How I Started an Ethically
Sourced Fine Crystals Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Olivia Wheldon, founder of White Witch Collective. We sell ethically sourced fine crystals to cleanse homes, lift spirits and facilitate healing on all levels. Right now, it’s just me, but I receive ad hoc support from my accountant, web developers and my amazing partner, Hugh.
Our fine crystals are not standard, off-the-shelf products from remote factories, like much of what already exists on the market. A White Witch Collective crystal is an individual crystal with unique personalities, properties and characteristics, straight from source. They are one-of-a-kind; nature’s heirlooms. Our pieces will be treasured and passed down through the family line. This creates an air of luxury and exotic exclusivity around them, which helps us in placing them in the mid to high-end market.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I left school during sixth-form on doctors’ orders due to acute anxiety and after suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. Determined not to be defeated, my entrepreneurial spirit kicked in when I established a social media management business and secured several clients. I even took up blogging, which saw me partner with hotels and restaurants from London to places as far-flung as Bali!
Later, when I attempted to pursue a career with marketing agencies, a lack of qualifications led to blocks and slammed doors. Despite having marketed small brands, I ‘didn’t have the experience.’ Despite being more than capable, no-one would hire me. How can you explain a two year gap in your CV to prospective employers without discrimination and prejudice? My mental health plummeted, rent became impossible to pay from the depths of an overdraft. I hit rock bottom (pun intended) around the time I discovered crystals. They were my gateway to self-healing and reconnection.
It all started with a chunk of black tourmaline. In the balmy Bristol summer of 2018, a particularly nasty psychic encounter left me shaken. I reached for this stone, having read of its profoundly protective properties, and it worked. Fear dissipated and was replaced by a new-found sense of confidence. It was clear that something metaphysical and powerful was at play here, so I wanted to share crystals with the world. It was from here that White Witch Collective took flight.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
As with any business, especially in its infancy, there will be blocks, challenges to overcome, icebergs to navigate. It’s a real test of strength, mindset and character. Very quickly, I learnt that, in order to continue and achieve success, I needed a ‘growth mindset,‘ as opposed to a ‘fixed mindset.‘ The former questions, “how can I fix this?” whereas the latter accepts defeat and does not adapt. Obvious barriers for me included no initial start-up capital, or investment. Finances aside, the other obstacle to overcome was a lack of social network and support, having never had a ‘normal’ job. I’ve had to forge every relationship in my circle and that’s been tough, but rewarding.
Who is your target market?
Our typical customer is female, aged between 25-55 and lives in the UK, specifically Bristol, Bath and London. We sell often to the US and Canada too. They are usually the type of person who may attend yoga classes or visit meditation retreats in different corners of the world. You might also catch them at the Glastonbury Festival in the Summer and on the ski slopes in Winter. They’re well-read, interested in self-development, aware of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and enjoy brunch and Bossa nova!
On a more spiritual level, a White Witch Collective customer is someone who is ready to reconnect, invest in themselves and reclaim their power. They may have a penchant for exquisite things or a fascination with Mother Earth.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I had freelanced as a social media manager and content creator for other brands before starting this business, so I already had the skills and experience to apply to my own. I particularly specialise in Instagram. For me, Twitter reads like a black-and-white newspaper and Facebook feels messy!
SEO is something I prefer to invest in over social media ads. That said, as it’s predominantly a visual platform, Instagram continues to grow in value for us as a marketing tool. It has been integral in curating and cultivating our overall brand message and it serves as a platform for our community to connect and engage with us and each other. We use it as a force for good, to inspire and inform.
Speaking authentically, sincerely and from the heart comes very naturally to me, so it was fairly simple to find my voice on Instagram and project it across time and space and onto people’s screens. Over time, the plan is to reinvest our profit into more professional PR and advertising campaigns. Personally, I’ve found that Instagram paid ads only go so far. They’re quite effective for immediate engagement, but not necessarily conversions.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Given the current scale of the business, I am very active and vocal on our social media platform. This personal touch has definitely helped to build rapport with our sourcing clients and paying customers. We know every one of our customers by name and we even have our personal jokes! This is just magical and such a perk both for me as a business owner and our wonderful customers, who we try to make feel heard and valued.
