18 Dec 2020

2020: alumna reflects on setting up a business during the pandemic

When Abbey White became furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to develop her own business.

Abbey, who graduated with a degree in English and Drama in 2014, has recently set up Makes Scents Candles, a luxury range of handmade organic vegan scented soy candles, that are designed to be up-cycled.

They come with everything you need to reuse the candle glass once the candle has been burned, including a biodegradable grow bag and flower seeds to give the candle glass a new life.

Abbey shares with us how she made the decision to build her own business and what her plans are for 2021.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

“I was given a beginner candle making kit as a thank you for planting up our patio in a shared house I was living in during lockdown.

“It was meant to be an evening’s distraction with one of my housemates, but I kept thinking about how much I enjoyed creating the candles.

“Having worked in a company that favoured eco- tourism and conscious travel I did not want to just produce another product that would be thrown away and single use.

“I would not have guessed I’d have repeat customers, such lovely feedback and be stocked in shops and retail spaces.”

What has been your work highlight of 2020, and why?

“Getting furloughed was the best thing for me personally in 2020 as the challenge gave me something new to focus on and a new creative outlet.

“Taking work into my own hands and working on a project gave me something to focus on amidst the furlough and then the lengthy redundancy process, while I was locked down away from my boyfriend, friends and family.”

“Being self-employed and getting recognised for great work while creating a small business I love has been a highlight.

“I collaborated with a group of small business owners to produce small gift boxes; all the businesses were specially chosen as they are independent brands developing handmade goods.

“I’ve learnt a lot on the job and still successfully gained more work on a freelance basis by working hard, taking the pressure off and trusting the timing.”

How have you adapted your working life during the pandemic?

“The extra time has been amazing for trying new things, for instance hosting a virtual candle making event with a brand partner.

“I still work from home and while it can be difficult to switch off in an evening, I really enjoy using the time more creatively and making the most of the hours in the day.

“The pandemic has definitely shifted my attitude towards work, I’ve enjoyed saving money and working towards things I think are important and re-evaluating how and who I spend my time with.

“Pre-pandemic I’d also be working with a charity and taking time out of my desk job in marketing to sing and perform in hospitals with Spread a Smile. We’d visit GOSH and other hospitals in and around London but due to COVID-19 we’ve gone online, creating content for children. So as much as I’ve enjoyed working flexibly, I miss going into hospitals and singing. I hope to get back to this next year.”

What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

“I have had recent discussions about joining more online platforms for selling Makes Scents Candles and getting involved with new pop-up retail spaces in London. I hope to have these come into fruition next year.

“Additionally, I’m aiming to put my website live and cultivate a new spring collection. I’m hoping to collaborate with more small businesses, larger brands and influencers to build on the success of this year and finesse what works and what doesn’t.

“I hope to have a little bit more time to hone the marketing I do for the brand and create some interesting content without bringing too much of work home with me.”

Abbey adds:

“I’m really enjoying creating a brand and learning on the job. But whatever 2021 brings I’m happy I’m going with the flow and not limiting myself and Makes Scents with too many expectations. I’m learning to embrace unpredictability.”

Thank you to Abbey for sharing an insight into her 2020 and her new business. You can find out more about Makes Scents Candles on Instagram.