This week on The Whin Big Podcast, Katie speaks with Jo Mathewson, owner of JoJo Co. Candles. Jo shares the story of how her business began by accident, and she’s grown it to support her whole family and a small team of staff.
In this week’s episode, you’ll learn first-hand that it is possible to run a business with humility and authenticity whilst avoiding strategic planning.
This is an inspiring and refreshing episode, so get ready to re-think your hobbies!
Today's episode is sponsored by the Instagram MOT. This 20-point checklist and free training are freshly updated, so get stuck in to find out if your profile is fit for purpose or needs some attention! Click on the big yellow button below to get started right away.
Turning a £40 fluke into a successful business
Jo runs a lovely candle business called JoJo Co. Candles, specialising in luxury soy candles and diffusers, all with beautiful scents. Despite her success, she still finds it strange to call it a business because it started in a very subtle way nearly five years ago.
Jo loves candles burning at home, and one day her husband bought a candle making kit as an activity they could try together. Let’s just say the activity didn’t go as planned – they had a difference of opinions through the making process, and Jo’s husband left her to get on with it herself.
It took 2 – 3 weeks of experimenting with the process and scent until Jo was happy with the results. From there, she was ready to make Christmas presents for her friends and family. The feedback was great, with many of her friends suggesting she could sell them.
“The feedback was amazing. I didn’t believe them at first – I thought they were just nice because they were my friends.” – Jo
Landing on the first signature scent
After mixing a few different scents, Jo landed on one that she loved and called it Pink Spice. Her friends asked for top-up candles because they loved them so much, but she didn’t think it was a business idea.
It wasn’t until other mums at the school gates asked her to make candles – because they’d smelled Pink Spice in different homes – that she realised people genuinely loved it and were happy to pay for it.
Finding the confidence to move forward
Jo’s come a long way since the candles in the playground days. She admits that being made redundant, and bringing up two young girls, played a part in her feeling out of touch with her confidence and by progressing slowly – and moving when it intuitively felt like the right thing to do – she’s built up her confidence to keep going.
“I didn’t know how much I needed this until I was about a year in. That’s when I started being the person I always wanted to be. I feel so lucky – this is my dream job…
“I’ve created the job that I always wanted to do. Having my own business and creating my journey was exactly what I needed, but I didn’t know that until it started to happen.” – Jo
Surrounding yourself with the right people when you’re under pressure
Managing the daily tasks, on top of special projects, marketing and raising her girls, has made Jo realise the importance of systems and processes. To help with this, Jo added two members of staff to the JoJo Co. family. Two friends had already given her so much support, encouragement and help in the early days of the business.
Recently, her husband has joined the team – an idea that was bubbling for around a year. Initially, they were nervous about putting the whole family’s well-being into just one business, but it felt like a natural progression in the end. The team works well together and has provided Jo with structure and support to concentrate on growing the business.
Adding to her core team, Jo outsources specific tasks to other people. She realised early on where her weak (or simply uninterested) spots are and has found other people to support her in these areas.
“Everyone that works with JoJo Co is connected to me in some way. It’s really important to me that we click. I wouldn’t just go looking for someone on the internet; it just wouldn’t work for JoJo Co.” – Jo
JoJo Co. and the global pandemic
Katie asked what impact the global pandemic had on JoJo Co. Fortunately for Jo, as an online business, she could trade as usual throughout the worst of the lockdowns and restrictions.
As we all know, very few people have come through this challenging time without being affected by the pandemic, and Jo took on a considerable amount of emotional weight through this time.
The messages on her hand-written tags became more heartfelt and emotional as the weeks and months went on, as an online business, and suddenly JoJo Co. took on a whole new meaning.
After writing hundreds of beautiful messages on gift tags, Jo felt inspired to create a unique charity candle. Kindness Candles came with special messages on the jars like ‘Miss You’ and ‘Hope’, and the money from the candles raised funds for Cash 4 Kids, a charity that supports disadvantaged families.
“Kindness Candles was incredibly emotional. I felt like I was providing a way for people to show their love and support. Sending these incredible messages worldwide and raising money made me feel like I was doing something really important. It helped me get through the pandemic.” – Jo
Jo’s (very reluctant) Marketing Strategy
Jo had mentioned she was determined not to have a website and had never used social media before starting JoJo Co., so Katie was keen to dig into this a little more (now that she has both).
When the business started to take shape, her brother suggested she started using Instagram because of the platform’s visual nature. After a whirlwind introduction to it, she began to use it. Her confidence grew, and she knew she felt ready to add Facebook into the mix.
Instagram is her main platform – she loves the visual side of it and feels it aligns more with her personality and intuition.
Jo posts every day and learns the different tools as she goes along.
Jo’s ‘don’t overthink it’ Instagram strategy
Jo posted images of candles being made in the kitchen in the early days because that’s where she worked. Looking back, she realises she started off in a basic way – but it reflected her journey. It progressed as her business evolved. One post she remembers clearly was a picture at her first-ever market.
It was the first photo of her, so she was very nervous about it – but it got lots of great engagement and the turning point for realising people wanted to see pictures of her, and more about behind the scenes.
Finding outside support for tasks you don’t enjoy
Jo was convinced she would never need a website to sell her products. For her, selling directly from Instagram and Facebook felt enough, but without an e-commerce system, she was manually handling the sales – adding to the daily tasks.
When she decided to look into her website, she was recommended a local contact—someone who knew how to create a beautiful and simple site. Intuitively, Jo knew she was the right person to work with because she avoided any technical jargon (something Jo doesn’t enjoy) and focussed entirely on Jo’s need for the look and feel of the site to be beautiful and emotive.
Her web designer kept all technical tasks as simple as possible, so Jo didn’t need to be involved. She’d never been interested in technology and IT, and it stressed her out whenever she had to deal with it, and by outsourcing it, she recognised how easy it could be to keep the stress away by finding other people to do it for you.
Now, the idea of outsourcing areas that don’t interest Jo is vitally important.
“My web designer looked after all the stuff I don’t love. I kept the enjoyment part by shaping how the site looked and making sure it felt as luxurious as it needed to be. Now I advise everyone to get someone to look after the stuff you don’t enjoy doing because, well, why do it to yourself if you don’t enjoy it?” – Jo
Email marketing strategy
Katie and Jo have a contact in common (Katie’s copywriter Abi Sea). Abi helps Jo with website writing and marketing and worked with her to set up her email system and email marketing strategy.
Fans of JoJo Co. products can sign up to become a JoJo Co. VIP to receive special treatment. Emails usually contain VIP only discounts on candles, sneak peeks of new scents or special shopping events.
The importance of keeping it fresh and exciting
Jo mentions the need to keep things fresh and moving in the business. She doesn’t like to feel stale, and knows her customers love hearing about new fragrances and products.
To help her business flow, Jo releases regular seasonal scents; the latest one – Sundown – has been out for a few weeks. However, Jo is close to announcing a new fragrance for late summer to help those who have missed the warm scents of the summer beach holidays. You heard it here first!
Keep the conversation going with Jo
Resources mentioned in this week’s Whin Big Podcast:
Jo’s web designer: Karen Small (email here)
Abi Sea, Jo (and Katie’s) copywriter & marketing support