Sri Lankan Women Trading Globally 2019 Participant on managing business in a COVID-19 environment
In 2019, Bhagya Iddamalgoda was selected as a participant of the Sri Lankan Women Trading Globally Program held in Western Australia. With her keen sense of business, clear vision, and eye for design and aesthetics, the ECA has watched Bhagya’s business Candle House Ceylon continue to expand and evolve.
- What led to you to establishing Candle House Ceylon, and what drove you to commence international expansion?
Expanding to international markets was a part of my long-term strategy. The lifestyle industry of Sri Lanka has ample room to make a global mark and my artisan scented candles and lifestyle products like essential oils are a great way to get my foot in the export market.
- What did you learn from participating in the Sri Lankan Women Trading Globally program in 2019, and what connections have you made?
What I took away from this program definitely helped me to better prepare for exporting, for example; getting to know that a product label has to be standardised to reflect specific and unique requirements for export as well as adhere to the country’s labeling format, rules and regulation. A few other topics that were of value to me were understanding the Incoterms and logistics of exporting, financial documentation, risk management, pricing structures of products and understanding the consumer needs in different markets. The site visits to export-oriented Australian businesses showed how these topics unfolded in a practical setting, giving us a broader picture; not forgetting to mention how inspiring their start-up stories were!
I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with some of my colleagues from our program to complement each other’s products and services. In addition, networking events organised by the Export Council Australia has led to many introductions to individuals who have expertise and experience in the areas of exports, business and other related fields; something quite valuable to this phase of growth in my business.
- As a result of participating in the program, what are some successes that you have experienced?
- How have you been impacted by COVID-19 and how have you responded?
1. If I don't have sales, what can I do with my business now that can benefit in the long run?
Given that I had more time on my hands, it was only natural I make use of that to focus on finishing my website. This launch seemed timely, as we later realised that scented candles were in demand because people were working from home and were able to be in their element.
2. How can I engage my followers now and stay connected with them?
There was a surge in the number of people using social media and online shopping during quarantine and it was imperative for me to use social media to reach out to people. I posted more on Instagram and Facebook using stories, polls and quizzes. I also started working on my personal brand on LinkedIn.
3. How can I support other small businesses and can I get them together to support each other?
When the curfew was imposed, one of the first things I started doing was “shoutouts” to small businesses that I know of and are familiar with, and eventually, this started cascading into other businesses.
Although there was a curfew, our essential services were still active which included delivery services as well. Because I had the advantage of starting on an online platform, I was in a unique position to meet my demands. We also ensured our safety practices were extra thorough as well. While our bulk orders did go down, our individual orders picked up, especially with the launch of our website and I was able to deliver our products efficiently to limited areas of the island.
I suppose the way I responded was to pivot in a way to focus on the infrastructure and to keep my followers and customers engaged. Brand exposure was important, and my idea was to upgrade my business internally, adapting to change and to be ready to pounce once a certain degree of normalcy is restored.
- What would like to share with entrepreneurs who are working in the COVID-19 environment?
The ECA would like to add that Bhagya has also published a comprehensive article on 101s for small businesses in Sri Lanka – The Pandemic Version which can be found via LinkedIn.