3 Things to Learn from Daily Candy’s Demise

Like many, I was surprised to learn that Daily Candy was shutting down after 14 years in business. The popular city guide / shopping guide service started with a small email list of just 700 subscribers and was bootstrapped into a recognizable, popular brand that showcased the best products to buy, the most fashionable clothes to wear and the latest, trendy food spots to discover.  After 14 successful years and 2.5million subscribers, it is surprising to see them throw in the towel.

Daily Candy

Daily Candy

These are 3 lessons I’m taking away from the shut down:

1. Looks are deceiving. Daily Candy looked like it was a profitable, going concern. It had 67 employees in various cities. The newsletters were beautiful, filled with hand drawn illustrations, and were widely seen by many as leading the trends. However, within the handful of media elite and taste makers, it was whispered that Daily Candy had lost its way and was no longer leading the pack, but instead, jumping onto trends after others had spotted them. From the outside looking in, however, the business certainly seemed to have it all going on. Like the Smith’s and their new car, pony and kitchen remodel next door, look deeper and there is often another story.

2. Creating quality content is hard. It’s a fact that every blogger knows – coming up with consistent, readable, useful content routinely is arduous work. It’s difficult to do and it’s difficult to get paid for. As Goop has figured out, having products to sell makes that task easier. Daily Candy never had a clear revenue stream that worked clearly enough for traditional media to understand.

3. Nobody loves your baby like you do. The original founder, Dana Levy, was undoubtedly well compensated when Daily Candy sold in 2008 for a reported $125million. But ultimately, when the bean counters take over and the passionate founder is on the sidelines, the heart and soul leak out slowly. It may not be apparent at first but that lack of authenticity and voice eventually shine through.

So, why actually shut down the company? As one of their earliest investors said, “A brand is a terrible thing to waste.” My take: I think Daily Candy didn’t fit in the big media ‘bucket of understanding’. There wasn’t a clear path to profitability that anyone was invested in.

City Guides, Places to Go, Things to Do - DailyCandy 2014-03-30 15-15-01

My takeaways for my business are:

1. Stay authentic. Stay the course. I started the SoapQueen blog as a way to connect with Bramble Berry customers in a new and different way, as a medium to showcase creativity of the craft, to mentor others in business and to create relationships by sharing a bit of myself. That’s what I started out doing 7 years ago and over the years, as the kids have come, as Bramble Berry has gotten bigger, the temptation to take the easy route is always there (see #2 above). Daily Candy’s path reminds me that there is beauty in simplicity and repetition. When you have a winning formula, do not change it.

2. Focus on the intangibles. When I started the SoapQueen blog, everyone thought I was nuts because it didn’t make sense from a business perspective. It probably didn’t but, it sure fit from a ‘gut’ perspective. I just knew that as Bramble Berry had grown, I couldn’t talk to each and every person anymore and I missed our customers. I wanted to have a relationship with them again. Proving ROI (return on investment) for a soft word like “relationship” isn’t easy to do. Clearly, for Daily Candy, it wasn’t obvious what relationships, trust and history were worth. They’re worth something. It may not be a number that makes sense to a dispassionate media executive, but as long as the relationships and trust are there, they’re worth nurturing.

3. Stay involved. As Bramble Berry grows, it grows increasingly hard to have a say in the direction of everything. I approve all the products. I work daily on the blog. I review all the Facebook comments and answers. And, many more things that seem rather small. I frequently hear from other business owners that this is foolhardy, that there are other, more important things for me to spend my time. The Daily Candy story is a good reminder that anything that that affects my customer is something that I want to have a hand in. Because, see #3 above.

Do you have any thoughts on the Daily Candy shut-down? I’d love to hear them – especially if you have business take-aways to share.

50 Responses to “3 Things to Learn from Daily Candy’s Demise”

  1. Karen Frazier says:

    Anne Marie, the first few times I visited the Bramble Berry site was to order supplies as a gift for my daughter-in-law. Molds, EO’s, FO’s, oils and butters held no interest for me because I had no desire to make soap. Then I stumbled upon your blog and realized there were so many interesting things that could be made without dealing with lye. Without the Soap Queen blog my interest would never have been piqued and I would not be having the time of my life experimenting with making my own bath goods.

