Young Mary's is featured in our Winter subscription box. Learn more about what inspires her candle scents.
What inspired you to start your business and how long have you been in operation?
Young Mary’s as a concept started in 2017 and was actualised in 2018. I’m someone who is very passionate about all things African. It sounds very abstract but I just have this yearning and desire to exist in this space. I started the business when I was living in Nigeria, but had one foot out the door. Honestly it was a way for me to just keep sharing stories about these places that I am so passionate about and in a different way.
I’ve also been making candles for a really long time. I was the girl in uni, due to lack of funds, who when candles would get low, melt them down and combine them together. Fortuitously, the idea to combine them [candles and business] kind of came to me one day. I started taking my candle making seriously, giving the candles out for gifts. It was a friend of a friend who asked me is this what you do? It put this idea in my head and here we are today.
Where does the name Young Mary’s come from?
Mary is the name of my grandmother, my maternal grandmother, who raised me as a child. It’s an odd name for a home fragrance company but it’s a name that I find very personal. She was born in Nigeria and I lived with her when I was a kid in Nigeria. It’s my connection to my part of the world, it’s me in a candle.
What is your favorite scent and why?
That’s controversial! I love all my babies equally. But, reluctantly, I have to admit it’s Fez. There is something that connects me very much to that fragrance. Fez is mainly Tonka Bean, there’s something very whimsical about it. I burn Fez a couple times a week. It’s not the most popular candle but it's by far the one I enjoy the most.
Challenges to starting your business and greatest accomplishment so far?
Obviously when you start a small business, especially a micro business, it is just me. I don’t have the resources or the capital to have an accountant, a bookkeeper and a marketer. So you have to wear a lot of different hats. Also before you jump into anything you'd have to do a solid month of the background work. Even something as simple as a logo, that takes a while when it’s just you and you’re trying to squeeze it into your life.
My greatest accomplishment is getting feedback from people when someone stops [at markets] and has a conversation with me. It’s when a little kid looks at the map of Africa and says “Where is this and where is this?” 30 minutes later they’ve left with their eyes open. It’s when a random old white woman stops and tells me she was born in Tanzania and though she’s lived in the UK for most of her adult life, she has found someone to talk to about that part of the world. There’s so many people that you get to meet and interact with. I’m a people person and I would keep doing this because I get to engage with people in such a cool way.
That's a testament to the stories that I’m telling because there are a lot of candles producers out there. It's more than just candles and things that smell good, it's the story. And that's fundamentally what I think Young Mary’s does. Young Mary’s wants to promote self care but at the same time share stories about a very special part of the world.
Any advice for black creatives in the UK starting a business?
Do it. I think you should absolutely do it! And I am by no means a success story but I think that if you have this itch and this thing that is kind of nagging at you - you can stay there in that middle space where you would have, could have, should have. Or you can just do it. And that’s easier said than done. I have many things in my life that I would have, could have, should have. Fundamentally you don’t lose anything from trying.
I also think from a business perspective, there is nothing wrong with starting small. Particularly if you're doing something that is a passion project or you’re doing something in the creative space. Business takes money. Not everyone has the ability to get funds but that doesn't mean you should not try. Maybe it's something like putting an extra £20 away a week. I started Young Mary’s literally by going to a craft store and buying crayons. I was giving it to friends and family, not thinking business loans, office space right away. Try to streamline it to the point where you don’t have to be so intimidated by the financial aspect.
Why a subscription box? Why did you decide to join?
I think it's a great idea. I hadn’t considered it before. As a small business owner, on the creative side, the business can't scale if it's me selling one candle in a market. It's a way to kind of get other people working on the same page. I had been thinking about that just in an abstract way. How do I get involved with other people where we can grow together?
The fact that this is geared towards Black creatives is even more amazing to me. There are a lot of small scale, independent people that you are not going to see on the high street. What it [the subscription box] does is it give people access to these brands. I think it's absolutely phenomenal and I am legit excited at the idea that I get to be part of it. I love that more people get to experience us, Young Mary’s, and the stories we have.