Maker Stories: Episode 64: Michael McPolin of Birch & Main [Podcast]

Welcome to Episode 64 of the Indie Business Podcast! Today's Maker Story introduces you to Michael McPolin of Birch & Main in Port Jefferson, New York. Michael has tons of professional experience in the retail world. When you combine that with his passion for shopping (he can't stop), it will be clear why his retail store is a huge success.

Michael started his business in 2012. He quit working for other people's retail stores in 2016 to manage Birch & Main full-time. Michael is a self-described candle addict, so it's no wonder that the first product he made was candles. He says he burns candles all day and all night, regardless of the season or the temperature. He is fun to talk with and listen to. Michael has a lot to share about the importance of taking a “glass full” approach to your business. Settle in, light a candle (Caramel Nut Crunch please!), and take some notes. Enjoy my interview with Michael NOW!

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Episode Show Notes

Here are the topics discussed in this episode, with time stamps to help you find the information that most interests you:

  1. Basic introduction to Michael and his rich background in the retail industry. (starting at 2:18)
  2. The “I have a dream” moment that propelled Michael to open a retail store. (starting at 5:24)
  3. Why Michael closed one of his two retail stores to focus on one store, group classes, and wholesale growth. (starting at 6:05)
  4. How Michael worked a full-time job and his own business for four full years, including how he views the sacrifices made. (starting at 6:44)
  5. How black spots on the ceiling in his home led to making and selling candles. (starting at 10:07)
  6. Michael's journey from making candles only, to adding other products like bar soap, body lotions and butters, and more. (starting at 13:29)
  7. Michael shares great tips and insights to help you create imagery that reflects your brand. (starting at 15:18)
  8. Why Michael decided to open a retail store. (starting at 17:47)
  9. The benefits of wholesale, and why you should consider wholesaling your products. (starting at 22:16)
  10. Why Michael does not rely on himself only to create new fragrances for his product lines. (starting at 24:45)
  11. Controlling some of the costs of managing a retail store, including using minimal packaging, taking out a personal loan, and engaging in deliberate planning. (starting at 27:35)
  12. What's on tap for the future of Birch & Main. (starting at 29:47)
  13. Michael's words of wisdom to help you be successful in your business. (starting at 33:01)
Don't be afraid, if something's not working, to cut it loose and say BYE.Click To Tweet

Michael McPolin, Birch & Main

Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode

In this episode, Michael and I mentioned the following resources.

  1. Birch & Main Candle online: Birch & Main Candle
  2. Birch & Main Candle on Instagram: Birch & Main Candle on Instagram
  3. Wholesale platform: Faire
  4. Wholesale platform: Stockabl

Here is a quick review of a few of the important entrepreneurial lessons Michael shared in this episode

  1. Stay true to your brand.

    Michael shared how important it is to create a vision for your brand, and then stay true to that vision by reflecting it in the graphics and images you share on social media.

  2. Retail store ownership is an opportunity.

    Michael does not see local retail store ownership as “limiting” compared to selling online. In a retail store, he says, you can tell your story to your community and interact with real people. You can experience scented products together, and help buyers make the perfect purchase.

    Michael says that he is an integral part of the Birch & Main brand, and he loves to personally see his passion through the eyes of his customers.

  3. Wholesale: just do it.

    At first, it was difficult to sell individual products at a 50% discount to retail buyers, but once Michael did it, he says he never looked back. Wholesale forms the basis for more sales because stockists purchase over and over again, and their retail store customers allow you to introduce your brand to far more people than you could ever do on your own — even if you have a website and/or your own retail store. It's been worth it to Michael to give up the increased profit on each item sold for the return of more people buying his products in more places.

You never know a chance is yours until you take it.Click To Tweet

Michael McPolin, Birch & Main

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.