of all I threw a lot of stock out. The lollipops had a 4 week shelf life at that point.
Never the less, I persisted. I did a fantastic wedding fair and got my first press coverage.
The next step for Holly’s Lollies was Not On The High Street. I debated for ages whether I should spend the £200 joining fee.
Looking back now I know it was hands down the best £200 I have ever spent. NOTHS has it’s issues, but I wouldn’t be where I was now without this move.
The next 2 months were the best and worst of my life. I cried on my front door every single night, saying I wanted to quit, saying I couldn’t do it.
Why? We were too successful. I was under a HUGE amount of pressure from NOTHS as they saw the potential of the product. I was also under a HUGE amount of pressure from myself. ‘Make hay whilst the sun shines’ and all that. Well, that’s all well and good until you work 18 hours a day for 9 weeks. We closed to new orders on December 1st. I still cringe at the lost revenue, but I could only make 600 lollipop a day. There was nothing else I could do. I was getting ill.
I missed my cousin’s wedding and I missed a trip to Columbia to see my best friend. It was all a bit unexpected.
As you can see I had moved to stickers and tape by this point. Much wiser.
I wouldn’t wish that first Christmas in business on anyone. I lost all love for it. Spoiler alert, it did come back.
I can’t believe I have gabbed on for so long and only got 5 months into Holly’s Lollies. So, I will do a few more blog posts in the next couple of weeks and talk to you about the joys of getting premises, stockists, staff, getting rid of premises, fulfilment, fulfilment problems, new products, factories, TV appearances, more crowdfunding, newspaper articles, the whole shebang. Nothing in this small business world is simple, but it makes a good story.