CICELY & MAY: Our Start-Up Story
Kirsteen Ormesher is the owner and founder of candle and home fragrance company, Cicely & May. Initially beginning online as a side project for Kirsteen, the business started in 2019 selling a selection of handmade soy candles to local customers. It has since grown into a full-time endeavour. Cicely & May now produce and sell a wide variety of home fragrance products from wax melts and personalised candles to reed diffusers, homeware items, and even chocolate bars!
Despite Cicely & May’s exponential growth, Kirsteen still produces all the home fragrance products herself. She runs the business from her home studio in Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, Neil, and their three children. We recently caught up with her to find out why she started the business, and how she’s managed to take Cicely & May from a one-time hobby to a full-time, full-scale, ever-growing business.
What inspired you to start your own business?
“At the start of 2019, I wanted to start my own business doing something creative. I’d made lots of candles as gifts for friends and family over the years and really enjoyed it. So, making candles to sell was an obvious idea to me. I made my decision, ordered all the supplies I needed that day, and started testing, testing, and more testing.”
“Then, I set up a website, added the products - starting with five different candle fragrances initially - and went live with Cicely & May in March 2019. The products were so well received by our customers that I added more fragrances and more products, and have been doing so ever since.”
How did you grow your client base? What strategies have proved most successful?
“Finding where your customers are is very important, particularly for a small business. Most of my customers find me on Instagram, which I love because I can really show off my products on there and reach a lot of people. I find Instagram Stories are great for showing the behind-the-scenes stuff, like sneak peeks of future products, for example. As a consumer, I love seeing that from the brands and people I follow on there too.”
“Customer recommendations have been a big part of my growth as well. In my experience, when a product is personally recommended to you, you’re more likely to go ahead and buy. I also think that being genuinely passionate about your products, or the service you’re selling, is infectious, and people really warm to that. Particularly if you can convey that passion through your website and marketing.”
What is your favourite aspect of owning your own business?
“I love the fact that I can experiment and change and tweak things. It’s completely up to me. I love being creative like this. It makes me so happy to see the products I’ve created and spent so much time choosing and crafting appearing in other people’s homes.”
“With Cicely & May, I’m doing something I absolutely love every single day. It’s a real family affair too - the kids are so interested and excited by it. They all help and ask what I’m doing each day and how it’s all going. I love that they get to see all the sides to running a business. From the concept and creation of products to packaging and sending out the orders, plus all the admin, etc., I hope it inspires them. I want them to see that, whilst it is hard work, it’s also really rewarding.”
How do you remain focused and productive as a small business owner?
“I have to admit, this is something I’m always working on. Keeping focused doesn’t always come naturally, but having goals and using software like Trello has been very helpful. Setting out my tasks and goals and looking at them every day has definitely made this easier.”
How do you define success - both from a personal perspective and in terms of your business?
“From a personal perspective, I would say success is being happy and able to enjoy the things you love.”
“In terms of business, success to me is enjoying my work, being free to be creative, and being able to produce things that other people love.”
So, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to start their own business?
“I would definitely say: ‘remember there’s room for everyone.’ If you’re passionate about something it will shine through!”
“Take Cicely & May, for instance. There are thousands of candle-making businesses out there but I didn’t let that put me off. I love making candles and I hoped that customers would see how much I care about making the best quality products. I’d also say ‘don’t get deterred by how many jobs there are to do before you start or whilst you’re setting up’. It’s completely worth it.”