This whole journey started because of a fiercely independent, incredible woman known as Liz Cole aka mum! Since she was in her 20s mum had a drive for supporting independent businesses, having spent the later end of her teens studying in France and Spain and seeing the pride they took in products that were manufactured there. She opened her first business at 22, with a music sheet business on St Mary's Street- 10 minutes from where our Cardiff shop is now! 6 years later life got in the way, with a career in teaching sounding like the sensible option considering her and Kevin were starting a family! But the love for independent businesses and being her own boss never disappeared. Three fantastic children (if I do say so myself) later, and a big relocation to North Wales for Kevin's job and mum found herself craving the self employed life once more.
On August the 7th, 2000 mum opened the original Cole & Co on the ground floor of our house on Church Street. A shop to celebrate the incredible independent businesses from all around the UK - Caroline Gardner, Bath House and Baileys all featured before they became the big household names that they are now. It was such a new thing for Beaumaris. It had been such a traditional tourist town until that point, and mum introduced brands that had had never even been heard of. The popularity was instant - and four years later mum moved over the road to a bigger space, where she could introduce clothes, jewellery and ceramics. And we gained our living room back!
For 10 years, mum was there whenever we needed her. The perfect balance of a role model and mum. Showing the three of us, that you didn't need to be in a big serious profession to be successful. I loved it. I hid behind the counter from the age of seven and then worked in that shop every Saturday from the age of twelve. I was officially becoming mum's mini me. Every Christmas we would have a Christmas preview party and we'd all dress up and serve wine and canapés whilst customers started their Christmas shopping. It was something I looked forward to every year. That was because mum was completely in her element - the hostess with the mostest and I knew I was never going to just sit in a university lecture hall. I wanted to do what she did.
In 2009, Dad was having a tough time in his job as an industrial chemist. It had become too much managerial, and not enough hands on science. Mum suggested taking up a hobby... making candles. They launched three fragrances in the shop - called '1', '2' and '3' - and they were hugely successful. So much so that local businesses started paying attention. So dad tried making soap - and turned out he was as good at making those as he was candles. A year later and it was starting to pick up, so mum and dad made the decision to change their lifestyle slightly so that dad could leave his job and join Cole & Co! I'm not sure if we're a family of habits - but that just happened to fall on exactly 10 years from when mum opened the doors to her first shop!
They quickly became the dream team, with the balance of retail experience and science playing in their favour. Shops started paying a lot of attention, so dad officially set up the wholesale side of the business, and half of the shop was converted into a workshop. Although the original fragrances didn't stick around - the candles and
soaps definitely have, and ten years later we have sold over 100,000 soaps!
We have grown from a team of 3 (including mum), 1 of which is still with us today - to over 20 members of staff ! With a workshop based in Beaumaris and in Cardiff, and over 200 stockists all round the UK. We now make a range of over 15 types of products, and have ventured into refillable toiletries, something we didn't even know existed 10 years ago! It is now a business that mum could never have imagined when she started in 2000. 5 years ago, I came back into the company as an exploration that was meant to last a year - and now I have the bit between my teeth and can not imagine doing anything else. Ten years after dad made his first candle, we have just found out that we are nominated for two awards at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards - one being Fashion & Beauty brand of the year, the other (which still makes me choke up) is Family Business of the year. Every decision that mum has made over the last forty years has always been based around family, and now there's three of us at the very top - with no sign of stopping soon!
Mum, thank you for being such an inspiration! Every day you are doing what you love. Even on the hard days, you remind me to be grateful for the drive and passion to get up and get going. Everyday starts with a catch up and ends with a cup of tea, and I wouldn't want it any other way. People doubted us at every stage, and we have shown time and time again the strength and resilience that a family business can have. 20 years is such a phenomenal achievement - not many people stay in one job that long, let alone run it from the top. I hope that over the next ten years, you can slow down and let me, my cousin and the whole team fly - but never think you can go too far!
So that is where the phrase for our birthday candles came from. This business has been a slow burner that has just grown from strength to strength over the last 20 years, and I couldn't be prouder! We really believe the best things take time!
Lots of Love,