East Lothian Entrepreneur finds success by embracing digital economy- Edinburgh Evening News -2/11/21
Journalist -Julie Douglas
An East Lothian entrepreneur is backing an initiative to help business startups and SMEs succeed in the digital economy.
Geraldine McCullagh, who owns and runs Me-Time Therapies in Musselburgh, wants to see others gain access to the global marketplace by signing up to the Amazon Small Business Accelerator. The scheme has already helped more than 12,000 Scottish startups and small businesses to build digital skills during the pandemic, with more than half of these firms planning to increase
investment in digital infrastructure over the next year.
Around 3,000 Scottish SMEs now sell professionally on Amazon, with around 450 in Edinburgh generating £20m in export sales in 2020.
Geraldine is one of a number of local entrepreneurs who have agreed to share their success stories in a series of free online training sessions being organised by Enterprise Nation, in partnership with Amazon and Scottish Enterprise.
Without the support of Amazon and Scottish Development International, she believes her business – selling a range of natural body butters, balms, and self-care kits– would not have survived the pandemic.
She says: “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from learning how to sell your products globally.
“I was able to focus on what I am good at – making products – while Amazon took on the responsibility of logistics and delivery to customers, which I’d never been able to do as well.
I also feel a deeper connection with my customers who can see from my online store that I make every one of our products by hand.”
Luxury Adviser Feature: How I Transformed My Therapy Business Online During The Pandemic Article
Luxury Adviser Feature -July 2021
When I launched my business Me-Time Therapies 24 years ago, my main offering was in-person massage and therapy treatments. For these appointments, I had developed a range of natural, sustainable massage balms to use on clients.
The rise of clean beauty
Over the years I noticed that there was a huge demand for clean, eco-friendly beauty products using natural ingredients, something I was already making on a small scale for my clients. In 2017, I refined my products and their packaging and started selling on Amazon as an additional source of income.
People really care about what what goes into their skincare products so I am completely transparent about the ingredients I use. Similarly, the packaging used for all of my ranges is reusable and eco-friendly and everything is handmade with care by myself.
My massage balm, body butter, lip balm and self care kits, all use eco-friendly and 100% natural ingredients. What sets my products apart is that, given my aromatherapy background, I can create aromatherapy blends that will help customers feel relaxed or invigorated depending on their needs.
The impact of the pandemic
The client side of the business was still my primary source of income, so when the pandemic hit last year forcing me to halt all consultations I went into panic mode. I had appointments booked in that had to be cancelled and I had to completely rethink how I was going to make an income.
I refocused my business strategy on my products and doubled down efforts online. People were becoming increasingly conscious on mindfulness during a time of isolation, and demand for products like mine increased. People were either looking for something to use themselves, or as a gift to check in with loved ones.
How I shifted to sell clean beauty online
Thanks to having established a small business Storefront on Amazon, the pivot to a more product-led business model was fairly straightforward and it became my main source of income. This meant I was already in a good place to reach new customers and fulfil orders. Amazon’s distribution network was one of the ways I could maintain sales with a good service to customers.
With Amazon handling fulfilment, it meant I was able to focus more on making the high-quality products that my customers have grown to expect. As I am the only person in the business, it is reassuring to know that this aspect of my business is in capable hands.
There were several key ways I adapted my strategy to not only sustain the income I had lost from therapies, but make my products a more prominent part of my business and continue to grow during this time:
I solidified the relationships with suppliers and placed more considered orders for materials strategic order sizes to ensure I was always properly equipped and limiting wastage.
I doubled down on production and increased the inventory held with Amazon to meet the increased demand for my products. This helped me to not only meet delivery deadlines, but also expectations of my customers.
I expanded my product ranges to cater to new customer needs. As we emerged from the first Lockdown in July 2020, and massage therapists were returning to work, I developed the Muscle Relax Balm for more professional use. Similarly, in the run-up to Christmas, I launched the Self-Care Kit which proved as a popular gift as people isolated over the festive season.
I was invited by East Lothian Business Gateway to the EntreprenHER talk at Queen Margaret University on Tuesday 19th March. The event focused on ‘being women in Business today’ and the challenges that female Entrepreneurs face. Prue Leith (the Bake Off judge) was the main speaker and shared her story of being a woman in business.
Prue Leith said “If you start with an optimistic nature, it doesn’t matter if you fail. Start with an idea that you really care about – that’s what matters.” This really resonated with me as over the past 22 years, I have also worked in a similar way.
I feel very fortunate that over the past 22 years as a female in Business in Scotland, I haven’t faced setbacks or discriminations. During the talk, it mentioned that Women in Business can be held back due to their gender, family commitments and unable to raise capital. Prue also mentioned that she never borrowed money for her business to grow. I have also done the same as that means if a recession hits or the economy slows down, you aren’t struggling to pay back bank loans. Prue said that she knew many successful women in business overextended themselves financially and their business went under.
I got to ask her a question about the difficulty in ensuringWork/Life Balance and how she implements Self-care into her life. She said that she ensured that she allocated time in her diary for holidays to re-charge her batteries. I also like having short breaks and holidays to look forward as this motivates me.
She also said that she loves being in business and although 80 years old next year, she is launching 2 new businesses this year. I hope that I can maintain her enthusiasm and her energy as I allow my business to grow and flourish.