On top of that, I also believe that building a mailing list is a great way to stay connected with the people who’ve interacted with the shop and for publicising promotions. On this note, sales or even personalised discount codes are a great way to add a little bit of value, which also go a long way in customer retention.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
As with the majority of industries, in the online crystal-retail world, there are a lot of grey areas, which is something I wanted to tackle. Instead of buying all our stones from anonymous online wholesalers with dubious and tenuous links to the source, we work with partners at the source and get to know the people who choose our crystals for very well. We speak with them regularly through video calls, ask after their families and share gifts when we meet. We are friends. This is very unusual for our industry and we believe it’s something to be proud of.
In endorsing this trade and its people directly, we are supporting mining communities, their families and an entire industry, providing jobs for many people. We always pay what we are asked and never seek to barter. To do so would be disrespectful and unethical. If you wouldn’t haggle on the high street…
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
On a very practical level, I do believe that reading around and choosing the right customer relationship management (CRM) software will help.
Gsuite (email) currently serves as our CRM platform, in tandem with Instagram and the contact forms peppered across our site. We are currently considering Zendesk for a future CRM upgrade and integrating Facebook messenger onto the website, along with a live chat. All up for discussion at the moment as our new site is so new – we’re just growing as we go!
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Not to intentionally quote Nike, but, ‘just do it’! It’s so easy to overthink, toss and turn and paralyse yourself with inertia because you’re so scared to mess up that you don’t actually do anything. The sooner you accept that there will be mistakes and you will ‘facepalm’ more often than ‘fistbump’ (to begin with), the easier it becomes.
I know it is a cliché, but you learn from your mistakes; it’s how we grow. Think of all the dating mistakes you’ve made! Enough said, right? I actually believe that I failed my way to success and that my business works because I failed at so many other business attempts.
That said, I also think that knowing when to quit is important. Being able to differentiate between ‘flogging a dead horse’ and persevering with something that has genuine potential is a real gift, which I have now fine-tuned after making several losses in the past with other ventures! I’m proud of my failures as they’ve now materialised into success.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Freedom and fulfilment.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I will say that Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was a novel that stays with me. It is full of profound lessons that can be applied to all areas of life, particularly when it comes to the notion of gratitude. Gratitude is the most powerful energy to tap into, harness and manifest with. If we lack gratitude for what we already have, how can we attract more?
I’ve also taken tips from platforms like TedTalks, but all in all, I have winged this whole thing! You can teach business principles or learn how to file a tax return, but you can’t teach a growth mindset or ambition. You can’t teach tenacity. Everything you need lies within you.
I can’t recall any other specific name or title here because I’m constantly dipping in and our of books, blogs and articles and my social platforms are saturated with inspirational, motivational brands and people.
I’m very strategic and selective with who I follow and engage with so that I see only motivational, intelligent and uplifting posts that stimulate the mind and invigorate the soul. I allow myself to be consciously conditioned by my socials because each voice present is positive. Your socials shape you and your mindset. Your entire attitude towards life can be influenced by what you engage with regularly. Engage mindfully. Consume consciously.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I see White Witch Collective growing into a modern wellness brand, reaching far beyond crystals. I see dreamy white shop spaces; rustic wooden shelves, house plants, candles, smoking incense, treatment rooms in the back for massage, Reiki, Tarot readings and spiritual guidance.
I see fine crystals scattering sunbeams up walls, handwoven rugs imported from Morocco, layered across floorboards. Obscure but beautiful books on meditation and magic. Handmade ceramics, loose leaf teas. Clean, light and airy; nothing socks-and-sandals about it. A minimalist’s dream. A modern bohemian’s haven. Experiences, tools and goods for a happier, wholesome life.
In the evenings, the shop will close and transform into a sacred space in which women’s circles will be held in the candlelit darkness, hidden from the rest of the world. I see these spaces in Bath and Bristol, London and Brighton. I just need to keep selling my products and find some investors who love our crystals and share my vision!