    • Oh wow, that is great feedback! Thank you for letting me know that. It is amazing all that you can make without lye, isn’t it? =)) It’s a fantastic craft to have – it sure makes lots of friends and you never are without a gift… ever.

      • Karen Frazier says:

        Having now made fizzies of all sorts, body butters, bath melts and bath cookies galore I’ve ordered ingredients to try melt and pour soap. Who knows, as my confidence grows CP may be just a few orders away!
        By the way, my husband has started to ask if he should just send a portion of his paycheck to Bramble Berry every month! lol

  2. Monica says:

    Apple ran into the same problems when they let Steve Jobs go, didn’t they? As you said, the founders of a company are the ones who are truly passionate about it, who made it into the success it becomes.

    It’s easy to see your involvement in Brambleberry Anne-Marie (although you how manage to do it all and raise a family is beyond me) because BB is still one of the highly rated companies talked about by soapers. WIthout your involvement, it probably wouldn’t be the same company.

    • Hi Monica,

      Isn’t that true re: Steve Jobs. And when he came back, amazing things happened and now? The jury is still out though I have to say, the latest IOs system upgrade did not do my phone any favors so my jury is leaning towards the idea of Steve Jobs as the founder being super important.

      Thank you for your positivity re: Bramble Berry. The team and I try very hard, every day. We make mistakes (#humans) but our heart is always in the right place =)

  3. Hayley McHendry says:

    I think Soap Queen is brilliant from a business standpoint. There are so many products I would not have tried if it weren’t for your blog. I have also been inspired to try some more complicated techniques too! Both of these things had me spending money at Bramble Berry! You have without a doubt the best soapmaking supply business on the internet! I hope you will always find the time for Soap Queen!

    • Hi Haley – Thank you for your vote of confidence and, for your business. Never say never, but I’ve lovingly shepherded SoapQueen for almost 8 years now and I don’t see that changing. The Daily Candy fiasco made it even more apparent that have a strong founder’s voice and personality imprint is even more important. =)

  4. Pam Brouard says:

    To all the folks that thought you were nuts for starting the Soap Queen blog: When I first got interested in soapmaking I studied all your video tutorials and blog posts and that was the only instruction I got. It is because of all that you put in to it, and all I’ve gotten out of it that I am a very loyal customer. I agree with the above comment from Hayley that it was a brilliant move!

    • Isn’t that funny? I totally remind them of that every so often (yes, they are still with the company and now understand why SoapQueen and SQTV are so important to me). =) It made such sense to me to try to use blogging and social media to create connection and relationship. But, at the time, 7-8 years ago, it really wasn’t as accepted. I’m just glad that it did work because I feel more close and connected to soapers all over the world because of this blog and b/c of SQTV (and Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, G+, Vine, Instagram etc…).

  5. Michael says:

    Frankly I have no idea what Daily Candy was all about, never heard of it. I have learned everything about soap making and more from Bramble Berry and Soap Queen. After sifting around for information from one place or another, I found Anne-Marie’s DVD on Amazon and bought it. Her style and clarity of instruction and information and professional products led me to find her book and on to soap making which I enjoy so much. And of course it led me to Bramble Berry and Soap Queen TV and blog. The Soap Queen blogs and videos are completely top notch and unlike any other soap videos I’ve looked at (and I love the bloopers)- each one is a TV episode. Bramble Berry is a quality organization – the customer service is beyond what I’ve received anywhere else, and all of the folks working there are knowledgeable about the craft and the products. The products and the marketing is absolute quality – I love to see that Bramble Berry box on my porch when I come home from work, and what a nice touch that there is always a sticker on it to say who packed it. I’m sure Anne-Marie is behind it all and has great pride and care for her company and employees. What a great gig it must be to get up in the morning and work in such an environment! With this formula there will be no failure for Bramble Berry.

