Justin and Judith Sweeney of Bubbles & Balms
Running a business

Judith and Justin Sweeney Understand the Importance of Self-Care During the Holiday Rush

Name: Judith & Justin Sweeney

Location: Hampton, NB

Business: Bubbles & Balms

Collection of Bubbles and Balms bath bombs

What does your business offer? 

We make the best-smelling bath, body, and personal care products for dry and sensitive skin!

What seasonal products/services are you introducing this holiday season? 

We have 3 seasonal gift packs, including a trio of bath bombs, trio of bubble bath, and a 4-pack of bar soaps. Each comes with the theme "Found in Nana's Cupboard," and includes aromas like Candy Cane, Cinnamon Bun, and Sugar Cookie.

For more seasonal products from Bubbles & Balms check out the QuickBooks Holiday Gift Guide

What are some of the challenges you face during the holiday season that you have overcome or are working to overcome?  

We have a large number of SKUs, over 40, and that can be a bit overwhelming to sort through for customers creating gift packages for others. We try to preempt this as much as possible by creating gift packages that can easily be filtered through by price, theme, or availability, such as the FOMO-oriented limited edition products. The challenge then is creating awareness and directing people to an easy-to-navigate site where they can find the right option for them. Creating awareness and improving the user experience with more customizable features will be a focus moving forward.

Bubbles and balms rosehip and lavender conditioner bar

What do you think is the most important thing a business owner needs to do to prepare for the holiday season?  

The most important piece for us is having our advertising scripted and scheduled in advance of the transition into holiday mode on November 12. Time becomes such a valuable resource that automating as much as possible via scheduled paid ads, organic social posts, and using a chatbot on the easiest and most frequent questions helps to keep time free for manufacturing, supporting our retail partners, and fulfillment.

How do you keep sane during the holiday season?

Schedules and routines. We have made the mistake of burning ourselves out over the 6 weeks leading up to the holiday season and then coming out flat for the start of the new year. Now, we work to maintain the same healthy routine that we run the rest of the year; 8-hours of nightly sleep, lots of water, tea rather than coffee to avoid the jitters, and saying ‘no’ to opportunities that don’t fit our plans or existing schedule.

Judith and Justin Sweeney in their Bubbles and Balms store

What advice can you offer to up-and-coming small business owners during the holiday season? 

Get contact details and build your lists with every sale. We love the highly-lucrative Q4 with about 40% of our year happening in November and December. However, it’s our mailing lists that drive a lot of year-round revenue and our return on investment comes with the 2nd order, not the first. For these reasons, we are also using all of our in-person sales events as opportunities to build our lists, and look to convert every online purchase into a newsletter follower as well.

What holiday traditions do you and your family take part in?   

We have a 10-day advent calendar that Justin has had since he was a child. It hangs on the wall just outside of our kids’ door and has little pockets that can hold a pack of gum, small book, toonie, or other small gift. It really stretches the wake-up excitement of Christmas out over a longer period of time.

We also have wrapping parties, where we invite friends and family for wine, food, and lots of product-labeling and gift-packing.

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QBO's time-saving automation features really help during the holiday rush, like one-button payroll release, capturing our receipt details electronically through e-mail or photo, and being able to see up-to-date reports so we can track our performance and make informed decisions on the fly.

What are three things you feel have contributed to your success during the holiday season as a business owner?  

Presentation, FOMO, Consistency.

  1. Limited edition products with inventory counts have helped us to create FOMO and that has driven the popularity of seasonal products.
  2. The presentation of the products has always helped us with in-person events. This could mean having everything stacked in pyramids, giving enough negative space between products, including lots of silent-selling signage, and having gift-packs ready to be gifted immediately.
  3. And lastly, providing consistently high-quality products and services year over year help to build return business.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

#BetterEachDay. Both of us have been diagnosed with mental health (mood) disorders and have underlying challenges with high sensitivity. However, no matter how much we slip, fall, or have to start over, showing up and trying each day has consistently led to better and better lives. We remind ourselves often that with work, consistency, patience, and a long-term outlook, everything will get a little bit better.

How do you see QuickBooks helping you during the holiday rush? 

QBO helps with a few of the time-saving automation features that really help during the holiday rush, like one-button payroll release, capturing our receipt details electronically through e-mail or photo, and being able to see up-to-date reports so we can track our performance and make informed decisions on the fly.

What is your favourite Christmas song and why? 

Anything from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Our children are obsessed with the two full-length features and we adore the original 1966 cartoon. The voices of Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravenscroft have echoed throughout our holiday seasons as we’ve enjoyed the cartoon year after year.

How do you decompress after the holiday rush? 

Lots of time with family and looking ahead to all the opportunities that come with planning for a new year!

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

2023 will be about expanding our number of retail locations, with aspirations of expanding beyond the Maritimes by the end of the year.

Is there anything else about your business and/or entrepreneurship journey that you’d like to share?

While building your business, pause, but don’t give up. It’s amazing what a couple of weeks away can do to revitalize your passion and interest. If you hit a wall, just pause, it gets better and you will find a way forward.

To learn more about Bubbles & Balms and support their business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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