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business

Photo courtesy of Chalk On Stone

I’m often asked by customers who are also small business owners for advice on running a small business.  With a big business background I guess I’ve brought a lot of those lessons and learnings with me into Queen B.  Whether you’re running a small business, you’re running a big business or you’re a small cog in a big business, what I’ve learned is universally applicable.

First amongst those things is that in order to survive, you need to stand for something (but always keep your mind open to evolving).  Over the years we’ve had literally hundreds of retailers selling Queen B candles and over the years I’ve seen many of them fail.  If I had to pick a trend or lesson, it is that the businesses that are very clear on what they stand for are the ones that are still standing (and growing and thriving).

One of our most successful retailers is a shop in Carlton (Melbourne) called Make Designed Objects.  Pat, who owns Make, is absolutely clear on stocking “the best designed product from around the world”.  Over the years we’ve seen the size of his store double, he’s set up stores for the National Gallery of Victoria and the Powerhouse Museum and his sales of Queen B candles have increased 7 fold since he first stocked our candles.  Anyone looking for a gift for someone who is hard to buy for or someone who has a design aesthetic knows exactly where to go.  We’re all busier than ever so we’ll go where our needs are most likely to be met.

Another success story is our retailer Biome.  In the eight or so years that Biome has stocked Queen B we’ve seen them grow from one store to four.  Again, they are absolutely clear on what they stand for.  When you go into a Biome store, you’re going to find a product that is organic, natural, recycled or fair trade.

At one stage, the business of the metal turner who makes our metal candleholders was on its last legs because all of the big mining and manufacturing companies thought they’d save a lot of money having their bits made in China.  He wasn’t prepared to compromise on the metals that he used and so he couldn’t compete on price, so he went back to TAFE and did night school.  But his previous clients soon learned that the cheaper bits failed, costing them more than they’d saved and now our metal turning friend is so busy we’re having to book our jobs in weeks in advance.

The story is the same for one of the local printing companies we use, for the foundry we use and even for us.  We’re all crystal clear on what we stand for and that makes us a known quantity.

The one caveat that I’d add is that whilst it is important not to compromise, it is essential to evolve.  I always thought our two most compelling features were that we were non-toxic to burn and Australian made but it was conversations with Make and Dinosaur Designs that made me realise that we’re also a design company and that is just as important.

More recently I had to look at our values as it related to packaging.  I had always been absolutely committed to packaging Queen B in beautiful, environmentally responsible packaging.  I wouldn’t do elaborate, tree felling packaging that was going to go in the bin as soon as the product was removed.  That precluded me from seeing the opportunity of Black Label for well over a decade.  When I started thinking about the Black Label range, I realised that I could still be absolutely committed to beautiful, environmentally responsible packaging by making the packaging so rigid that it would have many lifetimes once the candle was removed.  Sure, it means we have 12 cubic metres of Black Label packaging to house at the moment, but it allowed us to evolve.

The real ‘juice’ in any idea comes from the conversation.  I’d love you to add to the discussion.  What do you think?  What other brands or businesses have you come across who are absolutely clear on what they stand for and how does that make life easier for you in your decision making or in your commitment to their product?

Cate xx

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We’re often asked if Queen B candles are organic beeswax candles and the answer is a most certainly yes.  By definition, beeswax is a biological or organic matter.  Given Queen B candle only contain 100% pure Australian beeswax and a cotton wick, you can be comfortable burning our organic beeswax tealight candles, organic beeswax dinner candles, organic beeswax votive candles, organic pillar candles etc etc.  You get the picture.

organic beeswax candle, certified organic, queen bee beeswax candle

Queen B organic beeswax candles – definition of organic

Then there is a question about certified organic beeswax candles and Queen B candles are not certified organic.  We know of others in the industry claiming certified organic without certification but that’s not how we roll.

So, why aren’t we certified?  Because our beeswax isn’t certified organic.  And why aren’t we buying certified organic beeswax?  Because you won’t find a third or fourth generation beekeeper who is certified because they know that as it relates to beeswax and honey, the certification is a marketing exercise, it is not relevant to the way you keep bees (and their universal feedback to me when I’ve asked is that they don’t see the point in spending the almost $100,000 it would cost when it doesn’t make one iota of difference to the way they keep their bees or the honey they produce).  For instance, bees will fly 7 – 10km’s in search of nectar (the distance depending on what source you believe!) but organic certification for bees/honey is that your hives have to be 5km’s from the nearest chemically sprayed field or industry.  So, you could place your bees, 5.1km’s from a chemically sprayed field and still have certified organic honey.

Queen B is ultimately about truth and integrity.  It is more important to me to know that the wax that we source is from well cared for bees (ie from beekeepers that are second, third, fourth generation) than to buy ‘certified organic’ beeswax.

