Posted on August 07 2020
An interiors and home fragrance enthusiast, Karen has a degree in Architecture and an established career in Visual Merchandising. Her passion for interior design started from a young age. She took on work experience in this industry before deciding to study Architecture at the University of Manchester. Throughout her school and university life, she worked in retail to support herself financially. A new phase in her life lead her to seek a cleaner way of living which resulted in her launching her handcrafted vegan scented candle business, Little Karma Co. Here we talk everything business, family, lockdown and of course fashion and style!
Congratulations on the launch of Little Karma Co! I am excited to know how you began candle making?
Thank you. My husband and I have always had a scented candle addiction, but when we realised that burning paraffin and synthetic fragrance oils releases harmful substances into the air you breathe, we set about creating natural candles that burn cleanly by eliminating all nasties. With a new arrival on the way, it was important to us that our home was completely safe, including the air that we breathed.
While I was pregnant, I stopped using paraffin candles due to the toxic substances that are released when they are burned. I struggled to find amazing smelling natural candles that I knew would be 100% free from nasties and therefore 100% safe to use around our baby. This led us to develop our range of 100% natural scented candles, which are fragranced using only pure essential oils that are not only clean but bring with them amazing aromatherapy benefits. So I set about making my own from scratch and Little Karma Co. was born!
The smell of those candles when you are dealing with pregnancy hormones?!
(We both laugh)
Exactly! All our scented candles are handcrafted in small batches at Little Karma Co. HQ in London. We use 100% natural wax which is a blend of rapeseed and coconut oils only.
Every candle is vegan, clean burning and earth loving. That’s what we love about our clean candles – they are pure and don’t produce toxins. We love getting personal with our gifts so we offer custom candle label and personalised gift package add-ons with our scented candles.
Starting a business as a new mum is incredibly challenging and I am inspired by you because you built this strong brand regardless. What has been your biggest challenge?
Juggling the business and looking after our daughter has been the biggest challenge. With my husband busy at work, it was difficult at times to find time to build the business while giving our daughter the attention and time she needed. It’s taken a while but we have finally found a good balance, and we are lucky to have Luna’s grandparents within a couple of hours drive so this has really helped to allow me some time to focus on the business.
Luna, you have a candle named after her?
Yes. The Luna candle is the first one we made and we named it after our daughter. It's a perfect fit because luna means moon. The candle is calming and relaxing which is great for a night in.
How did you choose the other names?
Our second candle is sol, meaning sun. Both luna and sol are Spanish names. My husband is Spanish. The sol candle is a fresh citrus scent perfect for an energizing start to the day.
Kefi however, is a Greek name meaning the spirit of joy and passion which I think is reflected in the sun, our sol candle, and is a great scent when you need to concentrate on a piece of work.
I love how all the candles are aptly named. It’s beautiful.
Thank you (smiling)
You have also recently moved countries!
Yes! I was lucky enough to be approached for a Visual Merchandising role in Dubai which led my husband and I to relocate there for over 6 years. This was a great experience for us; my career flourished and we made lifelong friends. While on maternity with our daughter Luna, my husband’s company offered us the chance to move back to the UK, so in February this year we relocated to London.
Not long after your move, the whole country went into lockdown. How did that affect you?
Although it was very strange moving back, the first month was really lovely. We spent it seeing family and friends. We made plans to visit friends all over the country but those plans were stopped by lockdown. The timing was crazy as we moved into a bed and breakfast at first, then moved in with friends, which we are very grateful for, before we settled into our new home. When we did, we didn’t have any of our furniture for a while so that was interesting!
However, a benefit of the lockdown for us, was that we had not settled into a routine as yet. Luna was small and was not affected much by moving countries and all the movement before we finally settled into our own home. Another thing I'm grateful for is that just staying in doors did not affect her as she might have been as a toddler.
Wow! You are very resilient and you adapted very well to the changes. I am sure it is key to your success. What advice would you give women starting out in business?