    • Wow, that is a glowing endorsement and review. I love that you found us through the DVD on Amazon. That was quite a production to film and make and I’m so glad it’s created some die-hard soapers. That’s a success in my book! =)

      I’m so lucky to have a passionate, smart, strong team around me to help with all of the great things that Bramble Berry does. Our customer service team, warehouse team and everyone else support the cause of bringing soaping to everyone around the world – and I’m so happy every day to go to work to interact with passionate, fun people. I’m so psyched to spend the day doing what I love, every day – even with some of the more mundane tasks! =) Thank you for your support!

  6. I agree with the others that it may be hard to quantify, but it’s what really works! The Soap Queen videos and tutorials where how I noticed you guys. Once I realized that Bramble Berry was you (I can be a little clueless) I knew I could trust you guys! The extensive testing and advice and tutorials on the blog combined with how attentive you are to issues that come up in the reviews and on the Facebook page make the customers feel they know you guys. I can buy with confidence because I saw the product used in a video so I know how it behaves. Your personal touch makes it seem like I am buying something based on the recommendation of an experienced friend, and that makes you guys at Bramble Berry my favorites!

    • It’s funny you mention that. I really don’t want Soap Queen to be about “selling” – I want it to be informative, friendly and like chatting with a girlfriend. I never feel good about high pressure sales when I’m shopping so I feel like if I teach techniques that can be used over any soaping or crafting experience, it’s a win-win for everyone. Some people may wish to shop with Bramble Berry (thank you) but even if they don’t, they’ll still learn new techniques and grow in their craft. For me, creating community is a huge part of what makes me happy and feel good at the end of the day so that’s one of the reasons I love the Soap Queen and SQTV community so much. =)

  7. Anne Marie –
    When we first decided to delve into the craft of soaping, we were lucky enough to stumble across Bramble Berry & this blog site. Months later, they are still the first two sites we turn to when we have questions, want to investigate a new technique or need to purchase Fragrance Oils. You and your talented, friendly crew have NEVER been anything less than stellar. All of your hard work, passion & dedication does not go unnoticed.

    Thanks!

    The guys from Burly Stone Soap

    • I checked out your site earlier today as I was reviewing all the blog comments for the Soap Guild ticket giveaway. I love the design you’ve got started on your site. It’s looking good – modern and clean design. =)

      I am so proud to read your comments about our team. I always say that they’re our secret sauce – that we have the best team in the industry. Most of them make soap for fun on their own time, something that makes my little heart pitter-patter with glee =)

      Thank you for your support. It means a lot to me.

  8. Pooja says:

    I am not familiar with Daily Candy so cant speak about them what I do like about your blog is it’s content , there is something for everyone. You come across as genuine person who is passionate in everything she does wether it’s business/family/ craft.Someone who appreciates their customers & fair . Many businesses/ individuals once they become big forget to stay humble which is not in your case & I am happy I support a woman owned business albeit in a small way the way you support mine by making quality products available.

    Thanks

    Pooja

    • Ah, Daily Candy was this very interesting mix of your sassiest older sister’s friend + most stylish, hip college teacher that found the coolest of the cool in every metropolitan market for tastemakers and mavens. It made small indie brands every week, or at least, it did, back in the day! =)

      I love the Bramble Berry team and the crafting lifestyle and I’m so ridiculously lucky that I get to live it every day. I feel blessed and thankful and never want to take it for granted.

      Thank you for your kind words. They means a lot to me.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I am a new soaper mostly thanks to you, your company, the company’s Facebook page, your blog, your videos, and your Teachsoap forum. :-) While you may want a more personal relationship with your customers, you have built up something more than a simple customer-supplier business relationship, and you’ve done it through the use of various social media resources. I’m amazed that you’re able to do so much with your company, for your customers and for your family and yourself and still manage to smile at the camera. I believe I can safely state that we all appreciate the extra effort and time you take to keep us up-to-date on products, business questions and best of all, soaping projects! Social media doesn’t build strictly “personal” relationships, but used wisely, it’s the next best thing. Ok. End of attaboy. :-D

    • Ah, thanks Jennifer. It’s amazing that social media is around to help with relationship making. This business would not have been possible 20 years ago and how long has Twitter been around? 5ish years now? It’s amazing how things have transitioned and grown just in the last few years with social media.