The bottom line is that you can trust a Queen B candle by the claims we DON’T make.  And when you come across something that looks a little too good to be true (ie ‘certified’ organic beeswax candles with no certification logo (and no certification) that are cheaper than Queen B candles) then trust your intuition, or if you’re still in doubt, ask to see the certification.

The other interesting thing (because knowledge is power!) is that the major reason why the cost of Australian beeswax has increased 85% in the last 12 months and that is because as the only country without the varroa mite, our beeswax is the only beeswax in the world that is naturally free from miticides (chemicals used to control & kill the varroa mite).  We’re exporting the vast majority of Australian beeswax at the moment to the global pharmaceutical and cosmetics giants… great for Australian beekeepers, not so great for us!  Great for you to know that we’re making your candles with miticide free wax and that we’re lucky to have had relationships with our beekeepers for over a decade which is the only way we’ve been able to get our hands on wax.

Ultimately a natural beeswax candle is always going to be far safer to burn from a health perspective than a petrochemical byproduct (paraffin wax) or a chemically bleached, heavy metal hydrogenated oil (soy wax).  Mother nature has always been pretty clever in providing us with what we need without us needing to change it.  Seriously, how would you think of a flying insect that would collect flower nectar (pollinating the flowers as she goes) and then extrude wax from wax glands on her stomach?!

bees wax scales from female worker bees... go in to making organic beeswax candles

Beeswax scales… organic beeswax (image courtesy of @fromthehive on Instagram)

 

organic beeswax, wax glands, worker bee producing wax

Female worker bees produce wax for around 6 days of their 4 – 6 week life from wax glands on their abdomen (image courtesy of @savethebeesaustralia on Instagram)

There’s about ten new facts of the day for you!… you can go to bed and light an organic beeswax candle from Queen B!

Cate x

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For years now I’ve been reading “research” showing that when you offer “free” shipping your online sales increase exponentially… and for years I’ve been resisting because ultimately there is no such thing as free shipping, it is simply built into the cost of a product and I haven’t wanted to put our prices up.

However, we’re redoing our website at the moment and I’m doing my head in a little over this one.  We either need to double Queen B sales in the next 12 months (low margin x twice the sales = covering costs) or put our prices up.  So, I thought I’d turn the question over to you guys.

First, some facts for you to base your decision on (and please don’t read this as a winge… I absolutely love what I do.  I simply think that it is helpful for those of you who don’t run a manufacturing or online business to have some information upon which to base your decision/vote).

1. Queen B is a very low margin business.  Pure Australian beeswax costs around 50 times the price of paraffin, and 20 times the price of [chemically bleached, heavy metal hydrogenated soya bean oil] soy wax.  Every Queen B candle is handmade in Australia (paying the highest manufacturing wages in the OECD).  Our packaging is printed on 100% recycled card with soy based inks.

We haven’t increased our prices across the board for over 8 years despite EVERY cost in the business going up.

2. It takes an average of 10 minutes to process an online order broken up as follows:
– 1 minute to print the order & process the card
– 1 minute to prepare the invoice
– 1 minute to write a personal note
– 2 minutes to prepare the box (water activated arabic gum paper tape, brown tissue paper & biodegradable corn flour foam)
– 1 minute to pick the stock
– 2 minutes to pack the parcel carefully and lovingly to ensure you’re absolutely delighted at your end
– 1 minute to enter the shipping details into eParcel (or write the courier label & send a text for pick up)
– 1 minute to take the box downstairs

(that’s an average! Smaller orders take around 75% of the time, larger orders may be 150%).  That means we can pack an average of 6 orders an hour and with labour costing around $25 per hour (taking into account superannuation and workers comp) that means it costs around $4.17 to process and pack an order.

3. It’s costs around $2.00 in packing materials to pack an order (we use Australian made boxes, arabic gum paper tape, brown tissue paper, educational information in with the order, a beautiful sticker &  the invoice is printed on 100% recycled brown paper)!

4. Australia Post charge based on weight and where the parcel is being shipped to.  The average cost to ship a 1.5kg parcel (this is the average weight of our online orders over the past 12 months) within Australia is $10.50.

So on average it costs us around $16.67 to process, pack and send an online order.

The costs outlined above don’t take into account our rent, electricity, wages (for everyone other than the order packer), telephones, furniture & equipment, EFTPOS and bank fees, tradies (all too frequent visitors to the hive), packaging design, photography, web design, accounting fees etc etc.  And remember 10% of what you pay is GST which we’re simply collecting for the government and gets paid to them regardless of our profitability.

