In our “Inspiring small businesses” series we share and celebrate great stories from fellow small business owners who took their idea to the next level and built their own business. Starting your own business is a huge step, no matter how small your business is, so by bringing you closer to the great minds behind these inspiring businesses, we hope that you will find motivation and survival tips for building yours. This month we spoke to Bina Panchal, the founder of luxury home fragrance bhvna and her journey – enjoy!
What is it that you do?
I have had a passion for home fragrance for many years. I think the aroma one surrounds themselves with reflects their character and personality. With the choice of sensory expression one can create and change the mood of their abode to their taste.
I make and sell luxury scented candles and diffusers aimed at the mid-high end consumer market, offering six luxury fragrances, which include the ever popular floral oriental fragrance family to include notes of jasmine and roses with sweet powdery accords; the woody oriental fragrance created by using warm notes of oud, amber and sandalwood; and the trendy leathery fragrances using velvet suede and dark cedar to give off the woody smouldering notes.
All candles are hand poured by myself, carefully curated and made to perfection using blended wax formulated to offer high performance burning. The wicks are made from highest grade ring spun cotton yarn, providing quality flame and fragrance oils manufactured and supplied from within the UK, IFRA and EU compliant, paraben free and vegan friendly, which are not tested on animals or contain any animal derivatives.
I launched my web shop in July 2018, and also use social media such as Facebook and Instagram to market my products and divert my customers to my web shop. I have also sold at pop ups at Christmas time. I am currently looking to collaborate with interior designers and small independent boutique shops as a channel to grow my business.
What inspired you to start your own business?
After years of working in the city and enduring the hectic life of travelling in and out of London for over 15 years, I decided it was time to take a little break and do the things that I love the most before time would pass me by, and rebalance myself. I had set myself a little goal for my time off from work to travel, enhance my photography experience and indulge in at least one new hobby to make the time off worthwhile.
First on the list obviously had to be travel, and why not! For once I didn’t need to pack a work laptop or carry an extra mobile phone to keep up to date with whatever shenanigans were going on back at the office. So, off I went to see a bit more of the world than a usual 10 day break: Phuket, Koh Samui, Bangkok, Andalucia, Madrid and Amsterdam, with my second love in tow – my camera!
Back from my wonderful travels and lots of awesome memories, goal number two was easy! Upload pictures, make lots of cool albums and video’s, and share, share, share! So goal three, I was trawling the net to find a new hobby or skill I could acquire, but just wasn’t getting that ‘wow I’d really like to do this’ feeling. This was when my son pointed out that I should perhaps do more with my current hobby ‘fragrances’ and perhaps combine my love for fragrances with my business mind.
I have always had a love for fragrances – name me a woman who doesn’t! I love having candles and reeds around the house to bring character and ambiance to every room in my home. I was already playing around with essential oils and synthetic fragrances using recipes I would find on the internet or in books. I learnt a lot from my very first fragrance book called Perfume by Karen Gilbert.
I realised my son was right, and so the transition from playing around with fragranced oils, wax and wicks to getting serious and creating my own products began. This entailed signing up to courses to understand the psychology of smell and how our sense of smell plays an important role in our wellbeing, learning about blending techniques, how different fragrances work together and how different types of wax behave with different strengths of fragrance and wicks.
This followed months of sourcing raw materials, playing with over a hundred different fragrances at different strengths and percentages and working on those top, middle and base notes to create the accords and blends, then testing and more testing of a combination of different types of good quality wax with a numerous range of wicks, until finally I reached perfection and ‘bhvna’ was launched. Goal three accomplished!
‘bhvna’ means love and feel good emotions, I hope that my unique fragrances will bring a lot of love, joy, happiness and feel good emotions with a little luxury to my customers.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?
Running your own business means you have to play many roles. I can be the production team one day making all the products and despatching, marketing the next day getting all my social media plans ready, sales the next day setting up targets and looking at potential new product lines. All this can be a little overwhelming at times.
You always need a good support network around you to get you through the manic days, and this is where my family and some business meet ups and networking groups really help. As the business grows, you have to consider getting help and support on some tasks by engaging with experts, so you can concentrate on the important aspects of your business and getting the right technology to automate some tasks and lessen the burden.
Managing all aspects of your business by yourself can sometimes make you feel a little lonely, so signing up to a co-working office space is a good way to stay connected with real people and have face to face, meaningful conversations.
Being a web based business where I completely rely on social media to help me reach my target audience, I have to be creative enough to entice my customers on turning their likes on my social media posts to placing an order on my web shop.
The way social media works is changing all the time, the way platforms such as Facebook and Instagram manage the algorithms behind the scenes is changing all the time too, and unless I understand the implications of these changes and ensure I keep up with the trend, I can potentially lose valuable customers.
What is the best thing about running your own business?
For me it’s about creating something I am very passionate about. You don’t mind putting in the effort when it’s your product that you have bought to life, especially when your customers give good feedback. I get a very rewarding feeling when my customers send me pictures of my products in their homes.
Running my own business means I’m the decision maker, and I can drive my business the way I want and make instant decisions with the changing needs of my customers. Also working for myself gives me the flexibility to plan my days and weeks the way I want and not be constrained to office hours. Most of all, I really do not miss the daily commute on the train and tube into London. Instead, I wake up and as I am a morning person and am at peak with my creative juices in the morning. I would create some of my social media posts whilst having my first beverage of the day, then get on with other tasks planned for the day.
I am also managing to make time to do other leisure activities (if I plan well), catch up with friends, attend more daytime networking events and fit a power walk in-between my daily tasks.
It is stressful running your own business, but it’s a different kind of stress – you look back and learn from it and do it better the next time and are constantly improving.