I used my redundancy cash to start a candle brand – it was worth 6 figures within a year & my husband now works for me | The Sun

I used my redundancy cash to start a candle brand – it was worth 6 figures within a year & my husband now works for me | The Sun

WHEN Olivia Burns was made redundant she was initially worried about how she would support herself and pay her bills.

However, the aspiring businesswoman decided to take a leap of faith and put £1,000 of the redundancy money towards starting her candle business – and it became worth six figures in under a year.

She now has employed eight employees since launching in 2020, including her husband who works full-time for the business.

Speaking to Fabulous, exclusively for our Bossing It series, she said how she initially launched Olivia’s Haven from her parent’s home.

Olivia, 32, from Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, said: “I had at the back of my mind I wanted to have my own business one day.

“Candles was a market I was obsessed with myself, I buy so many candles and I am the consumer.

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“I thought I could make them so much better. When you go into the supermarket they all look the same or are pretty bland.”

The candle industry is worth a staggering £1.9billion and Brits buy an average of six candles a year at an average price of £7.40.

The budding entrepreneur, who was working in marketing at the time, had the idea to create a luxury-feel candle with a story behind each one that would celebrate people and places she loved.

She said: “That’s why it is called Olivia’s Haven, because it’s like the world, my world.”

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However, there was just one problem – Olivia hadn’t made a single candle before.

She decided to teach herself the art, and did a few candle-making courses and put herself on a one-on-one business class with a woman in Edinburgh who sold candles.

She added: “I’m self-taught. There was a lot of trial and error.

“I thought at first ‘how hard can it be? Surely it’s just wax, fragrance and some wicks in a jar.’

“But it actually is a bit of an art. It’s harder than it looks.”

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Olivia said she suffered a blow in February 2020 when her marketing job made her redundant and she found herself without work.

She said: “I was working for a start-up and my job said they were reducing the marketing department.

“The day I walked out of there on the 27th of February, I put my candle website live that night.

“I used £1,000 of my redundancy money to buy products and stock to get started so I had enough to get me going.”

Part of the money went into her packaging and working with an illustrator to help bring her personalised product to life.

Olivia, who studied Business and Marketing at Newcastle Uni, said: “I kept it really small initially, as small as I could.

“The boxes you had to buy a certain number, they don’t let you buy two.

“I think I bought 100 of each box, and I had six scents so that was 600 boxes.

“I just had to go for it really.”


  • Use pop-up shops so you can meet customers face-to-face.
  • Use email newsletters to push products, as sometimes social media algorithms can be against you.
  • Push for good reviews on TrustPilot so it’s not just you saying your product is good.
  • Make the most of Instagram, post daily and interact with your audience.
  • Work with like-minded businesses so you can share customers.

At first she was just selling on her website and advertising on her Instagram page.

She said: “It started off as an order a day, maybe a couple of orders a day.”

Just two weeks after launching her business, the nation was plunged into lockdown, and instead of harming sales, Olivia called it a “blessing in disguise.”

She explained: “People were sending gifts to each other during lockdown.

“Friends sending friends messages or mums sending to daughters.

“It was just really nice to use our product to connect people during this time.”

I used £1,000 of my redundancy money to buy products and stock to get started so I had enough to get me going.

She also started to scale up her business using her social media.

Olivia explained: “One of my things that I do on Instagram Stories is that I show people what I’m packing that day and what somebody had ordered.

“People kept buying when I did that, that just continued the snowball.

“It felt crazy getting orders from strangers and not just Northern Ireland.”

Olivia gave herself three months to make the business work with the redundancy money, and decided she would look for another job after then if it didn’t work out.

Thankfully sales started coming in thick and fast – particularly after being featured in magazines.

She also collaborated with other like-minded businesses so they could promote each other’s products and swears by using her email newsletter to share her new launches.

Olivia said: “I gave all my energy, night and day, I was going to bed after midnight every night as I was doing everything myself.

“I was aware I had to grow my Instagram to get new customers, and from first thing I was packing orders and getting them out as I wanted them to have a good experience so they would order again.

“I was determined, I had three months to make this work.”

Olivia was living at home at the time and making and packaging all the candles in the stables in the garden.

Sales soon started to get too much for just her to handle by herself.

Speaking of November 2020, she said: “The tipping point was when we got an order for 2,000 candles, I said yes and was like ‘I am overwhelmed’.

It started off as an order a day, maybe a couple of orders a day.

“I was putting everything together by hand.

“It was for a subscription box and they wanted our Christmas at the Rectory candle in their December box, so I had to get that ready by mid-November for this.

“I messaged our friends’ WhatsApp group asking if anyone could help.”

Olivia took on her first part-time employee around November, and offered her a permanent position in January 2021.

Olivia said: “I was like ‘am I a fraud for taking someone on so quickly’, but she’s still with us now.”

Her husband Aaron Mulholland also left his job as a solicitor to work fulltime for the business in December 2020.

Olivia said: “He saw how crazy it got really really fast.

“We ran a couple of pop up shops around Christmas and he could just see how much work and effort was going into it.

“He said I’ll give it a year and then join you and he’s never gone back since.

“He does accounting, HR, legal and partnerships and agreements, a lot of the analytical side, the numbers.”

By the end of year one, Olivia’s Haven was worth six figures and they moved into a 5,000 square ft premises in June 2021 and she now employs eight staff.

Their best-selling scent is their £31 Tea in the Orangery candle, which is a nod to her grandma who would host friends for tea in her own orangery.

The tipping point was when we got an order for 2,000 candles, I said yes and was like ‘I am overwhelmed’.

Her candle company has now done over £500,000 sales to date on their website, following a 100 per cent year-on-year increase.

The business owner, who invests nearly everything back into the business, said: “We’ve expanded the line loads, we don’t just have candles, we have £34 diffusers and £10 wax melts.”

She has also scaled up the business by working with an external fragrance house to help make the scents, but insists she is extremely hands-on and goes back and forth until she is happy with the products.

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Olivia said: “I wanted to really up our game, it is a proper chemist putting things together.”

Speaking of her success, she said: “I think people really connect with the stories of the candles and make that about them and their life.

“They really connect with the candles and the scent and it makes them more than just a candle.”

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