OK, so that’s a quick small business 101… now for the big decision…

Our current shipping policy is that shipping is a flat rate of $11 for orders under $100 and ‘free’ shipping on orders over $100.  Basically we subsidise small orders by $6 or so, which by the time you’ve taken into account the cost of the product to produce and the overheads of the business makes them very marginal.  The larger orders at least contribute to the overheads.  BUT we know that when someone tries a Queen B candle, they will more often than not be converted so we can’t afford to make that shipping hurdle too high or too much!

I need you to really dig deep here and think about it honestly.  There’s no point in telling us to leave things as they are if you’ve not gone ahead with a purchase from Queen B because of the cost of shipping.  This is a really pivotal decision for us and I’d really appreciate your vote and I’d particularly love your thoughts if you have another idea or your feedback if the cost of shipping has played into decisions that you’ve made in the past.

So, how do you think we should handle online shipping in the future?

 

If you’d rather put your feedback in an email, please email me at thehive[at]queenb.com.au

Thank you so much in anticipation.  Queen B has always been an amazing community of wise individuals and I look forward to seeing and hearing your thoughts.

Cate xx

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You may remember that a few months ago we did a survey.  The response was way better than we could ever have even dreamed – several hundred of you taking the time to share your thoughts.  The content is literally pure gold.  There are so many beautiful comments.  So many fantastic ideas.  So much constructive feedback.   We’ve spent literally hours poring over the feedback.  Some of the comments need a response (I’ll do that in later blog posts).  Some of the ideas can’t be done and others will take months or even years to execute.  And others we can do right now.  So we have!

So, in response to your feedback/requests we’re launching mini-bulk boxes for our 4-5hr and 8-9hr tealights and for our 12 hr (20cm) taper candles. So the options you have now are as follows:

4-5hr Tealights

  • Box of 9 x 4-5hr beeswax tealight candles (metal cups)
  • Mini Bulk Box of 72 x 4-5hr beeswax tealight candles (metal cups) – 10% cheaper per candle than in box of 9
  • Bulk Box of 105 x 4-5hr beeswax tealight candles (metal cups) – 20% cheaper per candle than in box of 9
  • Bag of 25 x 4-5hr beeswax tealight candles (clear cups)
  • Mini Bulk Box of 69 x 4-5hr beeswax tealight candles (clear cups) – 10% cheaper per candle than in bag of 25
  • Bulk Box of 105 x 4-5hr beeswax tealight candles (clear cups) – 20% cheaper per candle than in bag of 25

8-9hr Tealights

  • Box of 9 x 8-9hr beeswax tealight candles (metal cups)
  • Mini Bulk Box of 48 x 8-9hr beeswax tealight candles (metal cups) – 10% cheaper per candle than in box of 9
  • Bulk Box of 96 x 8-9hr beeswax tealight candles (metal cups) – 20% cheaper per candle than in box of 9
  • Bag of 25 x 8-9hr beeswax tealight candles (clear cups)
  • Mini Bulk Box of 42 x 8-9hr beeswax tealight candles (clear cups) – 10% cheaper per candle than in bag of 25
  • Bulk Box of 84 x 8-9hr beeswax tealight candles (clear cups) – 20% cheaper per candle than in bag of 25

20cm Tapers 

  • Box of 5 x 20cm beeswax taper candles
  • Mini Bulk Box of 21 x 20cm beeswax taper candles – 10% cheaper per candle than in box of 5
  • Bulk Box of 40 x 20cm beeswax taper candles – 20% cheaper per candle than in box of 5

pure beeswax tealight candles burn brighter than the northern lights

Photograph from Katrina Gill.

 

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You may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet of late… I was busy living one of my dreams!

As someone who is passionate about taking the best of what nature has to offer and then perfecting the craft of utilising it, I have long been a fan of Dom Perignon.  In this day and age of mechanisation and the mass production of everything, I love it on that rare occasion where tradition (and the recognition that often hand made is simply better) prevails – and Dom Perignon is one of those rare examples… the grapes picked by hand.  The bottles riddled by hand.

You may recall, because I blogged about it here, that a couple of years ago I did a light sculpture for Dom Perignon at Vue de Monde.  Researching for the sculpture I was fascinated by the long history of monks keeping bees with Dom Pierre Perignon a monk of the Benedictine order (DOM = Deus Optimus Maximus – the highest ‘rank’ of monk) and their history with making beeswax candles.  The sculpture itself is not a candle but utilises the translucent beauty of beeswax whilst celebrating the iconic Dom Perignon bottle.

Anyway, finally this year I fulfilled my dream of visiting the abbey where Dom Perignon lived (and the caves where Dom Perignon is now made and matured).  As it turns out, Rocco (Wine Director at Vue de Monde) told them I was someone important and I was given the royal, VIP treatment.  A more worthy person would just take in their stride… I kept on pinching myself!