Don’t doubt yourself! And start with a plan, but don’t worry about changing it again and again and again until it is absolutely perfect. Never settle for something you’re not completely happy with.
What do you know now about your business, that you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I knew how temperamental working with wax can be!
(We both laugh!)
It took a while for me to get the hang of the candle making process and to understand just how accurate you need to be in order to get each candle just perfect.
How is the current pandemic affecting your work and how are you facing the challenges?
The lack of opportunity to network in person has affected our ability to grow the business, but the restrictions on socialising led to more time spent at home which gave me more time to spend on research and development of the products.
Congratulations again on launching your website, it's beautiful!
Tell us more about the launch.
Our upcoming launch is our biggest project yet! We start taking orders through the website on Saturday the 8th of August. We had a successful pre-order campaign, where we sold through all of the stock we allocated for pre-orders, and then some more.
That’s incredible, well done!
This was truly positive, and we are so grateful for all the support we have received so far.
How do you think this pandemic will change your industry as we know it?
I think many industries will see their customers evolve from shopping in-person to online, even more drastically than we have seen in recent years. I also believe that this has been a time of realisation for many people, who are beginning to move towards more planet-caring products and processes.
And that’s what is needed right now, making fully conscious buying decisions.
Absolutely! Sustainability is everything. We have carefully selected our shipping materials to make sure they’re all plastic-free and recyclable. Most of these are made of recycled materials and some are compostable and biodegradable as well.
You have already given us some insight into your family life, but how do you juggle it all?
It’s a full time juggle between being a working mama. I have a vague routine, where my business hours are based around our daughter’s naps. Often, she enjoys playing by herself or terrorising our dogs, which also gives me a little extra time to work on the business. The evenings after she has gone to sleep are spent making candles and working on the business.
I can imagine that it is very calming before bed?
Oh yes it is. I find candle-making very soothing.
What organisational tools do you swear by?
I believe in making a record of everything. This includes the fine details of every single batch of candles that I have ever produced. Everything is saved on a super-spreadsheet which I refer to every single day.
I love that, it speaks to me as a scientist. Quality control is everything!
(We both laugh)
I have also found social media planning tools to be extremely useful, as they allow you to plan and preview your posts and make changes until you’re happy, and additionally they can even automatically upload your posts to your social channels, which really frees up my time.
Time is king!
Exactly! I believe Visual Merchandising is a perfect blend of my interests and educational experience and I am really pleased I can use all that experience in my business.
We have all been reading a lot lately. What book would you recommend?
I recently listened to the audiobook of I am not your baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite. It was eye opening, inspirational and entertaining. I believe audiobooks are great when you don’t have time to sit down and read a book.
Fashion or Style, which do you live by and why?
I believe style never goes out of fashion, whereas fashion quickly changes. I believe in having wardrobe staples which are versatile, high quality and will last for years, with pops of colour/pattern or with the injection of fashionable/fun accessories.
Do you have or would you hire a personal stylist and why?
I haven’t as I have always shopped for myself, however if I was ever lucky enough to be invited to a high profile event, then I would certainly consider it!
Our SUMMER SALE is now on! What pieces do you like?
Oh yes, we brought that collection in especially for lockdown.
It is simple and understated but also beautiful and eye-catching at the same time. I love jewellery that can be worn everyday and will go with everything.
What is the beauty product you cannot live without and why?
It’s all about skincare for me. I believe in quality rather than quantity. Alpha H liquid gold, Sunday Riley luna oil, Murad AHA BHA cleanser, omorovicza masks. That’s pretty much it.
This has been a terrific interview Karen, thank you!
Thank you for having me Arikana. I have really enjoyed it!
What do you have in store for us in the next year?
We have our official launch tomorrow, 8th August. We will be launching our discovery trio sets. In September we will be launching a new fragrance, and then it’s all about Christmas gifting and limited editions. We have lots of exciting things coming up so watch this space!
And we will! I am very excited for you and wish you all the success with your launch tomorrow.
Thank you very much!