      Crafting and everything DIY really takes well to all the social media mediums and I’m so thankful for the awesome group of soapers I get to interact with every day through all of the options, including my blog and YouTube channel like you =) Thank you for your support.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I am a new soaper mostly thanks to you, your company, the company’s Facebook page, your blog, your videos, and your Teachsoap forum. While you may want a more personal relationship with your customers, you have built up something more than a simple customer-supplier business relationship, and you’ve done it through the use of various social media resources. I’m amazed that you’re able to do so much with your company, for your customers and for your family and yourself and still manage to smile at the camera. I believe I can safely state that we all appreciate the extra effort and time you take to keep us up-to-date on products, business questions and best of all, soaping projects! Social media doesn’t build strictly “personal” relationships, but used wisely, it’s the next best thing. Ok. End of attaboy!

    • Yay! Welcome to the best hobby and business in the world (eh hem, I may be a bit biased). Welcome to soapmaking and soapcrafting. I hope it turns into a lifelong obsession for you like it has been for me. It is such a place of comfort for me =)

      Thank you for your note. You are very kind and I absolutely am so lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team at home, and at work, that allow me and help me to do everything with family and business. It truly does take a village! =)

  11. Lesli says:

    My parents’ generation saw anything “homemade” as inferior to “store bought.” Things made in factories were the wave of the future, modern, hygienic, just plain better. Their relationship with a product had more to do with who else used it–a movie star sponsor, for instance–than with who made it.

    I see that changing. People want to know who made the things they use, and how. The love and talent that goes into making something by hand, whether soap or noodles or pickles or clothes is now interesting. I think people also enjoy knowing the history of what they’re buying, and enjoy knowing that an actual person conceived of this product and put time and love into bringing it into the world. It wasn’t the brain child of a corporate meeting that did market testing in order to find the lowest common denominator.

    Sounds like Daily Candy forgot that it’s about the relationships.

    I was an early adopter of the Internet, and taught librarians in New York State how to use it, back when people used Gopher to search for info at a command line. It’s interesting to me that I’ve never even heard of Daily Candy. Granted, trends aren’t my thing, but they were seriously deficient in marketing if someone like me, who has lived on the internet for 25 years, hasn’t even heard the name!

    • I was totally an early adopter of the internet too (virtual high five!) =)

      I agree – there’s an entire subset of people really looking for deeper connection and meaning in their products. They want to know where it came from, how it was made and have a relationship. And for those people, social media really works to create those connections.

  12. Super post, A-M! I always knew a blog was the perfect complement to what you offer at Bramble Berry. I love your points about authentic relationships and also about the very little everyday things that, on their own would just be busy stuff and a waste of energy, but which together combine to make a business great. Congrats to the founder of Daily Candy on creating something that someone else though was worth millions. Too bad the buyers didn’t know about how important the little things are. Great lessons here, so glad you followed you gut!

    • Authentic relationships are where it’s all at – everyone is craving connection, to feel ‘heard’ and to be ‘seen’ and to have real experience. In a more digital world, those contacts are even more important than ever.

  13. Patricia says:

    Well, I think BB is what it is, greately because of who you are Anne Marie. I don’t know you personally but would love to meet you someday. You have been such an inspiration for me ever since I learned how you started your business and how you have overcomed the (very hard) obstacles you have encountered. for me, being in the middle of a very nasty/very long divorce and being a hard-working mother of two, I understand what it takes.

    This is my opinion based from the perspective of a BB customer, SoapQueen reader and Anne Marie’s fan.

    • Ah, thank you for your kind words. I too have gone through a difficult divorce and my heart goes out to you. It’s extremely hard to keep moving forward and staying positive when mired in negativity. For me, getting through it was a series of small tasks daily, so that I could feel successful at something (anything!). Work really helped me. Looking back, I realized it really saved me. Best of luck with your divorce, your business and raising children with integrity and grace.

  14. I don’t remember who said it, but it all comes down to loving something and “selling” that love to others.

    Once the founder was gone perhaps so was the caring that the company exuded. It is hard to quantify, except perhaps by the loss of customers.