Wanting to share it, I felt that the images alone were too static and didn’t do it justice, so I put this little something together… escape to the Champagne region in France even if it is only for a couple of minutes.  Goodness knows I’ve relived it many times in the past few weeks.

Cate xx

 

 

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Is it called a “job” when you do something that you absolutely, passionately, heart and soul LOVE every day?

Do you call it a job when you work with people you genuinely like and other people that you genuinely like call you up, pop in or send you emails wanting some of what you’ve created with your bare hands?

Surely there isn’t a job in the world where you get emails like this…

Thank you for the fastest delivery I ever experienced.

When I opened the boxes I felt as if I was opening up a box of the most delicious fine chocolates without the calories, just the pure delight of the fragrant beeswax, and as for the furniture polish, well my first thought  was that the furniture was going to receive a treatment I wish my own chemical sensitive skin was in desperate need of (especially in winter). 

Bit quirky, maybe, but there you go.  I thought you might be interested in my experience. Any chance of a good chemical free effective skin moisturiser in the future?

Oh and the Bee Lights gift are just awesome. Thank you so much.

A happy (if somewhat dry) customer. 🙂

N”

Or how about this one from one of another beautiful soul using our bee created light to send light where it is needed most

“Thank you, lovely Bees, for my amazing tea lights and Bee Lights. They make winter so pleasant.
I use your lovely gift, the jam jars -how adorable small are they, thank you! – to think of the ones – children, women and other victims – being killed in wars. Sending some light to war zones is the least I can do.
We hope you are well, Cate and team! 
Kindest regards, Y”
Sometimes we have to pull out all stops when light is needed fast, but we are rewarded tenfold with emails like this one last week
“Hello, 

I just wanted to say thank you so much for getting the candles to me so quickly.  They are absolutely beautiful and the personalised candle is already much loved.

When I opened the front door this morning it was there waiting for me. I was not expecting it to arrive until later today. Consequently my mum and I were able to take it this morning to the place where my Nan was being cremated at 8am and we lit it for her there. 
Nan’s candle and the tapers will then be taken to the wake tomorrow where I will light it again. All the guests will then be lighting their tapers off Nan’s candle. 

Again, thank you so much for the effort you put in to make sure I had the candles I wanted in time for the remembrance.

With much appreciation, 
E”

And then there are the customers that are wonderful storytellers in their emails and we’re transported to their side like this one a couple of days ago
“Hi Queen B,
Many thanks for my recent order of beautiful bee glassware and tea lights, what a beautiful gift to myself!!!   It is burning loveliness beside me as I make myself comfortable in my special chair and relax at the end of the day.
Just love your beeswax candles and all that Queen B and the little workers stand for, just pure goodness and great quality products.
Best wishes,
S”
It’s pretty hard not to be passionate about what you do when you get to play a role in supporting bees and beekeepers and sending out light every day AND you get emails like these in return.  When I saw it advertised in heaven I applied for the job immediately.  And people wonder why I love working so much?!
Thanks for allowing us all to do what we love.
Cate xx

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We know from experience you’re a talented bunch so we thought we’d try to harness some of that photographic talent.  To be honest, we’re also stretched thin and we really just need help 🙂

If you’ve ever ordered from us online, you would have received a copy of our educational information cards.  Well they’re about to run out so we’re going to do an overhaul.  In particular, this time I would like to do one which shows some of the imaginative ways of using Bee Lights.  I often speak to customers who don’t use them because they don’t know what to burn them in… and that’s a crying shame as I think they’re one of the most beautiful things we make.

So, they say that a picture speaks a thousand words!  Let’s show them the million things you can use as a Bee Light candleholder.

Any photographs chosen to go on our new printed info cards will receive a $200 gift voucher to buy any candles they want from Queen B online.  Grab your iPhone or your camera, fire up your Bee Lights and your imagination and send through your results!

Entries open: NOW!

Entries close: 11th August (that’s 2 weeks away)

Entries via: either post them on our Facebook page or post on Instagram and tag @queenbcandles

Stuff to know: By entering you expressly give us permission to use your image in social media and online (that’s pretty obvious given you would have posted it online!) and we undertake that anywhere that we use the image we will credit you as the photographer (unless you say you don’t want us to)!  For the images used on the printed info cards we will most likely not credit photographers as it can make things look cluttered and messy given the images will be quite small. Here are a few of the idea I had when I first photographed them (you’ll see why I need help with the photography)!

For a light brighter than the northern light burn Queen B beeswax Bee Light candles

For a brighter light than the northern light burn beeswax Bee Light candles

Pure beeswax candles Bee Lights from Queen B

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