Founder Olivia Burns was born and raised in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. Her childhood was an extremely happy one and all of her memories serve as personal inspiration for her candles’ scents, stories and brand aesthetic. At 21, following completion of a degree in Marketing and Management from Newcastle University, Olivia made the journey south to London with her university pals to start her career in marketing. For almost 10 years, she worked in both big global companies and smaller start-ups helping them with their marketing strategies, campaigns and branding – yet she still had a desire to create her own brand from start to finish.
Olivia has always been a self-confessed candle lover but in January 2019 her fascination with the link between scent and how it helped her to recall her own memories grew. She started experimenting with wax and fragrance oils as she strove to create the ultimate range of scented candles inspired by her own scent memories.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I am a marketing and branding expert who wants to build a global, luxury modern brand with a focus on illustration and storytelling amplified through digital channels, particularly social media.
Olivia’s Haven is a digital-first, luxury home fragrance brand based on the North Coast of Northern Ireland. Having launched in February 2020 as the world was going into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Olivia’s Haven soon eschewed the traditional wholesale business model, withdrew from all existing retail accounts and instead pursued an innovative but challenging direct-to-consumer strategy. Selling the range exclusively through the company’s own e-commerce website.
As a lifelong candle lover I felt like there was space for luxury candles with fresh, sophisticated scents at an accessible price point. Building an immersive and sensorial brand experience for Olivia’s Haven is important to me and has brought me so much joy and fulfilment on so many levels – I hope everyone gets as much pleasure out of experiencing the collection as I do in creating each product.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The business was launched when I identified a gap in the market for a home fragrance collection with a luxury, sophisticated scent profile that was visually stunning and at an attainable price point.
How did you achieve awareness?
The main driver of new customers and sales has been word of mouth, social media and online collaborations, rather than the traditional combination of advertising and supplying high street retail outlets.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Growth has been achieved almost entirely organically, with minimal paid marketing, through word of mouth and leveraging digital channels including social media in particular. The company is therefore already highly profitable, and the business remains self-funded.
What are the key successes?
In just two years in business Oliva’s Haven has enjoyed lots of successes including being nominated for multiple awards and features in The Daily Telegraph, Good Housekeeping and Forbes to name a few.
On top of this the business reached a big milestone in June 2021 when we took on a new 5,000 sq. ft premises to help us support the demand and added 8 people to the Olivia’s Haven team.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Starting a business during the pandemic was a huge hurdle to overcome. We used this challenge as an opportunity to focus on getting the direct to consumer business strategy right and pulled out of retail. This has been crucial in helping the business achieve such quick self-funded growth.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Whilst Olivia’s Haven will remain a digital-first company, the brand’s strategic growth plan includes a complementary ‘offline’ strategy which includes further pop-up shops, experiential physical retail and highly selective UK retail partnerships as the economy continues to re-open following the Covid-19 pandemic. The company will continue to use digital channels to grow throughout the UK and Ireland, expand into new markets, and develop an international profile and reach. Ultimately my ambition is to build a global company based on the North Coast of Northern Ireland.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
What’s the worst that can happen? If you have a good idea for business just go for it! You won’t regret it and you would be amazed at how quickly you can change your life.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Don’t copy other brands. Do your own thing and be original. It is the only way you will get noticed. Starting a business is difficult but keeping it going long term with fresh ideas is even harder. If you constantly copy people and aren’t original you will struggle to keep it going. Trust me!
My other tip is to make sure you absolutely love your business idea, product or service. There will be so many challenges along the way and I believe the only way to keep yourself going and motivated is by being completely obsessed.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I am inspired by Holly Tucker and all her Podcast guests. She is a fantastic ambassador for creative small businesses and I encourage you to listen to her podcast Conversations of Inspiration. It’s a great listen and you can learn so much from each one.
Johnnie Boden. I love his brand Boden so much and respect how he has grown it from nothing to a household name in Britain.
Jo Malone. She is the queen of fragrance and I am so inspired by her story from making everything in her kitchen in the early days to growing and creating her global brand. What a lady!
Anyone who starts and runs a business full time is inspirational. There is something to learn from each of their stories.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
I am not really one for inspirational quotes. I just believe in working hard, being interested in everyone you meet and hoping for a little luck along the way.
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