    ~Gina

  15. Dear Anna Marie, Without your kind advice and support specialhandsartists artists would never have gone into the soap business. My daughter April a Soapmakers with Downs watches your vidios with me and we discuss how the things are made. After the past 5 years April now has opened a shop on Etsy. In a large part due to your help in showing that soaping can be fun and not all that hard. We are so greatful that you are still the guiding force at BB . I don’t know how you do it with two small children. By the way we love the receipies too. You fans. Nancy and April
    Aprilscottage Etsy .com

    • That is amazing – what a fantastic story. I went to your site and am so impressed. It looks like such a fantastic program. I’m glad that soapmaking has brought you and your daughter together.

      As for doing anything with two small children, it takes a village and I am so fortunate to have the support of my amazing husband and of course, a rad team at work =)

  16. Max Martin says:

    Dear Anna Marie, I am new the the soap business. I use LOTS of your BrambleBerry products and love them all. Your site stood out to me in the beginning simply because you didn’t just sell the products, you showed us how to use them. When I get stuck, or wonder why something isn’t working I find it incredibly helpful that I can log on to soap queen and quickly find the answers I need.
    It keeps me wanting to use the products. Your tricks and tips help me discovery the human errors I am having and realize that it isn’t necessarily a problem with the product. This makes your business soar over competitors! Please keep doing what you do, I love the blog and would probably be lost without it!

    Max of Lady Helen’s Soaps

    • Hi Max,

      Thank you for your note. I am so glad that you find the blog helpful. Have you checked out TeachSoap.com yet? There’s a forum where you can always ask questions there too. It’s a bit more slow than the Facebook page so questions get answered more completely. =)

      I appreciate your support.

  17. michelle says:

    Brambleberry is a household name. Well- it is in my house. My girls (5 and 8) and I enjoy watching all the videos. It has become a weekday evening pasttime. lol. They love getting the boxes in the mail….they always look for the BB logo. It may sound silly, but i think subconsciously, even at their ages, not only do they recognize the “branding” but also the quality and pride that is put into a company. Everything is always done so nice and we look forward to that. Most importantly, I always share with my daughters that this is a woman/mommy owned business and anything can be accomplished with a little hard work, pride and dedication. It is a rarity to find a company that sells products and actually shows you how to use it. Keep up the good work. The hard work doesnt go unnoticed.

    • That is an interesting point about branding. Kids must understand branding – otherwise, why would companies advertise to children that age. It is a compliment that you think they recognize the concept of quality and associate it with Bramble Berry. That is awesome – and makes me smile from ear to ear =)

      It’s funny – my little 3 year old has figured out that if he asks to watch SoapQueen.TV, I’ll let him actually get screen time – so he’s turning into quite the little SQTV fan as well. =)

  18. Carol says:

    Customers frequently express an interest in soap making when they’re perusing our soaps. I *always* send them to the soap queen!

  19. Selina says:

    The very first place I went looking for ideas and help was soap queen, both the blog and the videos. Without them I would not have attempted half the creations i have done. Whatever you are doing is working.
    Thank you!

  20. You could not have posted this at a better time! My interest in soaping started a few years back and has grown. Brambleberry was the first site I purchased supplies from. Your Soap Queen blog gets a visit from me on a daily basis for not only soaping ideas but for all the posts that are uplifting and encouraging to new soapers. You have inspired me with your down to earth personality, the way you find the silver lining in things, your ability to calm the fears of those of us who just needed that extra bit of ‘UMF’, and the way you can multi task. BOY can you multi task! And thanks to you I opened my business today! No it’s not an April Fools joke :)
    Here’s a very heart felt “Thank You”

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/SimplyCandidSoaps

    • You share a name with one of my best friends so I feel like I know you as I’m writing this. It’s a great name!

      Thank you for letting me know that you find the posts here encouraging and uplifting. I generally write about what’s on my mind or what I’m struggling with – and sort of the path that I’m going through as I evolve as a businessperson, a Mom, a wife etc.

      It’s funny you mention multi-tasking. I’ve been trying the Pomodoro Method AND Dave Crenshaw methods to help me cut down on my switch tasking so that I can be more effective. So far, it seems like it’s working. =)

      I checked out your new site by the way. I recognized some of the projects. They look great!

