Reflecting on this year
The past couple of years has been full of so many ups and downs. Our business snowballed, and our message continued to resonate with our customers. However, at the same time, our lives were becoming increasingly more difficult. Before the outbreak of COVID 19, we faced a series of hardships. It quite literally was one thing after another and took a toll on us physically and mentally. Our situation became further complicated when Tatum ended up sick in the hospital with a terrible flu. Concerned about her immune system and kidneys, we reached our breaking point. We became significantly behind on orders and entered into a state chaos that I honestly wasn't sure would ever end.
Then came COVID….
As the cases of COVID began to increase, so did our anxiety. Having a child with a compromised immune system is difficult during regular times; however, it is terrifying during a pandemic. The thought of being surrounded by an invisible virus that can kill your child is one of the worst feelings I have experienced. Its something I'd never wish on my worst enemy. This anxiety and uncertainty put us further behind. At times I felt embarrassed to tell our customers that we were still working on getting out their orders. In some cases, we offered significant refunds because we just couldn't get anything done during the quarantine. Eventually, we caught up with everything by the end of spring. We had reached the light at the end of the tunnel; however, I felt defeated. That brief sigh of relief quickly ended as we began to deal with thousands of dollars in medical bills and anxiety about our health, specifically our daughter. We also were also crushed that the company and mission that we worked so hard to develop failed in a matter of weeks.
This threw me into a state of depression because it made me feel like an absolute failure. However, despite this dark time in my life, I also still had a glimmer of hope. That hope came from the ones who made all of this possible…our customers. Throughout the year, we often got messages saying, "Do you have any candles left?" "I'm preserving the one I have as much as I can because I'll never be able to get one again," "Can you please make me a couple of candles?". Our customers' endless love, support, and compassion offered a sense of hope. It made us realize that maybe we weren't done, and perhaps we could still achieve our mission that so many people believed in. So here we are in September.
Although COVID 19 is nowhere from being done, we have been able to get back on our feet and adjust to the new normal. After weeks of contemplating, we have decided to start making candles again. This decision was instantly followed by realizing that the current economic climate is dramatically different from the one we previously were operating in. We spent several weeks navigating supplier disruptions, longer lead times, and other business challenges that we never had to deal with in the past. In a way, we felt like we were rebuilding the entire business as if we just started. Although this was a challenge, we were able to get it done. But it forced us to make a few changes to how we will be doing business going forward.
How we will continue to raise money for Nephcure
First, let us talk about the most essential aspect of our business, raising money for Nephcure. Previously our strategy was to donate 20% of our profits towards nephrotic syndrome. Although this method works, it is not sustainable in the long run, especially when it is tied to profitability, which is often low in the first couple of years of a new business. This strategy was put to this test during the pandemic. Since profits can fluctuate dramatically initially, so can our donations, that we found to be counterproductive to our mission. This realization has led us to make a slight change.
We have decided to donate based on a percentage of our sales rather than profits, which will currently be 10% of sales. This change will allow us to get money into the hands of Nephcure faster, and ensure Nephcure is paid FIRST, regardless of our personal business performance. If we have learned anything during the past year, it's that economic situations can change in a matter of days. We need to ensure that we can generate a predictable amount of donations in the future, regardless of the underlying economic situation. We also believe this will lead to more contributions in the long run.
Changes in our fragrances
The second change you will notice is that we have fewer fragrances than we did in the past. After looking at our sales history, we have decided to only focus on our most popular fragrances as we begin to reopen. Although we know this will not be pleasant to some, it is a necessary sacrifice that we must make to ensure that we can grow sustainably. As we continue to expand, we will introduce our old and new fragrances and rotate fragrances based on seasonality.
You will get your candles faster
The third change to our operations is how we make and deliver candles. Although we still make our own candles, we will no longer be selling candles on a made to order basis. What you see in the store is what we currently have in stock. Although we know that many of you are patient, waiting weeks for a candle can be frustrating. We have decided to cut that time in half. This will allow us to get candles to your door in a matter of days rather than weeks. This means that we sometimes may be out of stock of certain fragrances depending on demand. We'll keep everyone updated in the event this happens.
Changes in our shipping policy
This, however, requires changes to our shipping policy. Although we love meeting and seeing our customers, we no longer have that capacity as we did in the past. We both are still working full time, and Tatum is now in school, so getting out of the house to deliver will be difficult. We will offer free shipping on orders over $50 for New England and New York, and $75 for the remaining contiguous states. Free local delivery will still be available in West Haven and the surrounding towns. Any amount below that threshold will be subject to a discounted shipping rate. We do not make a single dollar off shipping, and in most cases, we lose, so we are hopeful that you understand as we adjust to these changes. As our capacity grows, we will revisit this policy and do our best to provide the most cost-efficient shipping method possible.
However, during the holidays, keep an eye out you may see me delivering candles to your doorstep in an elf hat!
No changes in our prices
This brings us to the last point, the price of our candles. Besides raising money for Nephcure, our top priority is to offer our customers the most reasonable price. We do not believe in ripping people off or maximizing profit at others' expense to make an extra penny. Although there has been an increase in the cost of doing business, this pandemic has given many companies a convenient excuse to raise prices. Against the advice of many outside of our company, we have decided not to change our prices. They will still be $15.99 for the foreseeable future.
Although we are still uncertain how today's situation will affect the cost of doing business in the future, we will always remain 100 percent transparent on our prices. We will NEVER increase our prices just for the sake of our bottom line. Future increases, if any, will be to expand our mission further. This may include developing our operations, providing better products, hiring employees, and having a more significant positive impact on society. We strive to make this company our full-time job. However, our last priority is to enrich ourselves. We have not paid ourselves a penny and have reinvested every single dollar back into our company. That philosophy still stands today.
So now we are left with our vision, which couldn't be any clearer. We believe that a vision isn't worth having unless it is ambitious and inspiring. Therefore, we are launching a VERY bold initiative.
Our mission is to sell 1 million candles over the next ten years. This would raise over $1.5 million dollars towards kidney disease, an average of $160,000 a year.
Although we are small, our intent is to grow and turn this ambitious goal into reality. To do this, we need your help. Please help us spread the word about our mission, and together we will make this goal a reality. We want to thank our wonderful customers who have given us the love and hope to keep going through these difficult times. Our family is forever thankful for your support!!!
The Crooms Family💚