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Home / Achieving Woman

I started making candles in my mum's kitchen, now I make Sh1.4 billion a year

 Hannah started the business in July 2018, pouring her first candles from home at 23 (Photo: Courtesy)

A young entrepreneur has revealed how she went from making candles in her family kitchen to employing her dad - and now Mrs Hinch is her biggest fan.

Hannah Chapman, 25, started making wax melts in 2018 as a hobby to supplement her full time job.

After acing it, she started advertising on Instagram, and within months quit her social media job to do it full time.

"It all started from my parents' kitchen table - melting wax on their hob," Hannah explained.

Hannah - who was just 23 at the time - used her savings to bulk-buy all her materials online. She managed to save enough to get going for two months.

"I left my full time job working at a social media agency because I just wasn't enjoying it," she said.

"I used my savings and started selling on Instagram.

“After getting in touch with Mrs Hinch, my orders went crazy. My parents' house essentially became a factory with boxes in every room. Within six weeks I had to move to my first commercial unit in Andover."

Hannah, whose dad is now her business partner, said that while he was her inspiration, he didn't believe she could turn candle-making into a life-long business.

 She says much of her success is owed to her dad (Photo: Courtesy)

"I was strongly encouraged to become self-employed by my dad - who is now my business partner - although he wasn't too keen when I told him I wanted to make and sell candles," she said.

"He thought it was a mistake but soon changed his mind when saw it taking off – so much so that he left his job to become a shareholder and director in the business alongside me."

Hannah said she has social media to thank for her success.

"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."

Ava May Aromas specialises in handmade items, from bath bombs to room sprays.

"We’re best known for our Wax Melts," Hannah said.

The 25-year-old, who is now the co-director of her business, says she's now eyeing up Yankee Candle and wants to expand in the US.

"But my absolute hero is Jo Malone," she said. "If I could emulate her success, that would be my dream, I admire her so much."

 Sophie got in touch with Mrs Hinch on Instagram who has been advertising her candles ever since (Photo: Rod Kirkpatrick/F Stop Press)

She now has a team of 26 with three warehouse units in total.

"The biggest challenge, without doubt, has been keeping up with demand.

"I was lucky enough to connect with Sophie Hinchliffe - aka Mrs Hinch - on Instagram. She completely changed the course of my life.

"I messaged her when she had around 4,000 followers, and asked if she’d like to review our products.

"Shortly after initially making contact, Sophie’s page blew up and her following grew to 100,000, then 500,000 and before long she had passed 1,000,000 followers. Our sales went 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.

"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.

"It was a really testing period of relentless dedication, but I think every entrepreneur has to go through that in some way."

 Just a year after starting Ava May Candles, Hannah moved into her first warehouse (Photo: Rod Kirkpatrick/F Stop Press)

Her biggest lesson has been that you can't do it all alone.

"The sooner you ask for help and bring other people with the skill sets you lack into the 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."

Hannah says despite the pandemic, she's on track to turn over Sh1.4 billion (£10 million) by the end of 2022.

"2020 has been tough - Covid had a huge knock on effect on our supply chain. Shipments have been delayed by several weeks which has in turn meant delays to many of our planned product launches.

"We've then had to shift all plans for marketing to new dates at the drop of a hat and it has had a big impact on our financial forecasts and cash flow too.

"But we're currently in our peak season.

"We’re taking on Christmas temp staff to help meet demand and it feels good being able to offer employment to people especially in the current climate."

Ava May Aromas is available online and candles start from Sh2,600 (£18.00) online or Sh360 (£2.50) per wax melt.

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