Team Entrepreneurship case study: Benjy Johnstone and Milkman Store

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Milkman store candle on side table

We have spoken to several Team Entrepreneurship students who own start-up businesses about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. This case study is from Benjy Johnstone, founder of Milkman Store.

Milkman Store

Truthfully, the Milkman story began one night; sometime around three am while out with friends from university in Bristol – my beloved and cherished home town.

I have always been intrigued by architecture and home design: often finding myself gravitating towards interesting objects in friends’ houses, fascinated by why they were there and what they represented to that particular person.

And so the next morning – feeling slightly worse-for-wear – I began planning my venture. Soon I was doing hours of research online and creating scores of mood boards (for drawing was never my strong point). Smell has always been something I’ve been acutely aware of, and after a while, I began to realise I wanted to focus on scented products.

I started small, working on designing candles myself, trying to perfect even just one small batch; until finally, it was time to branch out. This is when I curated my first saleable product: our wonderful 001 Lis d’Ambre soy candle. And from that point on, I decided to make it the company’s mission to create high quality, design-conscious products.

Having the ability to design and curate the products myself whilst working with high-quality suppliers and new & exciting materials has given me an amazing platform to explore, design and discover new and exciting talent to work alongside.

The impact COVID-19 has had on how I run my business

Customer interaction and engagement has always played a big role in what we do, and there is a huge amount of emphasis within our small team to create genuine conversations with customers and suppliers.

During this period we have moved away from in-store sales and set up our website to manage sales online. This proved challenging, as we were tasked with generating sales and customers engagement purely from our social media channels. As we have moved forward, we have noticed that most of our sales are now coming through our new website – something we had hoped would be the final result!

What I’ve learnt

We knew that when this whole situation started that our sales were going to dip due to the closures of our stockist’s stores, so we made the decision to pull the trigger on designing our website and began introducing this to customers through our social media channels. We have learnt that it is crucial to be adaptable and flexible with your approach to business and actually, putting the time and thought into that adaptation ultimately pays off and pushes you forward. Building a website was something we had always hoped to do, but these circumstances meant we had to get on with it and I am really grateful that we did.

Are you feeling positive about the future of your business?

Yes, and no. I don’t think any self-respecting business owner can confidently say they were 100% set on their future and that everything was going to be plain sailing. The ever-changing landscape means that we have to be prepared for obstacles and change, but, and it’s a big but – I am confident in my team and the friends who have supported this journey so far and we are all very proud of the products that we have worked so incredibly hard to curate.

Visit the website here.

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