Emma’s brand is called Bella Flame, under which she crafts hand-poured soya gemstone candles, wax melts and reed diffusers. Emma explains how she began:
“What started as a dream slowly became a reality when I was inspired by some small businesses on Instagram. They gave me the confidence to follow my heart and do what I love and so Bella Flame was born.
“Candle making is not as simple as some may think; it has been a real challenge to perfect the product. It’s an exact science so, after making what felt like hundreds of candles, I finally created the quality soybean candle I wanted.”
Bella Flame candles are made with soy wax, which burns more cleanly than regular paraffin candles. In addition to the enticing scents, Emma’s candles and wax melts contain a mystery gemstone, which is revealed as they melt and the user can identify the type of gemstone on the Bella Flame website.
Emma runs the business from her home in Salisbury, where she lives with her two children and husband James, a soldier in the Royal Artillery. She has enjoyed the creative process involved in forming the brand, though the initial challenge to getting started was the investment, as Emma recalls:
“Money was the main barrier prohibiting me from trading. I needed to purchase a long list of equipment including wax, vessels, wax melters, jugs, spatulas, moulds, wicks, packaging not forgetting a variety of fragrances to combine into the perfects blends.
“I was really relieved to find I could access a Start Up Loan via X-Forces Enterprise, and they were incredibly helpful in that process and with advice since. I borrowed £1000, which enabled me to get the initial supplies that I needed to really get going.
“Finding customers was the next challenge. I have built up a business Instagram account from scratch to now having almost 3000 followers, which is amazing. Instagram is such a fantastic platform for businesses at the moment, but it does take a lot of time and dedication to build a loyal following.”
In addition to facilitating the Start Up Loan, Emma has able to access business plan guidance and cashflow templates from her dedicated Business Advisor at X-Forces Enterprise (XFE). For 12 months from the loan, thanks to the support of TRBL, Emma is mentored by XFE to ensure the business is performing as planned and responding to any changes.
When asked about the challenges she has faced so far, Emma indicated that balancing production with demand can be difficult:
“Not knowing when you will get an order is testing; some days I’ll have ten, others I’ll have nothing. It’s very unpredictable. I am quite impatient and I understand it takes time to build up a reputation and I have struggled at times as I want it to be Go Go Go from the start. I am positive as I am seeing a growth in the amount of sales as each week passes, it’s definitely going in the right direction.”
A common trait in the military community, Emma wholly embraces pressure and challenge. In fact, Emma suggests that making the move into business has been a turning point in her life.
“Starting my business is the best decision I have ever made. I love working for myself. Yes the pressure is on me, but that’s fine. I have no one else to answer to but myself. I love that I can make all the decisions, from what products I sell, how I make them to what they look like. It’s so rewarding.
“The opportunity to apply my creativity when branding and creating an image has been the best part. I’ve loved designing my website. Another huge bonus is that I can ensure my family always comes first; it is so important that I can juggle business around them when needed.”
The future looks glowing for Emma, with plans to diversify into the wedding market with favours and goody bags and she is considering opening trade sales channels to offer her products through retailers.
“I have lots of ideas how to take the business to the next level, including new home fragrance products and taking existing products into new markets. While I currently manufacture my products from my home, if the volume of orders increases beyond capacity, I plan to get a workshop and also take on staff to help me.”
CEO and founder Ren Kapur MBE commended Emma for turning a craft into a legitimate business:
“Two key themes in a successful start-up are inspiration and innovation. Emma has been inspired by following creative businesses on social media, researched her market thoroughly and created an innovative range of products. With this vital customer insight, teamed with Emma’s drive and efficiency, Bella Flame has great potential. Emma is a great example of the entrepreneurial military spouses we are honoured to assist; not only working through self-employment but thriving.”
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X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) is an award-winning Community Interest Company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the UK military community, official delivery partner to the government’s Start Up Loans Company and MoD’s Career Transition Partnership. XFE supports Service leavers, veterans, spouses, cadets and Armed Forces family members to start their own businesses with a full package of training, finance, networking and mentoring. Start your journey by registering today here.