Gamble of starting business during lockdown pays off for Co Antrim woman
It’s the sweet smell of success — literally, in Olivia Burns’ case.
Her luxury home fragrance company has enjoyed impressive growth over the last 18 months, which is remarkable considering it was launched just before the first lockdown.
Not only that, the 31-year-old Ballymoney woman has recently opened a purpose-built workshop on the north coast, created eight jobs and announced a 200% year-on-year sales increase.
Taking voluntary redundancy from her previous job was a gamble that has paid off for Olivia.
She told the Belfast Telegraph she’s now reaping the benefits with strong sales in the Republic, Britain and US, as well as forging a loyal customer base here.
“Having my own business was something I always knew I wanted to do,” she said.
“I’d been working away in the background and then, when the opportunity came for me to take voluntary redundancy, it felt like the right time.
“They gave me three months’ pay and it felt like the push I needed.
“I suppose I thought it was now or never.”
Last Saturday more than 500 people showed up for the opening of her Christmas pop-up shop, situated beside her 5,000 sq ft workshop. She is now hoping for brisk festive trade between now and Christmas Eve.
“It was bunged all day; we couldn’t believe it and the support we’ve had locally has been amazing,” she said.
“People have been enjoying seeing the products in person.
“We have 14 scents in the range.
“You can get 13 online but one is exclusive to the pop-up shop and a lot of customers were coming in to get that.”
An enduring love of scents and the strong sense of memories they can evoke are the main drivers behind Olivia’s business.
“I started experimenting with wax and fragrance oils to make my own and really enjoyed the process,” she explained.
“I was confident that I’d identified a gap in the market for a home fragrance collection with a luxury, sophisticated scent at an attainable price.
“I spent a further year perfecting the range and working alongside an illustrator to create fun and vibrant packaging that resulted in a beautiful brand and a growing portfolio of luxury products.”
Customers can purchase from an extensive portfolio, including the limited edition festive scents and gift ranges, as well as an exclusive new scent, Christmas in the Alps, which is only available in-store.
The company was set up by in February 2020 after she left her previous job at Neurovalens, the Belfast-based medical technology manufacturer.
Her fragrance collection has expanded beyond handmade soy wax candles to include reed diffusers and wax melts.
All products are handmade, vegan-friendly and the candles have a long burn time. Candles retail at £29, reeds cost £32, while wax melts are priced at £10.
When Olivia plucked up the courage to start her business, Covid-19 was wreaking havoc.
“Launching a new business as the world was going into lockdown was daunting,” she said.
“Physical retail shut down almost overnight and Olivia’s Haven had no digital footprint.
“But I quickly developed my business model of 100% direct, online sales, supported by a targeted digital and social media strategy, and despite the extremely challenging trading conditions we’ve thrived over the last 18 months.”
The Co Antrim woman has been “blown away” by the market for her products and she now has a firm customer base, with items being shipped on a daily basis.
“It’s a very exciting time for growing the Olivia’s Haven team and we have strategic growth plans in place to help us continue building a digital-first, modern and global brand on the north coast,” she added.
For more information go to www.olivias-haven.co.uk