I have been in your shoes - starting a new business can be intimidating and even scary. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be! I am sharing today 5 Free Tools I Used When Starting My Specialty Candle Business.
One of the most common things holding people back from starting their dream is the startup costs needed to pay for things like website hosting, stock and marketing and not to mention your product! Here's a secret - you can set up your entire business for less than $100 -- here's how.
Did you know that Wesley & Wade is actually the second business that I have started? The first business I started, Baja Girl Jewelry, I closed after five years running. When I decided to pivot and move into a new passion, I did a deep dive into what mistakes I made the first time around, and was able to launch Wesley + Wade with WAY less startup costs. This is one of the MAIN factors that contributed to my success launching Wesley + Wade making soy candles, lotions and home products
After some trial and error with my previous company, I was on a mission to find FEEE tools that are perfect for getting started with my specialty handmade candle business. I needed to test my business idea before pouring a ton of money into custom websites, professional logo design and product photography.
To save you having to do the same, I’ve collected my top 5 free tools you need to start your own business.
Free tools for starting your business:
The first step for any business is to have an email address. Not only will this be how you’ll primarily correspond with customers, but you’ll also use it for speaking to suppliers and applying for events. After deciding on your business name, setting up an email address should be the next thing you'll want to do.
While there are plenty of free email hosts to choose from, Gmail wins simply because it’s really easy to use and comes with access to loads of free software, such as Google Docs and Sheets. If you don’t have the money to invest in word processing and spreadsheet software, this can be a massive help.
However, once you’ve got a bit of spare money, consider upgrading to your own domain and business suite. This is only around $60 per year and looks much more professional.
Mailchimp is possibly one of the most useful tools you can use as a small business startup. It primarily allows you to send out emails, up to 250 addresses at a time! Woo! This is great for building a mailing list during the early stages and makes it much easier to communicate with your customers, providing business updates and offers.
Mailchimp can also be used for setting up landing pages and a fairly simple website, meaning you can get online before you’ve set up a domain and website for your business! Isn't that the best? Considering most professional website packages will charge, this is a great way to get a head start.
One of my main missions with Wesley & Wade candles was to build a community, which started with my handmade soy candles, lotions and soaps, but developed into a sharing platform. Mailchimp helped with this because it allowed me to send mass emails to my new customers really quickly.
- Social Media
Social media is one of the best ways to drive organic growth to your business in the early stages, and it’s completely free! Of course you can choose to pay for sponsored ads, but that should come much later in your business plan.
Don’t just stick to one platform because they all have their uses. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are great for visuals, whereas Twitter and Facebook are more about customer engagement. I’d recommend setting up an account on each, and make sure your username stays consistent! This makes it much easier for people to find you.
Then, focus on finding the right hashtags to generate leads to your business. With Wesley + Wade, I might focus on keywords like paraben free, phthalate free, soy candles, room sprays, and so on. Develop a strategy for designing and producing posts that are engaging, using a tool like Hootsuite or Tailwind to plan and schedule multi-platform posts.
Looka allows you to become your own graphic designer to build your brand identity. This was one area I really saved!! Put in your business name and choose a color scheme, and the platform generates logos for you to choose from.
It does still cost money, however. Purchasing your logo costs around $100, but for that you get full usage rights, vector files and black and white variations.
You don’t even need to buy the files, but it can be a great free tool for getting some logo inspiration! You could then consider using a site like Fiverr to hire a freelance designer for your final logo. Win win!
This is my ultimate favorite tool - Canva lets you become your own graphic designer, and is really useful for things like Pinterest graphics and Instagram stories. The website contains templates and inspiration to get you started. It’s also completely free to use.
In the early stages of Wesley + Wade, I had difficulty establishing this kind of brand content. I knew what I wanted my image to be, but it was a challenge to sum up “phthalate free candles” or “soy candles made in Temecula” into a business look. Luckily Canva made it really easy to get initial ideas, and I just went from there!
Bonus tip – Free education
PODCASTS, COURSES & BOOKS
You probably wouldn't have guessed that one. But my all time favorite is @goaldiggerpodcast by @jennakutcher - if you are starting a business - product of service - trust me on this and go listen to her now. You'll save yourself a lot of time trying to figure it out on your own.
Starting your own business means learning how to do every area yourself, which means a lot of learning! I’ve picked quite a few things up on my own, but I still value free podcasts and books for interesting and helpful snippets of information.
My Top 3 Podcasts:
- Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher
- The Mindset Mentor by Rob Dial
- Side Hustle School by Chris Guillebeau
Once you’ve got a bit of spare cash, however, I’d really recommend investing in some online courses in areas of weakness, such as accounting, business admin, or marketing. The initial cost might be a bit high, but you’ll make it back in no time!
My Top 3 Book Recommendations: (HIGHLY recommend reading these before getting started, they changed my life and the trajectory of my business)
Building A Brand Story, Donald Miller
Everything Is Figureoutable, Marie Forleo
Don't Keep Your Day Job, Cathy Heller
GOOD LUCK!! You got this. Go for those goals, I'll be your candle maker friend right here cheering you on!
Starting a business doesn’t have to be a massive financial investment. Don’t underestimate the value of free tools to get you started! They make it much easier to establish a presence and community and will allowing you to upgrade to better tools once the money starts flowing in. If you have any other suggestions for free tools, let me know below!
One Entrepreneur Encouraging Another,