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Ava May Aromas: How I set up my own home fragrance business

Hannah Chapman, 25, lives in Fleet, Hampshire. She has her own home fragrance business called Ava May Aromas.

Ava May Aromas began two years ago when I was 23, from my parent’s kitchen table.

I wasn’t enjoying my job in a social media agency and I wanted to be self-employed. I loved candles and I’d seen a few accounts pop up on Instagram making their own. It made me think, ‘I could do that’.

My dad strongly encouraged me to try becoming self-employed – he is now my business partner – although he wasn’t too keen when I told him I wanted to make and sell candles. I’d saved enough money to see me through the first two months but my dad was worried that I would never be able to make a successful business from selling candles.

Making candles

I started out on Instagram, a platform I knew had huge potential having seen many brands grow from humble beginnings to hugely powerful companies. Gymshark and Pretty Little Thing are two of my favourite examples. That’s the beauty of social media – there are ways of leveraging it that don’t necessarily require money and I think that’s what makes it so exciting for budding companies and young entrepreneurs. It really levels the playing field.

My business

Ava May Aromas is a home fragrance brand producing handmade or hand-poured items, from bath bombs to room sprays. We’re best known for our wax melts – we produce more than 2,000 clamshells per day.

Candle making is a real skill and takes a lot of time, patience and dedication. From finding the right wick to the perfect wax, pouring temperature, fragrance quality – it’s all very much an art form.

We specialise in scents which are inspired by designer dupes so you can make your home smell like your favourite scent for cheaper. I started off duping my own favourite scents and as the business grew I would take on suggestions from the Ava May Aromas fans.

Wax melts
Picture: F Stop Press Ltd.

Dealing with challenges

Believe it or not, the biggest challenge for me was being able to keep up with demand.

I was lucky enough to connect with an account on Instagram within my first few months of business that has gone on to become a social media powerhouse.

The amazing Sophie Hinchliffe – aka Mrs Hinch – has become a friend of mine, and she also changed the course of my life. When I first started out on Instagram I knew influencer gifting was a powerful way for fledgling accounts to grow rapidly.

Dealing with demand

I messaged Sophie when she had around 4,000 followers and asked if she’d like to review our products. She agreed and has continued to show her support to our brand by mentioning us on her page. Shortly after initially making contact, Sophie’s page blew up and her following grew to 100,000, then 500,000, and before long she was passed 1,000,000 followers. As a result, if she mentioned us to her growing audience our page would go absolutely crazy. The website would sell out and we’d have to shut down for a couple of weeks to clear the backlog of orders.

It was amazing but equally stressful. My parents’ house essentially became a factory with boxes in every room, and within six weeks I had to move to my first commercial unit. Even with the unit and more space, meeting demand on my own was a real struggle. From making to packing, dealing with emails and social inboxes, I was drowning in the workload. Prior to taking on staff, I do look back at those early months and realise how burnt out I was. It was a really testing period of relentless dedication, but I think every entrepreneur has to go through that in some way.

Pictures: F Stop Press Ltd.

My advice if you want to start your own business

Find your passion! A great thing about being born in the millennial generation is that the number of opportunities open to us is greater than ever before. Jobs and roles that didn’t exist 10, 20, 30 years ago such as content managers or videographers are now available to us. But it can be a bit overwhelming to know what you actually want to do as a result.

Take your time and find your passion, don’t rush or worry about what everyone else is doing, this can often cloud your judgement when making decisions. Once you do, find what you love, think about how you can capitalise on that as a business opportunity. Suddenly it’s not work, but a passion project.

What I’d tell my younger self…

Don’t think you need to do it all alone! The sooner I asked for help and brought other people with the skillsets I lacked into my business the better. You’re less likely to get into a mess, as I’m sure I would have if I’d been left to my own devices not collecting invoices or doing any form of accounting.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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