Nkechi Alikor, is a Nigerian lawyer by profession and chandler by passion. She wanted to introduce a healthier and more eco-friendly alternative for home fragrance lovers in her native country, Nigeria. I worked with Nkmechi as a consultant and I like to share inspirational stories so here is the one
BH: Transitioning from Lawyer into candle making is a big step. What inspired you to start your candle business in Nigeria?
NA: As a heavy consumer of home fragrance goods, I realized there was a strong dominance of mass imported products in the market especially from Asia; products that were not necessarily safe for the environment and so I wanted to be able to provide a healthier and more eco-friendly options.
BH: Your brand name is very unusual, is there a meaning behind it?
NA: Actually I’ll give the credit for the name to my sister who’s also a silent partner in the business. She came up with the idea for the name and I immediately fell in love with it. Not many people know this but Tsavorite is actually a very rare gem stone . It has its roots in Africa and it symbolizes benevolence, prosperity, and vitality amongst other things. These are all positive traits that we as a brand would love to stand for and represent. The color of the stone is green hence the predominant color of the brand and it’s no coincidence that the color also embodies what we stand for as an environmentally conscious brand.
BH: What keeps you going in your business?
NA: Purely the joy of seeing my creations in people’s homes and offices adding value to their everyday lives is absolutely priceless and that’s really what keeps me going and wanting to do more
BH: How Beauty Handmade workshop changed your view of the home fragrance industry? You really flew from Lagos to see Zaga specifically for this?
NA: I really wanted to attend the workshops to validate some of the things I had learnt along the way myself, cause there’s a lot of conflicting information available online, so having access to a key expert in the industry to help decode what’s true and what’s not was really important for me. The workshop also opened my eyes to other things in the industry that I didn’t even know I was interested in and now I’m looking to explore those areas. One thing I particularly liked about the workshop was that it was not only about the practical aspect, the key discussion I had with Zaga on brand development was really key and I’m looking to implement some of the things discussed.
BH: What are the biggest challenges you face as a candle entrepreneur in Africa?
NA: Without a doubt, I’ll have to say accessibility or availability of raw materials. 90% of all the materials we use are not sourced locally and so we have to deal with the attendant challenges of importation and this obviously increases the production cost and invariably impacts our bottom line.
My business is over a year old and in that time, we have seen considerable growth and potential for much more. I started from my kitchen at home and early this year, we moved into our first production space. We currently stock in three locations in Lagos and we are just about to open our first showroom. I would say reception of the brand has been great and really encouraging especially in the city of Lagos where we are based.
We enjoy the patronage of a few corporate organisations and that has really helped the brand. Also the Home Fragrance Industry in Nigeria is really just starting to open up, there are a lot of opportunities in that area and I’m really just excited to be part of the pioneers of the industry. Knowing the potential of what lies ahead keeps us focused and going.
BH: Finally any piece of advice you can give to those that wish to embark onto business of candle making ?
NA: This may sound cliche but really you do have to have the passion for it because candle making at first can be somewhat frustrating. It takes a lot of practice to get it right and if you’re not patient enough, especially if you’re dealing with pure soy, you just might be tempted to give it all up; but like they say, practice makes perfect and practice is really key in this business. I can’t stress that enough. Also knowing the craft is one thing and mastering the business of it is another. It’s important to learn and understand both in order to excel at it