When Andy Menzies set up his website Red Candy in 2009, he had no idea what was in store.

Instead of glossy product placement and graphic design, his days were focused on SEO and Google Analytics, subjects of which he knew very little. The learning curve was steep, but the rewards were high. His site Red Candy started out selling only red funky homeware but later, by popular request, launching into household objects in every colour under the sun. Here, Andy looks back on his business journey.

I came up with the idea when… the credit crunch set me on my way. The company I previously worked at was making redundancies and I decided NOW was the time to start my own business. Until the credit crunch, many home improvement programmes encouraged people to keep their home interiors neutral to improve the chance of a house sale. Following the crunch, with the housing market off a cliff, it was the perfect time to encourage people to be expressive in their own homes, to rebel against the beige, and to surround themselves with gloriously colourful and weird décor.

The biggest challenge is… is finding the right partners to work with, who will aid growth with minimal hassle and management. If you can find the right tech-based partners who ‘get’ your business and brand, the job of running and growing a business becomes immediately easier overnight!

The average day is spent… Well, during my 8am porridge and Earl Grey, I scan through customer enquiries. It’s important to stay in touch with those that essentially pay the bills. Then, I go through Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, carry out keyword analysis in Google, place a few stock orders, put together a marketing email or two and may design a new home page banner.

The team consists of... three people. Ed Williams is our go-to guru for customer service, admin and orders. Rachel Escott is our marketing manager and creative copywriter. I split my work between the dull tasks such as stock control and accounts, with graphic design, and finding new and cool tech data driven partners to work with. We outsource all warehousing, distribution, marketing and PR to keep staff numbers down.

My favourite quote is… “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain.

I am where I am today because of… I’m an over-thinker. When starting a website business, you have to quickly become an expert in areas you knew nothing about such as marketing plans, SEO, Google Analytics, accounting, customer services, website design.

I am who I am because of... my friends, family and the people I surround myself with. It sounds cheesy but is completely true. My parents have provided endless support and great advice regarding my business and life situations and my sister, who runs her own fashion brand, provides me with energy and inspiration when I find myself lacking. My friendship group is full of upbeat, outgoing, fun, creative, warm, weird and interesting folk. All are supportive and are also always up for a party when it’s time to address the work / life balance.

The best advice I've been given... is don’t waste too much time worrying about what competitors are doing. A family friend, who runs a chain of successful hairdressing salons, once told me that.

In five years I’d like to be… running Red Candy from a beach. Running an ecommerce business should essentially be possible with a laptop and mobile telephone.

The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online... You have to be a stats and figures geek. It isn’t all about the exciting and dynamic customer-facing stuff, the colourful products, the website design, the marketing and social media. You have to spend hours pouring over your data in Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools, SEO monitoring tools, your accounts, sales & expenditure figures.

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us… a couple of years after starting the business, I assumed that every possible partner would exceed expectations, and spent alot of money tying into long-term contracts. Then the performance of one of my largest, newest partners (a fully managed PPC company) took a dramatic nose-dive, thousands of pounds a week down the drain-kind of nose-dive. After a very carefully worded email, and an appeal to the good & entrepreneurial kindred spirit I hoped was still present somewhere in this corporate business, I was HUGELY fortunate to be able to exit the 12 month contract early. So. Don’t assume every penny spent will make you a pound. And don’t agree blindly to long-term contracts.

What apps do you use to be more productive...Spotify helps me get through each day; Skype for staying in touch with my lovely team, and Candy Crush to take my mind off work during a quick tea break.

The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date… is running a business in itself. The ability to financially support yourself and your staff financially is pretty special.

The websites I most frequently use are... I’ve got a bit of a love / hate relationship with Amazon… Yes, it is direct competition for many of our key categories and will probably be largely responsible for squashing many a small business. However, when you have pretty much any product in mind, it makes shopping so quick & easy.

The podcasts I like to listen to are... the old Adam and Joe podcasts. Those guys are my comedy heroes. I also occasionally pop on The Infinite Monkey Cage from Radio 4.

March 2018