Essence of Harris (EoH) began life on Jamie and Deenie McGowan’s kitchen table as Buth Bheag Candle Company. Within three months, demand for their scented candles had outstripped production capacity, and within a year, they realised that in order to have a presence beyond Scotland, it would be necessary to rebrand.
The business now employs 14 between their offices on the Isle of Harris and in Inverness. The product range has expanded to include wax melts, diffusers and room sprays, with upcoming lines in bubble baths, liquid soaps and body lotions. Essence of Harris has commissioned its own tartan for packaging and promotion, designed by Black Isle-based company Prickly Thistle.
How did exporting come about for Essence of Harris?
Jamie set out to create a sustainable family business that could strengthen the fragile island economy by creating jobs. He first approached Business Gateway for advice, which led to involvement with HIE. The business, now account managed by HIE, has been on an upward trajectory ever since it made the decision to be brave and make the move into exporting. With international clients in Thailand and the US already, EoH is also conducting talks with the Netherlands and has an enquiry from France.
What were the main challenges?
One of the biggest challenges was making sure that exporting did not affect the success of the home market. Controlling cash flow became an important factor, and the business had to move into a new, bigger factory. Critical to the business’s success as it moved towards internationalisation was having the right team in place. “As the business grows, you can’t do everything yourself,” Jamie says.
What would you say to other companies thinking of going into exporting?
Essence of Harris has had strong support from Business Gateway, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Inverness Chamber of Commerce. Between these organisations, a wealth of information, workshops and one-to-one support have been provided. The input of Scottish Enterprise’s research and information facility, available to businesses across Scotland, has enabled the business to navigate the process of growth with a solid core, ensuring that it can meet growing demand. “It took us a year to take the step into exporting – the business is now strong enough for us to take the brand worldwide.”