Thank you so much for all your lovely responses to last week’s blog post. To catch up, read my first post here.
I genuinely thought I would get the whole story of Holly’s Lollies into one blog post, I’d kind of forgotten just how much has happened. Today I want to focus on lost opportunities and customer feedback and you will see why.
We left things just after my first Christmas of crazy lollipop making, so we will pick it up there, and what comes after Christmas in terms of commercialised holidays? Valentines!
Looking back at my social media trying to remember this period has not helped much since I didn’t post much. In January 2016 all I seem to have talked about is the release of our Valentine’s lollipops, and David Bowie dying.
I do know however that I was busy, and from the looks of things stopped selling these on February 1st. Another cringe at lost revenue, just like at Christmas, because things were going too well.
Well, things were going too well, but also these moulds were an absolute pain in the arse.
Usually our moulds are in sets of 10 together, little did I know just how time consuming individual moulds would be, from laying them out, pouring them and cleaning them. Never again.
Plus I was finding them everywhere. They bounce! I struggled through, being the frugal business owner that I am, I refused to buy custom built moulds and just cracked one. Something I have learnt more recently is that time is money, and time has an impact on my sanity. Individual moulds at valentines = questionable sanity.
I was about to stop writing about time wasting when I came across this photo. The circle stickers (which have since been changed) are fine. They were outsourced, printed in thousands and sent back me. Cost effective and quick.
The heart ones? Well I didn’t want to pay for custom plates for heart shaped stickers, and so I printed them on plain paper, lined them up on the Silhouette Machine to cut (my nemesis, it never bloody worked and is in locked in a cupboard right now. Seriously, locked. The door knob fell off and knowing that was the only real thing in there I never fixed it). Seems okay, until you learn that I was so busy spending 18 hours a day making lollipops that I never did this in advance and always at the last possible minute. 5.25pm just before the last post? There I was.
Anyway back to what I actually wanted to talk about. Firstly, missed opportunities.
Looking back at the first Christmas and Valentine’s makes me squirm. We were in such high demand. Everyone wanted a Holly’s Lolly and I’ll be honest these hand poured lollipops with a 4 week shelf life weren’t my best product. I would say my humbugs are. I love them. But still, we were popular.
I closed a month before Chirstmas and two weeks before Valentine’s. Imagine all those missed sales. *Shudders*
When I really think about it though, would the business be what it is without that? If I had started with £100k investment, a team and a factory, instead of less than £1k and a home kitchen, would things all be the same? Well duh, no! I might be a millionaire. On the other hand I might have fallen flat on my ass, be in personal bankruptcy (had no idea what a ltd company was back then) or worked myself into an early grave.
Of course I would change some things, and hell no would I do it again, but that steep, sharp learning curve has made my business what it is today. Being in the trenches, knowing it from the inside out, getting those sugar burns and developing the recipes. Sure, I employ people now, but I am still the expert of all things Holly’s Lollies. Surely that’s how it should be?
I also got to know my customers, I got to know what they wanted and 99.9% of them are the most lovely people around, a pleasure! Which leads me nicely onto the next thing I wanted to talk about.
Oh customers, and if you are reading this you probably are one. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Actually I can live with them, and I have made friends through people being my customers. However, I have had my fair share of interesting, frustrating and downright ridiculous conversations in my time.
I want to do a whole blog post on them, and include some unbelievable stories from other small businesses (if you are interested in some now head to Anges De Sucre’s blog, not my fault if you wee yourself laughing). For 99.9% of the time I bloody love my customer’s though.
My first poor review and DEMAND for a refund was concerning my Cherry Amaretto lollipops (pictured above). The customer in question was “horrified” the lollipop did not come swirled EXACTLY like the pictures and was just so very upset.
These HAND POURED lollipops do not always come out the same but always taste the same. Always made with high quality ingredients and always packed and sent with love. Back then it took hours to make them, I was undercharging (another story) and I triple checked every order that went out.
Yet one Sunday morning near Christmas when I was visiting my in laws and I had stopped at a KFC to get signal to dispatch 1000’s of orders (a manual process I has to do on NOTHS at the time) and I checked my reviews to see that this particular customer had lost her head at me over a swirl, and a message telling me I just had to refund her. AND she wanted to keep her ‘horrible’ lollipops
My first bad review. I was heartbroken. I sat in the car and wept (the lack of sleep did not help). I thought my business was over. I over reacted in a big way of course, but I was just so shocked. I unreservedly apologised and refunded.
Yeah, you read that right! I did nothing wrong, but because the customer had left a bad review, used threatening language and demanded a refund I caved. I was new in business, naive and scared.
Let’s get this straight. Bullying a small business is not okay. Bullying anyone is not okay. This isn’t the worst example, but this is a lineal story of the business and it was my first.
You shouldn’t throw your weight around to get what you want and it’s true, you catch more flies with honey then vinegar. In this instance, I hadn’t done anything wrong, however sometimes items get broken in the post or I pop the wrong thing in a bag. It happens rarely, but it does happen and I always hold my hands up and admit when I am wrong.
I learnt quickly that if you send 1000s of parcels a month (this changes to 1000’s a week at xmas) that you have got to expect some abuse (don’t get me started on the bad reviews left by a company who copied my products, openly said she did on her website and then got her mates to leave bad reviews), but I was still shocked.
In our small business group we regularly joke about how we have RUINED Christmas’s and birthdays, because when a parcel gets broken in the post, that is the response we sometimes get. ‘You have ruined my dogs birthday’ ‘My 1 year old daughter will be distraught her card is not here’ <- both real examples.
Bet you didn’t think that anyone would call a lollipop maker a ‘complete f-ing bitch’ because they read the description wrong regarding delivery dates.
I can laugh about it all now. In fact, I look at some ridiculous things that have been said to me just for a laugh.
We’ll end on a positive business note. My lollipops were featured in Heat magazine that Valentine’s. Do you have the ‘We’re going to Lonndonnn’ song stuck in your head now?
You’re welcome x