Did you know that Zulu Communications has a really lovely business called Candles for Community?
Candles for Community started in 2008 as something lovely to do to take the edge off the ‘seriousness’ of consulting work. Back then, I was making a few candles at Christmas to raise a little bit of money to help my courageous friends on the frontline in Congo and Cambodia. It was the least I could do, to help raise awareness of their projects, a few extra dollars here and there AND make some REALLY BEAUTIFUL 100% soy candles for friends to enjoy and give as gifts.
The premise and promise of Candles for Community remains the same these years later. The scale of it has increased too. For the first few years of the candle business, in the weeks leading up to Christmas I would send out emails, post on facebook, promoting this venture – quite tentatively. After all, it was the ‘voluntary – side business’ to Zulu’s core work. Back then I would get up at 5am to make candles in my kitchen and have them packaged, ready for dispatch before I started my business day. You get the picture?
My customers were telling me they LOVED my products, the spicy flavours, the beautiful packaging and what it represented with the contribution to a charity. Giving gifts to friends, family and business associates from Zulu’s Candles for Community (as it was known back then) was, and still is a way for people to engage easily and joyfully in socially responsible actions. AND the candles themselves are really appreciated and adored.
The reputation that my candle business was developing was a precious thing.
Upping the ante for 2013 – did we achieve our goals?
I planned to give the candle business and brand a REALLY SERIOUS red-hot go in 2013. Reinspired by my holidays with Geraldine and the children in July and buoyed the success of the previous years, I put in motion plans to redevelop the Candle business products, offering and brand and build a dedicated online store.
Needed was the revision of all aspects and elements in the business: products, pricing, photography, marketing materials, packaging, manufacturing, supply, ecommerce platform etc – and to redefine how it all integrated into my business and social responsibility activities with Zulu Communications and MY LIFE.
I set ambitious fundraising goals for my events and candles campaigns – to match the $8K from the previous year. My own expectations for smashing that goal were high – and that translated to PRESSURE to achieve it.
In late October 2013, a smart NEW online store www.candlesforcommunity.com.au was launched featuring, gorgeous candles and gift packs, exclusive artist card packs and sweet little cat themed gifts . With my newly organised candle workshop ready, Candles for Community 2013 was launched with a 9 week campaign to Christmas.
I had invested significantly financially, professionally and time-wise. Add creativity, energy, enthusiasm, emotional and mental expectation. After all THOSE investments – I had pledged 50% of my profits from candle sales to charity. I didn’t really take into account HOW the financial investment would actually RELATE to the dollar amount. If I did, I honestly would not be giving much – if anything this year! And, despite this, I honour my commitment to donating with funds promised from candle sales (based on each item sold) donated to Sunrise.
It’s important to note that in tandem to the redevelopment of the candles business, I also:
- Publicly announced that I was writing my memoir called Accidental aid worker earlier in the year;
- Travelled to Cambodia to spend time with Geraldine and the kids – followed by a research and reunion trip to Sri Lanka;
- Developed a new relationship with community kitchen Our Big Kitchen and produced two unique and inspiring fundraising events for Geraldine and some of the kids visiting from Cambodia. People came together, engaged, cooked and had a wonderful, heart-warming time. You can read about the Sunrise OBK events and also how businesses and teams bonded.
- Did a complete redevelopment of the Zulu Communications brand including the production of THIS website;
- Created and produced a 16 series gift card range showcasing the work of 4 talented artists friends; and
- Continued with my regular work with Zulu and as a volunteer doing many community focused things.
Weighing up the inputs and outputs in the wash-up.
In the wash-up for the Christmas 2013 campaign – incorporating events, markets, cards, candles, book sales and contributions – the TOTAL contribution value was $7213 for the year. As mentioned, money donated to Sunrise will go toward funding medical expenses for kids in Cambodia – and for that, Geraldine and I, and our children thank you VERY MUCH for your support. AKUN!
Although I didn’t quite achieve my dollar figure fundraising goal THIS YEAR, I still count it as a great success. All the intangibles DO COUNT too! The networking, relationship building, getting hundreds of people involved in events and candles, appreciation, recipients of food from our cook-ins, awareness raising of OBK, Sunrise and what Zulu’s Community is trying to achieve – it ALL COUNTS.
I TRULY enjoy the physical process of making your candles – choosing the range, administering your order, preparing and pouring each candle, wrapping up with paper and tying the bows. Gifts giving = enjoyment for me and I LOVE that people appreciate what I have to offer, enough to buy and gift it. It actually makes ME happy to visualise all those ‘licks of light’- around Australia and the world and know that people MAY also think of the kids in Cambodia when enjoy their candle. That counts too.
Whilst I kept up with the physical demands and at times, annoying technical hindrances to my self imposed deadlines, expectations and my pride, I also didn’t account for the emotional rollercoaster and my own disappointment at not achieving those lofty goals. Does it matter? To me, it does, and for those who know me well – they know how MUCH.
Looking forward in 2014
Did these vehicles of events, activities, communicating achieve those goals? I think YES – and it’s a good solid foundation for growth for the coming years! I have so many ideas and plans – my head is spinning. I’m one step closer to my utopia of sorts – to my idealised world of social business where everybody in the equation WINS.
Now that my beautiful candles website is alive and well and truly tested – I will be helping it to BLOSSOM in the coming year. Watch out for some beautiful new mosaics, jars and tea cup candles for Mother’s Day.
Also coming up – your opportunity to experience a cook-in events at Our Big Kitchen. It really is full of heart and SOUL FOOD. Please come along or ask me how you can organise an event for your business or social group!
I’ll also be announcing fundraising initiatives for the coming year – to stay in touch with all the news you can subscribe to Zulu 2 YOU newsletter (the form is just to your right) or follow us on facebook where we keep the news flowing most frequently!