Self employed people contribute strongly to the UK economy, with over 5 million self employed people and represent over 15% of the labour market. This blog aims to shout out to just some of the hard working and talented self employed people I know.
This week we profile Jintana Khieochaum who i first met whilst trading at Broadway Market. Before i even met Jin, i smelled her amazing candles which wafted gently over the market. Her story of how she was inspired to start the business from her mum was awe inspiring and a story i never forgot. Her gentle and almost buddhist approach to business has always made me feel calm. I truly believe that business owners like her represent the true essence (pardon the pun) of passionate self employed people. Her candles are scattered throughout my house so it only seemed appropriate to ask her a few more questions about her business and importantly how Covid has affected her, her business and her plans for the future.
Tell me about your business and how you started Aequill
AEQUILL is a fragrance and candle house. Our scent portraits tell stories of the muli-faceted personalities of people and where they live. I guess I model my products on the observations of the things that surround me.
Our first range launched in 2017; titled Mum’s Aromatherapy Shop is a range of home fragrances. Its is based on the memories of making and blending oils with my mum for her therapy shop. All our products are made in our little studio in East London and includes scented candles, room perfumes and reed diffusers (launching march 2021)
Our next product line is due out later in the year in Q3/ Q4 and will include our first range personal fragrance which I am really excited about!
The big idea is just to continue to add to our product line and grow organically.
What is your background? How does it link to what you are doing now?
I studied graphic design but have always regretted not studying fine art. I didn’t thrive as a graphic designer and changed from job to job. I was always searching for a way to create and express myself whilst doing odd jobs - and finally found it when I discovered my love for candles.
I found this through crafting, and then making candles. For me candle light so soothing and the scent can cater to whatever mood I am in. It was something I really loved so decided to take the plunge and just do it hoping that whatever I made would have the same positive effect on others as it did on me.
What was your breakthrough moment?
It was during a routine job change that I decided to put all my energy into making the candles and work full time on it. I had so much hope and so much determination that we were off to a flying start! However I quickly burned out! The phrase it's not a sprint, it's a marathon comes to mind.
Following that my supplier went out of business in my second year and with them took a cash paid up front for a large order of ours. There were lots of learnings in my first couple years, and they were hard lessons but we managed to pull and are now super proud of our scars lol
And then the pandemic hit…
What is one of your proudest business moments?
I really do believe in celebrating the little wins every day and so far; there are many things that I am proud of including; every time a customer tells me how much they love the candles and the scent (this never gets old) I am proud of the many friends I’ve met on this journey, and proud to be still be operating even during the toughest of times.
What was your plan?
My plan is a simple one - just keep doing what I am doing lol
I see this as a portfolio of work so I’ll just continue to add to my product portfolio
How have things changed in Covid times?
Covid has allowed me to take a step back and reevaluate my direction which is now focused a lot more on the digital aspect of the business and ensuring that we are regularly engaging with people online.
Covid has made me realise how important it is to diversify your sales channel and not be reliant on 1 or 2 means of income but rather a whole network of income streams.
I guess this can be applied to personal finance too, because since the pandemic we’ve seen a surge in unemployment rate and people who’ve been relient of their jobs to pay the bills. I think the way we see jobs and money will change post covid.
How and when did you launch?
We officially launched in March 2017 however I’ve been making candles and scents and selling them at markets since 2015.
I come from a long time of market traders, my dad used to sell jewelry and my grand dad also sold at markets. So starting out selling at Broadway Market was very comfortable for me.
How have you continued to build your brand?
AEQUILL started out as just a logo and a name, I left it to grow on its own accord and purposefully chose a name which doesn’t have a previous meaning attached to it on first encounter.
For me Aequill is a living and breathing entity of its own and I’ve allowed it to flex and create its own meaning through the customers that we meet. However the bedrock of our values has always been to create balance and harmony for our customers and our name was originally taken from the word equilibrium to reflect this quality.
What challenges have you faced?
We’ve faced so many challenges during this journey. I am so proud that we are still operating, and now with the pandemics reeking havoc, I feel like we’ve been here before and we can survive this. Nothing phases me anymore, and we will just continue to do what we do in rain or shine.
Apart from the obvious big disruptors I think team building has probably got to be the biggest and most important factor for me. A strong team makes a strong business and the challenges of hiring a team was something that I didn’t anticipated. However I am really proud of our existing team and freelancers, and they are the ones that provide us with new strings to our bow of ideas and how we can continue to improve our offering.
How do you stay motivated?
I love being self employed and building something that could benefit others and making something people will love is a big motivator.
You do have the days when everything is just going wrong and you feel that it would be so easy to let the whole thing crumble; but that’s just one day. I try to take things a day at a time.
This year I created a weekly schedule that I stick to religiously because it keeps me grounded and consistent. Sometimes when there's too much to do you don’t actually get anything done so its important to me to now think about what I have to do and just run on autopilot via my schedule lol
I find that lock down and not being able to move freely has negatively impacted my thinking and motivation, so every morning (or at least once a day) I give myself tasks to do outdoors - like walking for 40 minutes or cycling to my destination. I find that doing this brightens my outlook as sometimes working on your own gets a bit bleak so little endorphin kicks are good.
What have you got your eye on for the future?
Right now I am working on our first fragrances which I am hoping to launch towards the end of the year! I’m super excited about these because it’s been on my mind for a while and it’ll be nice to finally see it launch.
By continuing with perfumes and fragrances we will finally become a fully fledged fragrance house! Finally!
What are your favourite things to carry around with you?
I like to carry as little as possible with me. I want to feel light and ready to go wherever without having to think about bags and the contents of that bag. But the 3 things I have to have is my phone, card, keys and sunscreen - don’t want these premature wrinkles now do we… lol
Do you have a motto? If so , what is it?
Yes I have 2 mantras that I live by!
Impossible is an opinion
It does not matter how slowly you go; as long as you don't stop
These have changed me as a person, the way I look at things and the way I live my life.
Everything is a challenge waiting to be conquered, and that’s the most exciting thing about being self employed - you get to crack the code, break the mold to see if there's a better way of doing things. Hopefully us little businesses can make that change in the world that we want to see. Everythings starts small right?
How can people get in touch with you?