Originally from Hertfordshire and now living in Teignmouth, Karen Hagenow moved to Devon when she was two years old. She worked as a senior occupational therapist for twenty years in A&E, mental health and acute psychiatry, followed by five years working in sales for a pharmaceutical company.
Karen explained, “I wanted a change from the healthcare environment, which was stressful at times, as much as I enjoyed making a difference to people’s lives.”
She set up The Posh Soap Company just over two years ago, selling mainly vegan, palm oil free soaps, self care products and a home cleaning range all plastic-free. “Initially I planned on making the soaps but soon realised that the process was quite time-consuming and I wanted to produce something that could be made and sold quicker,” said Karen. She switched to buying in soaps produced by Soapology, due to the lovely range of fragrances but also because they donated one bar of soap to the homeless for every ten that was purchased. She then extended the range still keeping the focus on high-quality soaps that people were proud to have on display in their bathroom.
“I started to experiment with making candles as I wanted my own range of products and these were really popular,” commented Karen. The candles are hand poured with soy wax, with a wooden wick decorated with botanicals and presented in a smart reusable lidded tin. She sells these mainly at local markets such as Totnes, Shaldon and special events including Devon County Show. “This has enabled me to get the best market research on my products as I get to meet the people who buy and enjoy them with invaluable feedback,” said Karen. Karen has a website which is in the process of being improved with a relaunch planned for October.
She sells these candles under The Posh Candle Company brand and is currently setting up a sister company called The Posh Bits Company. “In an ideal world, I would have thought about this more at the set-up stage of the company, but it has evolved organically, and you don’t know what you don’t know!” she stated. She explains that at the time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, people were looking for soaps that were not harmful to their hands or the environment, so this pushed her in the direction of this product but that there has been a natural evolution over time.
Looking for a business coach and assistance with understanding and managing the financial side of the company, Karen reached out to GetSet Adapt. She met Lee Davis, Business Advisor for the programme, whom she describes as “absolutely amazing and inspiring!”
“He listened to my business story and really took the time to understand me and the company, providing me with some really positive feedback. The motivation Lee gave me was priceless and his enthusiasm gave me the confidence to take my business to the next level. Lee explained that I had in fact done many of the things I needed to set-up a strong and successful business, having another perspective on the business was amazing.”
Lee helped Karen to work on her cashflow as she admits that she finds it difficult to analyse numbers. “I had never run a business before and wanted it to be successful,” she explained. “I work hard but recognised that I needed to work smarter which Lee helped me with, highlighting the fact that I could buy in the services I was less comfortable doing as well as working on my business plan, providing useful insight. Lee helped me focus on what I was doing well and now to improve where needed” stated Karen.
Karen is currently researching new bespoke packaging for her range of posh fragrance, liaising with suppliers directly to reduce costs and to find exactly the right product. She is also looking at room fragrance and big, posh matches in a tin with a stamped logo which will look fantastic, as well as being a logical product to accompany the candles. She is also working on a new exciting product range for her Posh Bits Company.
Karen has been busy building up relationships with appropriate “posh” venues to sell her products including Powderham Castle and the shop of the local Art retailer of the Year, for whom she white labels her candles. “I’m looking to expand the outlets selling my products and researching high quality farm shops, castles, spas, grand estates and houses,” stated Karen.
“I know that it is Important to widen my customer base by building relationships with my current and potential customers. I am trying to overcome my nervousness about filming for social media which is a great tool to show what I do,” she explains.
Karen is also applying for a grant through the GetSet Adapt programme to help with her website and to bring new products to market. Karen now employs part time staff to help with candle making and enlists the help of friends to make the candles. She will shortly moving into her new workshop at the end of her garden.
“I will be eternally grateful to Lee for his passion, enthusiasm and practical advice he has given me and the confidence to continue growing,”