Meet Mike and Kirsten, the creative powerhouse behind Palm Beach Collection.
You both left the security of full time employment in 2009 to start your Palm Beach Collection journey- what was the most challenging part of this decision?
The biggest challenge was definitely leaving a paying job to follow your dreams…It was a pretty big risk for us. When we started to tell people what we were doing, people laughed at us and couldn’t believe we were going to make candles. We had confidence in our plans and knew that our quality would stand out from our competitors and the rest is history.
Where were you both before Palm Beach Collection? Were there parallels from your previous careers that have helped create and perfect your brand?
Mike: A carpenter. He is fantastic with his hands and makes a lot of the machinery for our production. Without his background the production side would be a challenge for us. Kirsten: A women’s wear buyer for General Pants Group. Kirsten has had over 15 years in the retail industry with a strong buying background. Knowing how the retail world works was a bonus and also being able to manage stock, and plan merchandise has been invaluable.
What makes Palm Beach Collection stand out against its competitors?
We truly believe the quality!! We are young compared to our direct competitors, which puts us in a good place with the marketing and social media side of things. We are willing to try new things and push boundaries from time to time.
What was the turning point when you first realised your business was going to be a success?
When we first started Mike and I were pouring and packing the candles ourselves and then out on the road selling to customers…we were one man bands. We were so thrilled with our first Christmas, we had 20 accounts!!! We knew if we could get 20 accounts on our own in a couple of months, then we could definitely grow this into something bigger.
In the lead up to this, what marketing strategies had you employed to help you gain traction?
As far as marketing goes we knew we didn’t want to place ads, we would prefer to let its start organically. We started getting swamped with media enquires and employed a PR agent. Haven’t looked back.
In your experience, what’s the best way to manage the rapid growth of a startup business?
This is probably the trickiest part of the business to get a grip on. Cash flow is so important. Having a good relationship with your bank manager is a great start. We have both invested in the business and having a stable base allows us more flexibility with cash flow and growth. I think we have been realistic about our growth. Having a good grip on your debitors is so important…especially for us as we have so many accounts.
How has eCommerce supported your growth?
Our Ecommerce is still growing and has been a good kick start to help our margins. We have just re-launched our site which has been really successful. Bricks and Mortar store will always be the majority of our business but have the online component is getting stronger and stronger.
When you’re marketing products that appeal to your sense of smell, how do you promote your online store as a purchase channel? Do you think your brick and mortar stockists are important to supporting your online distribution strategy?
We try and support our bricks and mortar store firstly. Enquiries get filtered to our nearest stockiest unless they really want to buy online for convenience. I would like to think that if people go into a store to smell our range they would buy it from that store. We really try and be loyal and treat our online store as a bonus.
What has been the biggest highlight for each of you since starting the company?
Definitely air freighting containers to Japan was a nice sight to see. We will never get sick of seeing things like that.
What’s planned for Palm Beach Collection going forward?
We are launching Organic Body Bars this week, Christmas candle end OCT and then a gift pack from November. We also have some really exciting collaborations coming up in the New Year!
Finally, is there anything you wish you had of known starting out, or things you would have done differently, knowing what you know now?
We have both learnt very quickly to trust our guts. There has been times where we haven’t and we both regretted it.