the proof is in the packaging

When I started my business, I did EVERYTHING myself. I mean, this is normal. When you start a small business with no capital you need to save money where you can. Which means wearing all of the hats. The problem is that I am NOT a graphic designer, not that I couldn't learn - but I had no time. I hit the ground running and my products have gone through a huge evolution. In fact the majority of my product development (besides the obvious scent blending and testing) has been, and continues to be making decisions about packaging, labelling and design elements.

My brand is handcrafted and I took that incredibly seriously, so when I first started I had all of these custom stamps made and I was literally stamping and cutting labels for the candles by hand. Let me just say that cutting labels by hand is not ideal. For starters I was literally cutting them freehand (I couldn't afford a guillotine) It is VERY hard to hand cut a label and not have the label look homemade as opposed to handmade. The custom stamps are an amazing branding option for an eco-friendly business on a budget, however I would only advise them for applications that do not require extreme accuracy (Like a label does) I still use custom stamps for my packaging and for candle names on boxes, stamping handwritten notes, or to add an extra something to shipping boxes, tape or wrapping.

From hand cut/hand stamped labels I started designing and printing the labels myself. This was more time consuming (as I was still cutting them myself) I was even creating an aged affect around the edges of the label myself with ink and a cotton tip. I knew this wasn't a sustainable way of doing things even If I was saving money. And products are judged so much on their packaging.

Then I discovered software online that would allow me to print the labels myself and I also invested in some graphic design work (in the form of a proper logo) The first designer I hired I wasn't very happy with the end result. In hindsight I was still quite indecisive about how I wanted my branding/ logo design to look. You really need to be crystal clear on what it is you're looking for when hiring a designer. Once I found the right designer and had a logo made, it was a gamechanger. Not only did I have a guideline for my labelling but it I also designed my entire website around the logo design. This decision made a quantum leap in the look and feel of the labelling and my brand.

I have been printing my own labels for a while now (and for the time being it's working) However I ran into a new problem when I introduced kraft paper QR code playlists to the underside of the lids of the Mini memories candles. One thing that I hadn't counted on was that in the warmer weather soy wax tends to sweat. And unfortunately if wax gets on these paper labels the ink starts to run. The paper labels were almost absorbing some of the wax and some of the scent. The QR code wasn't being destroyed, however I believe that given enough time on the shelf it could degrade the ink rendering the QR code useless. I don't really like the idea of placing the labels on top of the candle lids, so I started looking at other labelling options.

In a stroke of serendipity around this exact same time a sticker printing company called OZ Sticker printing reached out to ask me if I would like to test and review some of their labels. Upon looking at their range I decided that their waterproof vinyl stickers option would be a great solution for my problem. As I mentioned earlier I am NO designer, and after the design I sent in wasn't high enough quality I was preparing myself to hire a freelancer to design me a print-ready file that I could send over. However, their design team were incredibly kind and helpful and offered to try and compose a higher quality design using the elements that I already had. I was so grateful as I was particularly busy that day and know that this isn't normally a service that a print company would agree to do without an additional charge. So they really went above and beyond to help me. Within a few hours, they had a proof for me to approve and before I knew it, the labels had arrived in the mail. They are indeed high quality and they look great. But most importantly they are durable and waterproof. So I won't need to wait until just before shipping to add the lids to my candles anymore, which doesn't sound like much; but it's going to be a huge help going forward in streamlining the shipping, picking and packing process. I will roll out the new QR code labels gradually but plan on slowly outsourcing more and more of my printing needs as my business grows. As I now know the value of outsourcing systems that can be handled efficiently by third parties.

I know this isn't always easy for small business owners who insist on handling all of the elements of their biz but it frees up time for me to work on areas that help me grow Scents of Saudade. Rather than stressing out over cutting a straight enough line on a label (sheesh that feels like a lifetime ago now)

My experience with Oz Sticker Printing has been really positive, it also helps that they're actually not too far away from me as I like to support locals whenever I can. They have a great range of label options and have a fast turnaround visit to view their whole range.

If you're a small business owner (especially if you're a one woman or one man show) I think it's imperative that you look for ways to make your processes easier. A little extra money invested upfront means more time to work on the parts of your business that are actually going to move the needle forward. Your business may be your baby when you first start, but one day that baby needs to start crawling and eventually walk on its own. They say it takes a village to raise a baby, and I think the same goes for your small business.

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