The Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card is being driven by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Council and can be spent with over 30 businesses in the Outer Hebrides, including Sandwick Bay Candles in Stornoway. Owner of Sandwick Bay candles Megan Macdonald told us why her business is part of the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card and why we still need to shop local:
“Originally from New Zealand, I was working as an Occupational Therapist in Stornoway when I met my husband. I set up Sandwick Bay Candles after having our third child. I’d made hand-made candles for my children’s teachers who loved them and started experimenting at home. When my little one was up at night, I was researching techniques or in the kitchen making candles. I’d give people at the baby groups I went to candles to try so they could give me feedback and I could improve the product. Years of researching, testing and refining went into creating the candles.
“The business grew organically. I opened our retail space, Sandwick Bay Living, in Stornoway, and we now have 8 people on the team but even now we’re always learning and innovating. Often, new products are the result of customers coming in and asking if we do a particular item.
“As well as creating our own candles, diffusers and wax melts we are passionate about collaboration. We are proud to support other small businesses and stock lots of homeware, cards, confectionary, self-care gifts and more made by small makers- both local and from across the UK. I started the refill station to give people the chance to refill their candles but also teamed up with another business to offer refill cleaning products. It’s good to feel we’re doing our bit to support the environment, and the community too.
“The pandemic was scary. I thought it would all be over in a few weeks but it obviously wasn’t. The luxury candle and wax melt subscription box idea came about in lockdown, when people wanted to send a gift to show someone they were thinking of them. Created by our team in the workshop, they contain exclusive, seasonal fragrances, so tropical fruits in the summer or cosier, warmer fragrances in the winter.
“During lockdown, I decided to do a raffle to raise funds for the local hospice as they were unable to fundraise in the usual ways. It snowballed, and the community really got behind it at a time when we all needed hope. We had over 100 prizes in the end with donations from people from all over the world who had a connection to the island and raised £70,000 for the hospice.
“We were keen to join the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card to encourage people to come into our shop as there is something for everyone! Now that things are getting back to some normality, the message we, and most small business owners, want to give is ‘don’t forget about us’. The Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card is an easy and fun way to support your high street with lots to offer in every shop, and it will also be ideal for tourists coming to the island.
“I often say to people that when you buy a candle from Sandwick Bay, it’s not just a candle, it’s supporting a team of 8 people, who in turn buy from other island businesses. That whole cycle is vital for us as an island. Online shopping is easy, but nothing beats the experience you get when you shop in person.
“We’ve had 20-30 people in the shop spending their Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card already this year, including lots of NHS staff who have been using the gift cards to get themselves a little treat. What we’re finding is that when people have the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card that they’ll put a bit more to it, and treat themselves to something else too. It’s a great conversation starter too about supporting local, and who gave them the card!
“As a business, we promote that we accept the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card with a window sticker, and we use social media to remind people to use their cards. I think it’s a great scheme, bringing lots of local businesses together and making it simple to shop local. Working together, we are stronger.”
Businesses in the Outer Hebrides can still register to accept the Na h-Eileanan an Iar Gift Card by visiting: https://lovelocal.scot/giftcard/