Luxury fragrance brand Jane Darcy encourages people to take time for themselves and treasure the simple moments in life, which is exactly what motivated its founder Gillian Halpin to set it up. She talks to Olivia McGill about establishing the business.
Tell me about the company
It’s named after my daughters’ middle names – Jane and Darcy. We make natural home fragrances – soy wax candles, luxury diffusers and room sprays. Our ethos is encouraging people to treasure the simple moments in life – making us quite relevant at the moment with Covid 19 forcing us to slow down. It has forced people to realise that the little things in life are the most important. We all know it but don’t make time to do simple things together or for one another. The reason I decided to go into candles in particular is because when I light a candle, it’s my moment to take a breath and take time out.
“I spent three years thinking and brainstorming and talking to people before I put anything on paper. I always wanted my own business, to be able to take time back for myself”
What’s your background?
I worked in the family business from a young age but it wasn’t what I wanted.
A lot of what I did there was creating new brands and products and working with different companies to help them do that. While I had the business experience, I felt I didn’t have the academic background, so I did a master’s in marketing in DCU.
After that I did an internship in public relations company Fleishman Hillard. While there, I focused on what I wanted to do. I spent three years thinking and brainstorming and talking to people before I put anything on paper. I always wanted my own business, to be able to take time back for myself. At the time, I was pregnant with my daughter Rose, who is three now and I had my daughter Willow, who was four at the time. I didn’t want Rose to have the same experience that Willow had growing up – I was working and away a lot.
“The branding and marketing were hugely important to me. I wanted to release a product that was amazing at an affordable price”
How did you go about developing the brand and is there anything you would do differently?
I’m so simple and old school – I got a piece of paper and wrote down potential names for the business. I made a spider diagram of things like who I thought the customer would be. Because I have a background in marketing, I was really able to hone in on that and plan.
The branding and marketing were hugely important to me. I wanted to release a product that was amazing at an affordable price. The way you market a product is key, even something as simple as packaging is as important as the product itself. I wanted to sell a product as good as the best candle out there but at an affordable price because I think everyone should be able to buy themselves a little treat. Trying to keep the cost down for my customer was really important but also being able to offer them all the added extras. That took a long time to plan and work out.
“It’s very hard when you have an idea that you one hundred percent believe in but you have to convince others to think the same”
What challenges did you face?
It’s very hard when you have an idea that you one hundred percent believe in but you have to convince others to think the same. People deserve an explanation about why your product is so good and why they should spend their hard-earned cash on it. At the time, I didn’t understand that and I was very frustrated with retailers who didn’t want to take my product on. Now, I get it. You need somebody to tell you why that product is going to work for them.
People can get a bit intimidated by having to knock on so many doors and hearing no all the time. But you have to keep knocking to eventually get the yes. It is so important to remember not to be dejected when you’re told no. It just means no for now. Don’t be afraid of failure. When something goes wrong, learn from it, you won’t make that mistake again. It provides an opportunity to grow and develop.
“People can get a bit intimidated by having to knock on so many doors and hearing no all the time. But you have to keep knocking to eventually get the yes”
What advice would you give on starting a business?
Go and ask for help early. I didn’t know about the kind of help that was out there. While I had the experience of working in a business and the academic background, there were areas I didn’t know about. You’re not going to be good at everything. The things that you’re not good at – ask for help. Pick up the phone.
More people are willing to help than not and if they say no, ask someone else. Get in touch with your local county council. Fingal County Council has helped me since day one. They’re always there and not just for funding – I can pick up the phone and talk a problem through. I couldn’t do it without them. Even if you only have half an idea, pick up the phone and tell them about it. They’ll get you a mentor in that industry. They’re just brilliant.
“I’ve been using this time during Covid-19 to get ready for moving forward. I have lots of plans for launching new products”
What moments are you most proud of?
I was very proud this year to show at the Maison & Objet trade show in Paris. Showing there has always been a dream of mine. It was an amazing experience and we met so many amazing buyers from all over the world. It was a really surreal experience.
What are your growth plans?
I’ve been using this time during Covid-19 to get ready for moving forward. I have lots of plans for launching new products. When you launch a new product, it’s nearly like launching a new business, there’s a lot of work and thought behind it. Growing and developing our customer base and expanding into other regions is on my plan.
“Don’t be afraid of failure. When something goes wrong, learn from it, you won’t make that mistake again”
How are you dealing with the current situation?
It was a bit easier for us as we were already operating online. I know a lot of our stockists who weren’t online are now scrambling to get on. We’re quite lucky in that we were already set up on social media. We do lives every Thursday; I call them chill-out sessions. We have singers, yoga and live demonstration classes. It creates engagement and gives people something to do during this time. Because our brand is about encouraging people to take time out for themselves, it promotes that and reminds them about our brand at the same time.
It is a great opportunity for collaborations. I have gone to different bloggers and influencers and asked them to get involved. There are lots of different ways to get more content because we need a lot of content at the moment. This engagement allows us to get to know customers better. That’s going to be really important going forward with developing new products. I know what they want.
“You’re not going to be good at everything. The things that you’re not good at – ask for help”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Keep knocking on doors, keep sending emails. Lots of things have gone wrong for me and I’ve learned to just move on because if you dwell on things that go wrong, you can never move forward. You have to keep moving on to the next thing and if something doesn’t work, try something else.
Interview by Olivia McGill
Published: 29 May, 2020