A Preston entrepreneur who launched her own business after spotting a gap in the market while studying in China says it was the best move she’s ever made.
Sally Bennett, 27, from Longton, launched ‘Beanmade Candles’ four months ago, after teaching herself how to create the products, and drawing on her previous experience in new product development in the food industry for Marks and Spencer.
The business is going from strength to strength and Sally, a UCLan graduate, is setting her sights on supplying high street department stores.
She has been supported in getting her business off the ground through Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub and its Growth Support Programme, which helps entrepreneurs develop business plans and grow their enterprises.
The fully-funded Growth Support Programme, delivered by Winning Pitch and Enterprise4all, provides help to develop a personal action plan, Lean Launchpad sessions outlining key principles for developing a new business and one-to-one coaching support for business owners.
Boost; Lancashire Business Growth Hub is led by the Lancashire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and Lancashire County Council, and supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Sally, who studied nutrition at university, moved to Shanghai to study Mandarin and while she was there she identified a gap in the market for handmade British products.
She started experimenting in making candles from soy beans and essential oils and eventually started selling her candles at markets in Shanghai.
The soy wax candles and melts are made from pure soybean oil meaning they burn longer and are cleaner than paraffin wax, with little soot build up.
Following early success Sally wanted to set up as a business but language barriers in China made it difficult, so she came back to England to set up Beanmade Candles.
In the long-term Sally wants to export the products back to China as well as selling them in this country. So far, the candles are stocked in stores in Penwortham and Tarleton and she sells them online too.
Sally explained: “The response so far has been great and I’ve already got a strong customer following. The whole process has been so exciting – and I’m learning a lot along the way.
“I’m not from a business background but I’m very independent and have always wanted to do something for myself.
“I found out about Boost after attending a networking event and the support has been really valuable. The workshops have taught me to ‘think bigger’ and enabled me to see the bigger picture and all the opportunities. It’s also helped me to plan. As a new business owner, I didn’t really have anybody to ask – when you start a new job you have a boss – but when it’s just you it’s different. I’ve met a lot of other entrepreneurs through Boost too and we’ve been able to help each other.”
She added: “As I started in China I’d eventually like to export back there, I think the way forward will be to outsource parts of the business – if I had a manufacturing site I don’t think I’d be able to focus on the growth of business as much and ultimately that’s what I want to do.”
Rona McFall, head of entrepreneurial solutions at Winning Pitch, said: “Sally has turned her business dream into a reality and we’re thrilled to have been able to support her in getting this venture up and running. Establishing a business involves many unknowns but Sally is a great example of somebody who is making the most of all the support which is available and we’d encourage other people in the same boat to get in touch and find out how we can help them.”
Boost has received £3.8m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.