Meet Paul Finch
Who says you can’t make success of a business you run on the side? Paul Finch didn’t give up his day job when he started candle company Batch One and thanks to clever partnerships and lots of support from friends and family, the business is thriving.
1. Why did you start Batch One and what were you doing before?
I had always been interested in home renovation and design, and had quite a clear view on the types of design styles I liked. When trying to find a candle for a candle-obsessed ex, I realised I couldn’t find any that I liked (that’s how it works, right?!), and was staggered at the cost of high-quality candles like Jo Malone, Diptyque.
We broke up the day I was hunting for a decent one as a present, and most likely as a distraction I spent the weekend trying find a well-designed, high quality candle which didn’t cost the earth. I couldn’t, so made my own.
Within a couple of days I had hunted down the best wax provider in the country, crowd sourced the designs, built a simple website, and created a couple of hundred candles as a test. The rest, as they say….
2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?
I used Pinterest to create a clear moodboard of the designs I liked to create a clear vision of the brand, which helped the crowdsourced designers work with what I had in mind and the look I was going for. I tested every concept, idea, and fragrance with surveys among my friends and contacts, and validated I was in the right direction at every stage. A friend stocked the first batches in his coffee shop to help test traction, price, feedback, which helped me before I scaled.
3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?
Critical feedback is crucial. I started with small batches to see what worked, what didn’t, and made sure I had validated everything before investing money in rolling out big production runs. I’ve made some mistakes, but the cost of them has always been restricted, and focusing on the data has always led me to change correction intelligently.
My biggest lesson is how much time you need to dedicate to a side business; the ‘pay back’ is directly correlated to how much time I dedicate to it. Batch One started as a side gig and was created in the throes of starting a new business (the main job) which means marketing often got neglected, or stock ran low because I wasn’t ‘on it’. Automation has helped my life significantly; automated email and purchase processes, and warehousing the stock meaning I don’t need to post each order out. Don’t underestimate how much time you need.
4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?
5. What advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Do something you love so it won’t feel like hard work. Find something you are massively proud of talking about or selling. Test and validate EVERY assumption before you spend a penny on product or a website. Cost up everything; warehousing my stock and getting people to fulfil orders does eat into my margin a bit, but the time it saves me means I can spend more on marketing, speaking to retailers, improving the product.
Oh, and “build it and they will come” does not work. Marketing is crucial!
6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?
7. Which element of marketing has made the most impact on your business?
Partnerships. Early on I spoke with James Pendleton Estate Agents (in South West London) and asked if there was something we could ‘do’ together based on us being SW London businesses. They were amazing. They give a Batch One candle to every new home owner; it’s a great partnership and pairing. It provides me with lots of local people who know about us, and gives them a really appropriate, personal gift to their new homeowners as a moving-in gift. Collaborating with people and businesses has been much more profitable and enriching than any campaign.