Women who can Serena - melita rose

The second in an empowering series of interviews, we’re speaking to inspirational and ambitious women to uncover the secrets of their success.

Serena Francis, 33, launched her candle business in 2012 when on maternity leave with her son, Connor. Despite having never made a candle before, she successfully launched Melita Rose, which is now stocked in almost all UK Whole Foods, Fenwicks in Windsor and around 20 other stores around the UK.

I approached The Prince’s Trust because I didn’t know what to do with my idea, which was originally to launch an online jewellery business. They put me on a week’s training course, where they taught me how to write a business plan, how to write a sales plan and how to do an elevator pitch.

The Prince’s Trust really tore my idea apart. I wanted to sell jewellery, accessories and candles and they told me I needed to focus on one thing. I’m quite a headstrong person so I told them, “no, I know what I’m doing, thanks very much!” But when I worked on the sales and business plans, it very quickly became clear that they were right.

Candles are a massive thing in my family. My mother, Rose, and my Grandmother, Melita, had candles and essential oils everywhere. They’re the most important people to me, so the name came really easily to me.

We’re a family-run business - my Grandma would polish each tin or glass before we sent it out. Each candle we sell means the world because it has my Mum and my Grandma’s name on it.

To make the candles different to our competitors, we really focused on packaging. Most candles come in cardboard boxes or tins, so we decided to go for a recyclable jute bag. Every fragrance has a different design, so when it comes to you as a gift, it really feels like a gift.

We source our candle wax from the UK and our bags are Fairtrade, which is really important to us. Everything is done by us; every wick is glued in by hand; by me, my Mum and sometimes my sister.

We’re stocked in almost all Whole Foods in the UK. They're our biggest account and it took a lot of persistence - it took me a year. Nothing with regards to Melita Rose has just landed in my lap.

I’ll never forget the meeting when I went to the head office. I thought to myself, “if I can just get in one store, I’ll be so happy.” At the end of the meeting, the buyer said to me, “I think I can see Melita Rose in all our stores.” I was internally hyperventilating.

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People said to me, “what are you going to do when you get that one really big order?” and I said “let me worry about it when it happens.” And then it did. I got this 900-unit order from Whole Foods for two weeks’ time. There were lots of late nights, but there was no question of not doing it.

My dream store would be Liberty, but I want to be ready. One of the things I've learned is patience. Sometimes standing back and waiting until you’re 100% confident is better than going in all guns blazing.

It’s important that you don’t go into it solely for the money - because you will be disappointed! I met Levi Roots through The Prince’s Trust and he told me it took him years before he could say he was making any money. That’s why it has to be something you’re quite passionate about, so when you’re having those negative days, you’ll keep on going.

A lot of people don’t fulfil their dreams because they feel they have to quit their job, but you don’t. You have to pay your bills - the mortgage company aren't going to say "oh ok, you’re pursuing your dreams." You can do your 9-5 then your 6-9.

This red dress made me feel amazing. The cut is perfect - sexy but not over the top.

We sent a candle to the Duchess of Cambridge, a sweet orange and chilli pepper one, and received a beautiful letter back. And then my son scribbled all over the letter. I was like, “any letter but this one!”

My wardrobe is basically key pieces I can mix. A black dress, denim in all the colours, shirts in all the colours, trench coats, a beige woolen coat and leather jackets. I just don't have the time to faff around looking for different outfits. I live in black, grey, navy and white.

Karen Millen to me oozes confidence, femininity and sexiness but in a really subtle way. The leather jacket, I could live in. It’s super easy to wear and adds something to a really easy outfit. It’s very me.

The stripy shirt dress is something I’d like to wear all the time. It’s easy but feminine as well, and the loafers are perfect for when I’m travelling to appointments on the train or driving. It’s the perfect easy and wearable workwear.

My son is my motivation every day. I’m lucky enough that I can drop him off and pick him up from school every day. I never take that for granted - for any working parent, that’s a luxury.

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