  21. Amanda says:

    I was really sad about this, because I have been a Daily Candy subscriber since the beginning. I noticed a downward spiral trend with DC around the same time that Groupon and LivingSocial entered the scene – for a while, like 2000 – 2005 maybe, DailyCandy would have sales on clothing and accessories, much like Zulily or Gilt, but then at the same time they tried to have ‘city specific’ deals like Groupon or LivingSocial. Every few months they would change focus so that it was difficult as a customer to keep up with what products were even offered. With soap supplies, that isn’t like the difference between offering CP vs MP supplies, its like if you decide you will sell soap supplies, then 3 months later you decide you will sell beading supplies, then in 3 more months you have yarn.

    • I’m a little sad about it too. They launched a fair amount of indie brands into new levels of success because of their awesome reach. When they would mention a handmade soap or indie brand, it did make a difference.

      Totally funny story, I love to knit and completely was going to open up a yarn store (physical location) to share it with Otion, our soapmaking supply retail store. It didn’t work for a variety of reasons but I still think of that idea every so often. =)

  22. I feel one of your best assets is being so very human, and that comes across easily to the reader. Another is that you sell high quality and when something “not so great” happens in your business, you are very on the up and up about actually fixing things.

    My daughter just thinks you are the greatest. I am pretty certain she thinks you pack everything and personally send it. :) She is always wanting to know what the soap queen is up to. You are right up there with all the Disney princesses and fairies. And she definitely knows what a Brambleberry box is, and wants to open our packages right away.

    And to Nancy Watkins, your daughter makes lovely soaps! My younger sister is special needs, and we both know how much they are capable of. Tell April to keep rocking on!!!!

    • Thank you Stacey! I am honored to know that your daughter likes to watch Soap Queen and knows what a Bramble Berry box is. That is amazingly fun and makes me smile.

      If your daughter is into crafts, Jamisen and I have been having *the best time* with the Kiwi Crate craft boxes. You two might enjoy those as well =)

  23. Sorry for duplicates. My internet is crazy today!

  24. Linda L. says:

    I agree with what previous posters have said. I would add one thing though – you need a succession plan in any business but it’s a lot more important when the business is built around one person as the ‘face’ or ‘brains’ of the operation.

    Many of us were attracted to Bramble Berry through some exposure to you by way of the blog, the show or a personal appearance. If you were, god forbid, not around for some reason, would that personal aspect be picked up by someone else? Would they be able to maintain your following and continue to grow the business? I think that’s the Steve Jobs/Apple lesson but it’s been shown in hundreds of other companies as well.

    When an owner cashes out, even if they maintain a presence in the company, the shots are called by the new owners who may or may not worship the ‘bottom line’ more than the concept that built the business.

    Something to think about …

    • Oh that keeps me up at night … after all, it’s not just the business or me to think about. It’s all my employees. Who would drive the business forward etc?

      Luckily, we do have an amazing team that does a lot of the legwork with social media and they would be super sad to see me perish in an untimely accident but they would be able to maintain until a new growth plan was put into place.

      It is a real concern however and one that terrifies me. I’m really watching to see what Martha Stewart does. She’s got to be really thinking of her transition too! =)

  25. Tammy says:

    This was a great read! This blog is priceless to me. I had actually stumbled onto Bramble Berry when I was researching how to make my own body butter and needed supplies. A link from the BB website took me here and OMG, I have been a crazy soap making fool ever since and now am seriously considering turning this into a business at some point. In the meantime, I check this blog on a daily basis for ideas, inspiration, and plain old good business sense. I am very thankful that you continue with this blog. This resource alone is one of the big reasons I only order from your company. You and all of your employees are invested in helping your customers succeed and it really shows! :)

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Tammy!

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! I’m so glad that you have found the blog helpful and enjoyable :). I’m also happy to hear that you have fallen in love with soaping, it’s so much fun! Thanks again for taking the time to leave this kind note, it made my morning! Also, if you ever get photos of your projects, we would love to see them on our Facebook page :)

      https://www.facebook.com/BrambleBerry

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

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