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Brexit Impact on Small Businesses

Brexit Impact on Small Businesses

You're probably here because you've heard me mention how Brexit is negatively impacting small businesses. I'm sharing my story because I don't think we're talking about this enough. There are serious issues happening right now with Small Businesses in the UK post Brexit, and i'm highlighting just one example that directly impacted us at Selfmade Candle.

There is a shortage of UK Packaging Board

I'd like to start by highlighting that right now in the UK, due to the increase in online shopping this past year, there has been a significant rise in demand for packaging boxes. Both from big established businesses as well as smaller businesses and start ups. Our UK based supply chain can't keep up with this demand and we've seen an increase in lead times and prices as a result of this.

A lot of printers for these boxes source the raw FSC certified materials from the EU. France, Turkey, Poland etc are popular places to source materials from. For us at Selfmade, I pride myself on the eco-credentials of our packaging boxes and used a supplier based in the EU to do both the manufacture and print in order to reduce the mileage on the boxes prior to their arrival.

All was going cushtey until.

Brexit happened

I'd like to highlight here that bigger businesses have been able to mitigate the impact of Brexit by stocking up on their raw materials and packaging prior to the end of December 2020. In my opinion, this had a dramatic impact on the cause of the packaging board shortage in the UK in the first place. Bigger businesses had the foresight to stockpile whilst also having the resources to buy in bulk. 

For me and Selfmade, we didn't have that luxury. Removing that much cashflow at one time is impossible for us. What happened after the Brexit Break Up Date was pretty intense.

In our case, we ordered our packaging end of January - designed to arrive the start of February. Expecting up to a week delay due to the border issues on the EU side as well as the UK side.

Our packaging order was a FIASCO.

Yes, that's right. Despite planning in a contingency, there was no way I could've been prepared for what actually happened. 


  • Jan 22nd - Ordered candle making kit boxes
  • Jan 29th - Shipped by Supplier
  • Feb 1st - Import charges paid<
  • Feb 5th - Leaves Germany and arrives in the UK
  • Mar 19th  - 1/2 of package arrives at our door

You're reading that correctly, a total of 7 weeks to move from the EU, pass through customs and reach the intended recipient in the UK. There was only a 2 day delay on the EU side, however when it reached the UK, our Candle Making Kit boxes were sat in UPS' Stanford le Hope warehouse for 6 weeks.

In this time, there's almost a state of panic

I pride myself in being calm and cool headed in most situations but this was tough, I'll be honest. People aren't talking about the mental health impacts of Brexit yet, but I'll tell you from my experience, it is TOUGH. When you have tens of thousands of pounds worth of stock trapped in a warehouse you can't access, and no information on when it'll be released, it keeps you up at night.

For me, I was calling the courier on a daily bases, emailing the UPS UK Brokerage team on a weekly basis and eventually had to contact my local MP about the situation.

Week 3, I taught myself to screen print our boxes. It's amazing how resourceful you can be when you have to. Unfortunately hand printing every single box wasn't going to be a good long term solution. Plus, there was paint all over the place!

Screen printing Selfmade Candle Making Kit

Week 5 I was able to find a local supplier to emergency print some of our kit boxes but let me tell you, that is expensiveeee. There was a time we had to raise our pricing in order to not make a loss on the boxes alone (let alone the rest of our materials).

It's been wild. 

I'm forever grateful now to have received the first half of our boxes. I'll be honest, it's been a struggle to get here but what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, right?

A lot of lessons have been learnt from this experience and hopefully this post shines a light on the untold impact of Brexit and inspires other small businesses having Brexit related issues. 

Stay lit

If you'd like to buy one of recently delivered BEAU-TIFUL Candle Making Kits, you can do so by clicking here.