The Small Business Project: Radiographer by day, candlemaker by night

Becca Project Founder Carlie Hogan is juggling her job at North Shore Hospital and running a consumer products business.
The Small Business Project: Radiographer by day, candlemaker by night

Check out our latest article in as featured in "The Small Business Project" - a weekly series that shines the spotlight on small businesses doing interesting and unusual things.

Carlie Hogan is a hospital radiographer by day but, by night and in her free time, the Auckland woman is running a small candle and essential oils business. Hogan, who makes product by hand and employs four staff, tells Aimee Shaw it was a diagnosis of chronic fatigue and journey of self-healing that set her on an unexpected path of entrepreneurship.

What has your venture set out to achieve?

Several years ago I got diagnosed with chronic fatigue. I’d done marathon after marathon, and I pretty much crashed. A good friend of mine introduced me to essential oils. Even though I didn’t like the scents, I knew that they worked, so I decided to try to incorporate essential oils into products that look amazing in the home and that are good for the soul, the mind and the body; that’s how we came up with Becca Project. We sell candles, body oils, perfume balms and make our own scents, and have about 100 stockists in New Zealand. We’re based in Wairau in Auckland’s North Shore, and launched in 2019. Myself and my husband run the business, and we’re constantly growing. We’re in the process of approaching a few stores in Australia, and about to purchase our first industrial site and move into that. At the moment, we are sending out about $30,000 worth of stock per month.

How much time and money have you invested?

Timewise, we spend pretty much every minute of our day thinking about the business, and working about 10-hour days. When it comes to money, what ever comes in goes out. We only invested $30,000 to start the business and now it is self-sufficient.

What are your expansion plans?

We’re actively pursuing expansion into Australia. It is quite a hard market to crack, but we’re trying that’s for sure. Australia is such a big country, the population is massive compared to New Zealand, and the reach possible is huge. When you’re a little New Zealand company trying to get over there, it takes time to get noticed. My goal is to reach $100,000 order months so I’m wanting to triple my outgoing each month, which would require adding another 200 stockists on. I can see us in the Asian countries, Japan, for sure, Singapore, and we’ll try to expand into the USA.

How hard is it to make a sale right now?

It is very hard to make a sale in this recession economy. When I talk to my retail stores, they say they are down between 20-30%, and that flows on. I’m actually trying to get my online sales to cover the downfall there; it is really hard getting those online sales. The slowdown started around May last year, and has only just started picking up a little bit recently. January, February and March were really hard, but it is picking up.

Do you have a business background?

I have a masters in health science, and a medical background. I have been able to reach out to friends who do have business experience and they have been able to help me and guide me along the way. I’ve been a radiographer for 25 years. Every day in business is challenging as it is all unknown, and foreign to me. Being in business has been a huge learning curve. It’s not only about sales, but it is also about managing stock, accounts, Meta ads and marketing, you have to be a jack of all trades.

I find working at the hospital grounds me, I don’t get overwhelmed by the little things in life as it reminds me that someone else is having a worse day than me and whatever has just happened before this is nothing to sweat. I do love working as a radiographer but I’m hoping the business grows to a point where I can leave that job and focus on Becca full time. I had absolutely no idea I’d be going down this path at all, but I do think these things happen for a reason.

What’s one thing you wish you’d known before starting the business?

When I was doing radiology early on, I had the opportunity to do a management course, I turned it down, but I think I should have gone through with it as it would have helped me now.

Most helpful piece of advice you have received?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Take each day and task as it comes. Focus on the bigger picture.

20th May 2024

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