How I started my business: Sandwick Bay Candles

Megan Macdonald

How I started my business: Sandwick Bay Candles

When Megan made her first candles for her children’s school teachers, she was inundated with requests for more, and so making candles from her Outer Hebrides home became her business.

What did you do before you started this business?

Originally from New Zealand I came to the UK on a working holiday visa. I met a guy in the local pub, got married in a 12th century old church and now live in the Outer Hebrides with our three children. I continue to work as an Occupational Therapist with the local NHS and love helping people to maintain their independence.

What inspired you to start up?

I was looking for a different Christmas present for my children’s school teachers and decided to make some candles. I got the kids to decorate the label that went on the tin and they were very popular with the teachers. I also gave them to friends and family for Christmas and it wasn’t long before I was asked to make more.

Tell us about your business in 100 words

I hand pour soy candles. I am based in the Outer Hebrides and have the most fantastic view from my house over Sandwick Bay, hence the business name. All my candles are made in small batches and I have a unique range of candle fragrances. I also run candle making workshops and candle parties which have been a great success especially on the wet wild nights that the islands get. I have had a number of wedding favour orders this year that I can’t wait to show people, once the wedding date has passed so as not to spoil the surprise for the bride and groom’s guests.

How would you describe your business to your grandma?

Fantastic smelling candles made with soy wax, inspired by the natural beauty of the Outer Hebrides

Where do you get advice, support or help?

I have met some fantastic people on my journey and have had support from the local business gateway attending their business courses. I was also involved with Entrepreneurial Spark and their virtual hatchery in Inverness. My  husband has been a fantastic support and always helps with the cleaning up. I also find the local network of business women that I have been involved with on Instagram and Twitter to be a great support.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

Finance has been one of the biggest challenges and I haven’t had any financial support or funding. Initially I put my own money in to start off getting the stock required and from then on I have used all the sales from the candles. At times I was getting down to £10 in the account and waiting for orders to be complete before I could get more wax or fragrances.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

I was delighted to be asked by Sarah Brown, former prime minister’s wife, to work on a candle for her charity Theirworld. A global children’s charity committed to giving the most vulnerable children and young children a brighter future. The candle ‘promise’ was the perfect gift for Christmas and was based on their campaign that world leaders had pledged to get all Syrian refugee children into school in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

I was also nominated for new business of the year with the Highland Business Women’s awards. This was a great surprise and I was amongst a fantastic group of business women.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

With a number of candles on the market I stand apart from the rest with my range of fragrances. I am based in a beautiful part of the world which inspires me daily to create a high end product.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

It’s brilliant and I love putting my creative ideas into action. I get to pick my children up from school and spend more time with them. I work mostly at night when they are all sleeping soundly. It’s also a challenge when you are responsible for everything and I have learned so much over the last 12 months.

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

I see myself in my workshop/studio creating more candles, working on doing bespoke candles for weddings and continuing to attend the local agricultural shows where I get to meet my customers. I am loving this journey.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it! I just had an idea that started with friends and family. I have also said yes to every opportunity that has been given to me, even if it has scared me. I am still nervous about doing a 60 second pitch in front of 50 people!