At 22 years old, having attempted two undergraduate degrees, Neena Flaherty found her calling and made a name for herself through the relaxing niche of scents. Her Tasmiania-based business, is Spice and Oak, a purveyor of carefully made soy candles.
The Tasmanian business owner makes and sells candles online, in select Tasmanian stores, and also supplies candles for restaurants and events. The social media savvy entrepreneur inspires with her Instagram account, showcasing her flare for design and an eye for creating and recognising beauty. Check out Neena’s website and Instagram, and have a read about how this creative young woman started and maintains her growing business
How did you create Spice and Oak?
It started when I moved back from Sydney. I just started making candles as a hobby and I really enjoyed it. I guess I just love candles, I’ve always loved home décor and niche-y little things. Everything is becoming a little bit more handmade now and I just love the process. I knew I wanted to start exercising a bit more creativity, so I knew I wanted to start creating something, I just didn’t know what.
I’m such a candle person, I have them burning everywhere, and I remember perusing a home wares shop and thinking ‘I could actually be saving money’. When my skills gradually improved, my interest started growing and I thought ‘oh I could turn this into a business’ or start selling them to friends or even selling them to people that I know. I did my research and my hobby grew into Spice and Oak.
Did you always want to be a young business owner?
It’s always kind of been in the back of my mind but I didn’t think it would be achievable. I thought I would follow a very direct path in life, I thought I would go to university, do my course, and have that straight career I guess. It wasn’t until I dropped out of my course that I realised that I’m a bit more creative than I thought I was and I could do something a little bit different. I found that I don’t want the same career throughout my life. I know that a career change is a viable thing now, before I thought – and it was probably more of a pressure on myself -that I had to have the same career and do that one thing.
How did your time at university influence your decision to start Spice and Oak?
When I realised I wasn’t enjoying my course in Sydney [Speech Pathology], that was when I was like ‘okay I’m going to drop out’ and obviously I didn’t have an alternative study path that I was passionate about. My goal was to move home [Tasmania] and then sort my life out and figure out what I wanted to do. When I got home it was then I found myself not wanting to go back to university at all, I’d enrolled mid- year [Primary Education] and I just didn’t go in the end. It didn’t feel right. I got cold feet about it and realised it wasn’t for me at the time.
Initially after that I just focussed on getting a job and working again, which I don’t absolutely love, but at least I thought I could earn money while I figured out what I wanted to do.
Now I can please myself, and that’s what I really enjoy about owning a small business.
How do you organise your social media and keep on top of the website?
The website is pretty straight forward, occasionally there are issues where I need to jump on and fix it, but other than that it’s mainly updating stock when I have new scents. I started with the website format and built it myself I guess, I’ve taught myself that I’m more techie than I thought and could do it independently.
The Instagram account was just something that runs alongside the business, everything is becoming more social media based and it’s how I drive my business in a more modern approach- it really is the way of the future.
Day to day I put as much content on social media as I can – within reason. I drive new scents through the Instagram account an organise competitions to increase my followers. It is all managed by myself and from home, so I do it in the cracks of my life when I’m not working. I’ll also try and post at convenient times so more people will see it.
All the content is my own, I have a camera and take most of my photos myself, I love styling the photos.
I’ve got three or four brand ambassadors, and they’re people that have great style on Instagram and have a strong following. It’s useful as I can reach more people and it’s been great forming relationships with people who share my passion for design. I pick people that will represent Spice and Oak and align their work with my style, to tie in with the whole look. I reached out to them, it’s helping my business and they love doing it, it just works!
Tell me a bit about your workspace…
I’m sharing my house with my family so I’ve had to work it around them, initially it was in my room and as supplies and things like that grew I’ve had to relocate my work space. I still have it at home, now it’s actually in the front sunroom of our house. It works really well, I even have a portable cooker now, which is really handy, otherwise I would have to do it in the kitchen. I have it all organised and it flows a lot better now.
What’s your favourite scent?
My favourite scents change but one of my newer scents is lavender and I love it! I also love salted caramel, it’s always yummy and I swear it’s everyone’s favourite, so yeah it’s definitely one of mine.
How often do you make batches?
Now that I have a more stockists it’s more regular. I started out with one stockist and that’s Inspire where I work [home wares shop]. I do more when there is demand, but I like to keep on top of things and have scents in stock even if the immediate demand isn’t there-just in case. If I get an order on the website, I’d love for them to get it as soon as they can and It’s easier if I have it in stock.
I guess the beauty of candles is that now I know how to make them, the process is more efficient and quicker.
There is a lot of time management involved and juggling it with work can be quite tricky, so I do try and organise myself. In a normal week I’d probably do four to five batches with about ten per batch, but the number is heavily dependent on the demand.
How has starting a small business changed you?
I guess it’s just made me learn a little bit more about myself and what I’m capable of. I never saw myself having a little business and being able to do that on the side. I’ve grown in the sense that I know I can do it.
It has made me a more goal-oriented person, and it has completely changed my outlook. I’m more business savvy now and I’m doing things that I didn’t think I would have done before. I’ve grown immeasurably through Spice and Oak.
What do you see for your future with Spice and Oak?
Ideally I’d love to have my own shop front, whether that’s solely a candle shop I’m not sure. I would love to incorporate home wares. That’s definitely up my alley. Perhaps I’ll incorporate a florist in the shop front, I’m currently studying a Diploma of Floristry online so that would be a great career path. I’ll definitely be working towards that.
The idea of my future has definitely changed from what I thought it would be a couple of years ago.