Scaling your business? Here's five tips from the experts
Founders and owners of The Crystal Barn Clare and Andy know a thing or two about turning a passion project into a serious business. We spoke to the Barclaycard customers to find out how they grew their love of crystals into a company turning over more than £300,000 a year, and their five top tips to help you scale your business.
1. Start with a passion
Eight years ago, the pair were selling a handful of healing crystals to students taking part in crystal therapy courses they were running, and were using their living room to hold stock. Today, the business has a dedicated premises situated in the couple’s picturesque farmyard home, with several barns stuffed full of high-grade crystals from around the world – and plans to keep on growing.
"I went from being massively anxious to calm"
The Crystal Barn has grown organically over the years, but came about as the result of a pivotal moment in Andy’s life. In the late 1990s he was running a successful printing company, but was suffering from stress, anxiety and back pain.
Having sought massage treatment for his back, a therapist gave Andy – who knew nothing about crystals or healing at the time – a crystal to hold onto.
“I didn’t feel anything at first, then suddenly, it was like a switch. I went from being massively anxious to calm,” Andy says. “Because of that, I got interested in how they worked and it went from there.”
2. Be authentic
The business has grown steadily over the years by word-of-mouth, and has bucked the trend for e-commerce by only selling face-to-face at the barn, where customers can visit during opening hours two days a week, or by appointment. It’s all part of the authentic experience that customers love, says Clare.
“I think the nature of the product lends itself massively to being seen and felt,” she explains. “People feel free to look here – we don’t put them under pressure, and often people tell us personal things in this space.”
Everything in the barn is in keeping with a natural feel, from the authentic barn doors to the locally-sourced shelving units.
Andy says: “When people come in – and this happens regularly – they tell us they’ve never been to a place like this. It's all about the experience.”
3. Get the right systems in place
While The Crystal Barn specialises in the natural, the business relies heavily on technology: around 97% of its takings are transacted by card, using a Barclaycard mobile card reader. The average purchase value for the business is between £160-200, a figure which has been rising as customers increasingly seek out higher-value items.
“I call our Barclaycard reader the silent worker.”
“Our average sales are fairly high, and it's not the sort of cash that people would be carrying around. It really is a lifesaver,” says Clare.
The pair say they chose Barclaycard because they wanted the reliability and support of a reputable company.
“I call our Barclaycard reader the silent worker,” Andy adds. “It doesn't need the toilet, it doesn't need a lunch break. It just works.”
4. Build a trusted network
Clare and Andy source from far and wide in order to secure the best crystals for their business. Initially sourcing the majority of their stock from South Africa, the business hit a turning point around three years ago when the entrepreneurs began importing highly-sought after Amethyst from Brazil, which helped drive a surge in sales.
But the business model is not without risk: the pair regularly place orders for thousands of pounds’ worth of stock, which then has to be air-freighted to the UK in a process that can take weeks or even months, and crystals can be lost or damaged. With much of their communication with suppliers taking place via messaging apps, having total trust in the people they do business with is essential.
“It can be scary,” says Clare. “It is a massive passion, but you have to have the business head side of it.”
5. Encourage customer loyalty
The Crystal Barn has built a loyal client base over the years, with much of its business coming from repeat customers.
“Trust is a huge thing,” says Andy. “We have earned peoples’ trust, and they know that where the crystals have come from is extremely important to us. A lot of people say they wouldn’t buy anywhere else.”
While much of the business’s growth has been organic, social media has fast become an invaluable marketing tool in recent years. When shipments arrive, Clare and Andy upload photos of their new stock, prompting customers to come and visit – and engagement levels are high.
“As a business tool, it’s incredible. We used to mailshot people with old-fashioned envelopes. Then we used to email people, and nothing. But social media is instant,” says Clare.
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