After the pandemic, the two women continued to face a steep learning curve as they strove to expand their business without any formal training.
One thing they discovered is that customers constantly seek new experiences. To keep them interested and engaged, Ms Su and Ms Low are always looking for customer feedback. Learning from customer reviews for example, they launched reed diffusers for those who prefer “a more subtle but constant background scent”.
“But product diversification must not dilute the brand DNA,” says Ms Su. “We ensure that any new product we create will fit our criteria of elevating one’s self-care journey easily.”
Another challenge faced by Ms Su, who oversees sales, business development, and growth, was managing the company’s accounts.
“I’m old-school and not tech savvy,” she admits. Ms Su would spend hours sifting through sales reports, manually inputting figures into Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint.
“We spent huge amounts of time ensuring everything tallied and was error-free. It was tedious, extremely frustrating, and made us dread doing the accounts at the end of the month.”
The two decided to hire a freelance accountant, who recommended two cloud accounting software options. Ms Su chose Xero for its versatility and user-friendly interface that allow her to check her store’s inventory and revenue in real-time using only a web browser. It made core business tasks, from managing sales to invoicing, so much quicker and simpler.
She says: “Xero provides a bird’s eye view of our sales performances at our retailers, so I know which products I should stock-up with at each store.”
For a small business, closely monitoring overheads and maintaining healthy cash flow is crucial. Xero’s dashboards provide Ms Su with a clear view of outstanding payments owed to Hush Candle.
The solution’s intuitive design also means her staff can seamlessly take over during her absence. “I simply create a new account for them, and they can navigate Xero independently.”
Anticipating the future amid uncertainties
With Xero’s solutions freeing up time by accelerating tedious accounting tasks, Ms Su and Ms Low can now channel their energies into growing their business. This includes planning career progression for their tight-knit team of five, and expanding the business into South-east Asia, beginning with Malaysia in January 2024.
There is also the ongoing task of evolving the business in line with wider market trends, including sustainability. When the more environmentally conscious customers started suggesting recycling candle jars, Hush Candle launched the “Refill and Recycle” programme that allows them to bring in candle jars of any brand for recycling.
“When we started, we didn’t have any grand plans or strategies. For us, making candles was simply a cool and spontaneous idea. Hush Candle’s growth is driven by genuine interest from our customers,” Ms Su says.
The duo’s personal relationship also makes running a business even more fun. Calling her friendship with Ms Low unique, Ms Su says that they value their friendship so much that “everything else is secondary”. They have often been asked if it’s challenging to run a business with a close friend. However, Ms Su shares that they maintain their bond by keeping work discussions exclusive to office hours.
In fact, the duo has introduced a “penalty” system. Ms Su shares: “After work, any mention of the business results in a $50 fine for the offender!”
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