I’m Nicky Story, 30 and from Yorkshire. At school, I was always interested in technology and was stuck to my PC, either playing games or learning basic coding. I graduated from a Business and Management degree in 2012 and took the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship.
I am now CEO of Supplies for Candles, which I launched from my dad’s garage nearly six years ago, in February 2016, and the business grew and grew… After the initial success of Supplies for Candles, I went on to acquire The Soap Kitchen and Glassprints Ltd. We have now become one of the largest online companies in Europe in this industry, with over 100 employees and 100,000 customers.
I knew I was going to be successful, but the path isn’t always that easy, after my first business venture failed and I had to find a job to pay the bills, I can honestly say I never would have thought I would be a CEO of a multi-million pound business empire by the time I was 30!
I was a straight-A student at school and have always been interested in technology and business, and straight after I graduated, I launched my first company but this venture came with many learning curves and cost me dearly – not only in terms of money, but also my mental health.
However, being forced back into employment to pay the bills, ignited my flame for business and I now say that a lot of my success is because of my experiences in the workplace. When I worked as a buyer for a year while I tried to recoup some lost funds, I remember sitting thinking about my boss; ‘when I run my own multi-figure company, I will never act like you do or treat my staff like you do’.
It definitely hasn’t all been straightforward and I have had many downs as well as ups. When I graduated in 2012, I set up Soap Suppliers, however, four years into this business, I was getting nowhere, in those years I had made a loss of £3,000, I had no idea about e-commerce or marketing and made a ton of mistakes! It had taken me four years to build a business that was making no money at all. I was working on my own, in the freezing cold, every day and I just felt so alone and like I was failing. I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t eat, I just felt like I had no purpose.
My parents were incredibly concerned and I turned to my doctor for help and was diagnosed with depression.
While this was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through, it has definitely shaped me as a boss and business owner. I am very people-focussed and my businesses go far beyond being just about the product.
Definitely one of my proudest achievements has been being able to give back to society and helping charities and helping people set up their own businesses.
So many people were affected financially by Covid, and other ways too, of course, and I wanted to try and help people launch their own businesses from home. Supplies for Candles gave away £100,000 worth of candle-making kits and business start up support during the pandemic and we also gifted £10k to a Yorkshire businesswoman to help her business grow.
We were also able to give away soap to local residents to help combat shortages.
I know I am very fortunate for me and my company to be in a position to do this, and given we have all gone through so much during the pandemic, I feel grateful to have been able to hopefully offer some support to people who have needed it.
I think my fearlessness. I took a huge punt when I launched my first business – Soap Suppliers – and I ended up losing thousands of pounds in a short period of time. It also ultimately led me to being depressed.
After that point, I went back to an office job to try and regain some perspective, but after a few years of working in an office, it reaffirmed that I wanted to start and run my own company.
I think a lot of people would have been put off by the first experience and shied away from it, but I learnt to be fearless and just go for it.
I invested all my money into Supplies for Candles – I really drained my bank account down to the last £1. The second time around I risked it all and I am so glad I did. My businesses are now projected to make £17m this year – it pays to be courageous.
I had and still have some incredible mentors.
I have already touched upon it, but in the past 18 months I have been able to support and help people trying to start up their own businesses and I think that mentoring and support is so important.
Starting your own business is an incredibly daunting step to take – I know that more than most – and having some support behind you so you don’t feel totally on your own is vital.
I am still early in my career, and I don’t know everything (yet), but hopefully what I have learnt and my experience so far can resonate with others starting up their own side hustles.
I think it is important to acknowledge differences in the workplace and to ensure all are listened to and taken on board.
Having mentors to share experiences with can also help members of staff feel heard and have someone they can confide in if they don’t feel included.
The most important thing for me is valuing everyone’s diversity – that is what makes organisations work and allows teams to work together. If we all respect each other’s backgrounds and different experiences then we can all come together to share perspectives and outlooks and ultimately, it will make the workplace a more inclusive and productive place.
I think it is important to ensure there are female role models in the workplace, and having a fair gender divide makes the best business sense. As a male CEO, it is important for me to ensure everyone feels valued and that no-one’s opinion is better than another’s, especially based on gender.
I reflect on my own power and privilege of being male, and can’t help but wonder how my gender has helped me along the way. It is sad however, that is even a consideration.
Organisational productivity is recognised to go up when there is a fair gender split among the workforce, and work life quality also improves.
A female perspective may differ from a male’s based on their experiences, and so ensuring women are heard and feel heard, only increases the whole organisation’s knowledge by taking on board different perspectives.
Keep going – I have learnt the hard way that business can be tough. I lost £3k in four years with my first business, but I made over £11m in four years with my second.
While some of those points during the inception of my first business were some of my lowest, I took those experiences and learned from it. I now don’t look at it as wasted time but an experience I have learned a lot about myself and business from.
It has been a busy few years with the business growing quickly and taking over two new companies, but the goal now is to explore new business markets and look at further opportunities for expansion.
I also definitely want to continue helping more business start ups and increase the support and guidance I offer.