Katerina & Victoria are the co-founders of LOHN, a Toronto-based custom scent and candle design studio. They create high quality, organic coconut and soy wax candles and also formulate custom scents for other businesses in Toronto.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business?
We are two female chemical engineering graduates with backgrounds in perfumery and product development and have both previously worked for two of the world's leading cosmetic companies, Estee Lauder and L’Oreal. We connected over our passion for scent and well designed products. It took us only a few months to develop our scents, but it took almost a year and a half to finalize our packaging concept! LOHN launched in January 2018, and it’s been a ride ever since.
As the two founders, Vic is the creative director behind the brand, and Kat focuses on the day-to-day operations and client/retailer relationships. We are lucky to have such complementary skills and talents, and we truly believe we couldn’t have built this brand without one another.
Have you always felt an entrepreneurial spirit within you?
Both of our fathers are extremely hardworking small business owners and we think that’s what really motivated us to start a business of our own. It was ingrained in our upbringing that it’s very rewarding to be your own boss, so we both knew early in our careers that we would be escaping the corporate 9-5 life eventually.
Also, after the experience of working for cosmetic companies where we were able to learn the intricacies of ingredients, formulations, and product development, we believed that together we could create a product that was unique, well-designed and formulated with high quality ingredients.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new small business owner, what would it be?
Just start somewhere. If you despise the 9-5 and your dream has always been to start your own business, trust us: you will work much harder for yourself than you ever have for anyone else. Don’t worry about perfecting every little aspect of your business before you launch (ie. your website, social media feeds, accounting platforms etc). You will make mistakes no matter what, and you will learn SO much along the way, as long as you continue to focus on growing yourself and your business everyday.
What do you love most about your job? What do you find most rewarding?
The flexible schedule is definitely a plus. There is this mindset that every entrepreneur wakes up at 5am everyday to workout, nourishes oneself with a 6am adaptogenic smoothie and avocado-heavy breakfast, then arrives at the office at 7am to begin their 14-hour workday. As much as we believe in staying healthy and focusing on taking care of ourselves, everyone operates so differently. For example, our most productive hours tend to be from 9pm-12am!
The most rewarding part of our experience is seeing our customers fall in love with our products. LOHN was born out of the belief that scent is essential to your own personal journey, and a lot of thought went behind our brand story, packaging and scents. But when we meet complete strangers and they tell us that they love our packaging, that our scents are completely unique and that LOHN is now their favourite candle brand -- that’s where the magic happens.
Being an entrepreneur can take a huge mental toll. What are some of the things that keep you up at night?
It was a huge financial risk to quit our full-time jobs and work on LOHN so that definitely kept us up at night for awhile. But day-to-day, receiving honest feedback is something that we struggle with. We find Canadians to be too polite sometimes and it can be hard to get real feedback! We appreciate honesty in all aspects of our business. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to improve.
Has anything surprised you since starting your business? Any unexpected turns?
The amount of ups and downs. It’s not just daily, it can be hourly. One minute you’re dealing with a lost shipment of glasses (this actually happened to us three weeks before the One of a Kind Show -- our supplier somehow lost 4,000 printed LOHN glasses somewhere in Canada!), and the next minute you receive an email from a new account who’s interested in carrying your product. The mood can shift so drastically. It’s really important to stay level-headed and to avoid self doubt. You’ve got to be fearless and confident, and as cheesy as this sounds, believe in yourself!
...No unexpected turns, just yet!
Where do you dream of taking your business next?
Our dream is to have a larger studio in Toronto where we can design and manufacture our candles and our custom projects. The space would also serve as a space for clients to visit, hang out and for customers to shop and attend workshops. We would love to share it with other local entrepreneurs who hand make their products to create a unique community space (especially given the soaring Toronto rents!).
We definitely want to grow the brand globally. We’ve recently expanded into several US retailers which has been very exciting, but we think there’s a huge opportunity beyond North America, especially given our European-inspired candle collections.
Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?
Candle-making and running the business have taken up a huge part of our lives, and we are working hard to introduce more hobbies and unrelated interests into our daily routine.
As mentioned, Victoria is the Creative Director behind the brand so naturally, she has taken up ceramics and salsa dancing lessons as of late. As much as we want to keep up hobbies that are unrelated to the business, Kat hopes that Vic will create a custom ceramic candle vessel for LOHN one day ;).
Kat is a huge fan of cooking, yoga and hot inferno pilates (if you haven’t been to Chi Junky or Sweat & Tonic, you have not lived!). Escaping the city to go hiking/biking, or vegging out at her family cottage with loved ones is what gives her the most joy.