For marketing account manager Louise Elsdon, taking risks brought benefits when she left full-time employment to run her own business.
Louise heard about heat-resistant lampshades for tealights from her brother-in-law who lives near Eindhoven in the Netherlands. She received samples of colourful Candlecovers from the Dutch global supplier and loved the product’s simplicity and uniqueness. Manufactured from polypropylene, Candlecover is available in a wide range of designs and can be used safely with real and battery-operated tealights.
Louise gained rights to be the UK’s only supplier of Candlecover and began by selling the product at Tynemouth market. She also held house parties and attended craft fairs, growing the business gradually.
The next stage for Candlecover was a Living North Christmas fair held in York in 2013, which Louise describes as a “turning point”. She explained:
“If the business was to move forward, I had to take a risk. I didn’t know what the response would be, but found that people loved the product as much as I did, and it paid off.”
Candlecover was then launched to trade customers at the Birmingham NEC’s Spring Fair Trade Show and built up a network of 30 national gift retailers. Louise made the decision to leave her agency job in 2014 but when she fell pregnant with her first child she chose to let Candlecover tick over, helped by a business partner.
Up until joining the Captured programme in March 2017 Louise thought of Candlecover as a hobby but since working with Wendy Toole, formerly of American Express Global Business Travel, she views it as a serious business opportunity.
‘Captured came at the right time for me. The programme provided lots of networking opportunities and reinvigorated my thoughts about Candlecover. I had a business plan but I hadn’t considered the full potential of the product. With Candlecover I had never practiced what I had preached to clients over my 20 year career… but I am now!’
For Louise, the most important element of Captured was Wendy’s role as a mentor. She said:
“Wendy was brilliant and I now have three mentors for different areas of the business, including e-commerce, as I need to grow online sales. I am keeping up the momentum which Captured gave me.’
Another important strand of Captured was making connections with like-minded entrepreneurs in a supportive environment. Louise acknowledges that there are challenges to being self-employed and appreciated the opportunity to share ideas with other people involved in the programme.
Fiona Whitehurst, academic lead for Captured, said:
“Louise exemplifies what Captured is all about. She is now pursuing Candlecover with renewed drive and has recognised the value of an outside perspective. She was a great contributor to the cohort and I know other businesses benefitted from her input.’
Since joining Captured, Louise has decided to transform Candlecover and expand the business significantly. With Christmas currently being the most lucrative season, Louise is planning to grow the business by developing personalised products and exciting new individual ranges.
For further information on Newcastle University Business School’s Captured programme visit go.ncl.ac.uk/nubs/captured. Captured is supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and their North East Growth Hub, home to the biggest range of business support and events for micro, small and medium sized enterprises across the region.