Updated: Apr 19
If you are reading this, I hope it is because you are already a customer of mine at Stepping Stones Emporium. If not, then perhaps after reading today`s blog it will help you undertsand a bit more about how, where and why I make all the products. Grab yourself a brew, get comfy and be prepared to find a little bit more about where it all started and where the magic happens.
Introductions: Hi, my name is Caroline I am a total beauty geek, music lover and flower fairy. Originally from Liverpool moved to Suffolk when I was a teen. I`m very partial to a chocolate bar (milk not dark) and love nothing more than a large mug of coffee accompanied by a good dunking biscuit. It`s still up for debate which is the best dunking biscuit mind you. I`m a Mumma to Connor, wife to Vince and a crazy cat Mumma to William aka Mr Wills, who is our family cat. In my spare time I like to craft whilst listening to my tunes creating little gifts and treasures for friends and family. I am a novice runner. Food and nutrition are important to me as I suffer with IBS. Due to this I became vegetarian many moons ago. I have always favoured the gift of giving a present, over recieving a gift. I love making and packaging my gifts with that special person in mind. It`s no different when I package any items for my business. To me, there is no greater gift than one that has come from the heart and has taken someones precious time to make. I guess that`s one of the reasons I love creating and designing products so much.
By trade: I left school and knew straight away what I wanted to do. I went to college and trained in hair and beauty full time for 3 years. I then went on to work in several salons and spas working my way up to manager level before opening my own high street salon which I had for five years. At that point my career took a bit of a turn and I began teaching nails for a well known nail company. I was lucky enough to work backstage on ITVs X Factor, that was the year One Direction were on. Yes, I was loved by all the teen fans! Yes, I got to meet the judges too. It was here, I got the teaching bug and decided that was the road I wanted to focus on moving forward. So I took myself off to evening college, studied hard after running the salon all day and qualified to become an assesor and teacher. This was when my business baby "Stepping Stones" was first born. I opened a training academy and began teaching all aspects of beauty therapy from massage, tanning, nails, waxing and lots more. I then gained a teaching role in a local high school and local charities and began teaching GCSE hair and beauty. Part of the curiculum was teaching GCSE Cosmetic Science and this is when I discovered how much I loved learning all about the chemistry elements and the ingredients. We had some fun sessions at school making lovely bath and body products and make up. The students really grasped the learning more so, when they got to see the products come to life. When the dark clouds came: During this busy period of teaching and working part-time still doing mobile beauty treatments. Still creating and building my brand. My Mum took very ill and went downhill very rapidly and resulted in her being admitted to hospital. The tough decision was made to put her in a home where she only lasted a couple of weeks. On March 3rd 2016 she gained her wings. This time, like it is for most, was a very dark difficult time for me. It sounds a real cliche but I really looked at my life and the importance of all the stressful situations, juggling work and life and just trying to find the balance. My Mum was a huge part of my daily life and that hole was really hard to fill. I just kept ploughing on the rat race of work, home and life trying to keep everything turning and everyone happy. Secretly I was drowning and wasnt looking after myself and wasn`t happy. My IBS was through the roof and I was just struggling to keep up. So something had to give! Leave the light on: One day I just had that light bulb moment were you just have a serious chat to yourself and realise YOU are the only person who can change things. So I did... I made the big step to leave my teaching job after my contract was up for renewal. The money I had saved from that I ploughed into landscaping my back garden and buying in a log cabin that was soon to become my workshop. I self funded lots of courses in cosmetic science and product making to get more of an understanding on where I wanted my business to go. I began making very small batches of products from my tiny little kitchen at home. I made lots and lots of mistakes. Wasted so many ingredients and ended up throwing so much away. I`d really get hung up on the fact I was wasting my money. What I soon came to realise was that for every failure came a lesson learned. It was indeed all a learning curve. You cant be perfect at everything, even if you have been doing it for a long time, mistakes are made. We are all only human and its what makes us all different and unique.
Nowadays I have learned to laugh at myself a lot when I make mistakes. Sometimes they are stupid, silly mistakes. Other times, its a new recipe or new product that I am using and its not quite performed how I planned. Yes, its still a waste of products and my time. But it happens... Womens Work Being a women in business comes with its brick walls. I had many many people laugh in my face when I told them I was going to launch my own brand. Being a Beauty Therapist by trade came with the sterotype of not being clever enough or having the right business attributes. Yes it`s hard runnning a business as a sole trader because you are having to make all the decisions. The planning, marketing, ordering, not to mention making the actual products then designing the packaging and sorting the labeling. But I do all that with a huge sense of pride that my Stepping Stones baby has grown up so fast in nearly 5 years look how far its come. So who in fact, who has the last laugh now? Over 80 products and four new product collections launched during a global pandemic. Now I never in my life thought I`d ever say those words!
Cabin Fever: These days you will find me in my log cabin sitauted at the rear of my garden amongst the trees and the birds singing. This is where all the magic happens. I like to think of myself as the modern day Snow White. I take a lot of my inspiration from nature and my surroundings. I try to keep my home life seperate from my work, sometimes that doesnt happen as easy as others. I have built a very loyal customer base whom I listen to and take on board their feedback. Knowing that they chose my products to gift to friends and family or to cheer someone up when they are feeling a bit down. Still, to this day, overwhelms me. I honestly, never ever take that for granted. So, from a very dark period in my life when if someone was to tell me this would be the making of me, I would have laughed in their face. I made and designed some of my best products when I was at a low point and needed to express my feeling in a creative way as an escape. On the otherhand, it can be very difficult being creative when the world is messed up and in need of healing with COVID and a global pandemic. Some days you just hit a creative mind block and I am learning to embrace that still today. Luckily, I have been able to continue making and creating beautiful products to give you all your very own small part of escapism during these difficult trying times. Whilst you still love and want to buy them, I will continue to make them and create new ideas. Final thoughts: The brand and the range of products has grown from bath bombs to shower therapy, body, hair and scalp, soap and home fragrance. That was never my plan to launch with bath bombs. I always had a focus on make up and skin care. Funny how life can change your course and lead you off on a different path you never thought you would walk off from. I have a plan in mind but if I`m honest, I am just grateful to be here writing this story to you, the reader, with a happy ending that hasnt ended and still thrives. I wont lie and say it`s been easy, it hasn`t. I have invested hours and hours of my time and money into it. Made many, many sacrifices. But, it`s mine. The moral to this story is: Don`t just follow your dreams...chase them hard! Keep believing, Keep driving. Just because its not the same as someone elses ideas. Doesn`t make it wrong, it makes it YOU. There is only one YOU. Dedication I would like to dedicate this blog post in loving memory of my Mum angel, Annette. She never got to see me fulfil this dream. But she was very much part of the beginning of my dream with my beauty career and my salon. This is for you Mum, keep shining on us, keeping dancing with the stars. I hope I am making you proud?
Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog post. Please leave me your comments if you can spare some time? I love to read them.
Love & Sparkles Caroline Founder, formulater & creator of all things beautiful.