Margaret Robbins is the woman behind new luxury natural candle range, Essentials Aromatherapy. Made from 100 per cent natural, plant-based ingredients, her products are more than just nice to look at and rely on the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Here she shares her learnings since setting up her own business this January.
Tell us about you and your shop
Essentials Aromatherapy was set up in January 2022. I was on maternity leave with my 2nd baby when I took redundancy from my job. I have always wanted to do something more creative, and starting this business gave me the opportunity to turn a hobby into a job.
I want to make beautifully fragranced products for the home which have natural plant-based essential oils at their core. But there’s more to essential oils than just a nice smell, they have therapeutic benefits and can help us to support the overall wellness of our mind, body and spirit.
What is your mission?
I want people to tap into the natural power of essential oils and how they can both support our everyday well-being and also be something that simply smells beautiful at home. Essential oils offer a completely natural, plant-based fragrance alternative for consumers. I love the idea of supporting local and end-to-end production as much as is possible so all of the dried botanicals I use are grown in my own garden or foraged locally in a sustainable manner, and I find alternative uses for all of the by-products, like natural fire starters from dried herb cuttings. The environment is at the core of my ethos and I want to leave as little footprint as possible, purposefully choosing to have minimal packaging and compostable/biodegradable where necessary.
It is also really important to me that the products are accessible to as many people as possible, but also produced in a sustainable way that respects the extra effort it takes to grow these crops. So often “natural” products are priced out of reach of the general public which makes sustainability a class issue. While my candles are not the cheapest on the market, they are priced competitively which I hope will attract more shoppers to try plant-based fragrances.
Did you always know you wanted to work with aromatherapy?
Not at all, I was set to move into interior design when the business happened kind of by accident. I’ve always been interested in the therapeutic benefits and uses of essential oils in the home, making my own pillow mist, cleaners, and baby bum balms over the years. I think essential oils still have a bit of a reputation for being “for hippies”, but they’re a powerful natural alternative to often the heavily over-fragranced and chemical-laden products we grew up with. With more and more people looking to try natural alternatives now than ever before, once the idea came to me I realised this was the perfect time to give the business a go.
What kind of items do you stock?
We stock a range of luxury candles and wax melts which are fragranced with the power of natural essential oils. Each one is hand-poured in small batches by me in my home in Kildare. All of my suppliers are currently Irish, and I try to keep things local where possible.
What new brands or items are on your radar?
I am loving what Feebee at Forager.ie is doing to bring herbs into relatable usable everyday products. I need everything from Ground in my life, Joy Thorpe is bringing Irish vernacular furniture back to the mainstream with a beautifully curated collection, and my biggest covet right now is Clodagh McKenna’s entire wardrobe, she is the 70s dream!
Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
Ha ha… yes! I find it hard to balance my dreams of expansion and launching new product lines with what my bank balance is capable of funding. I’m entirely self-funded at the minute, often with children in tow, but that’s the reality for a lot of female-led small businesses, so we make it work as a family with lots of support.
Best business advice you’ve gotten
Trust your gut… it’s a cliché but it’s always helpful when you’re overthinking things and trying to weigh up the pros and cons of taking a chance on something new. Also, you’re never fully ready to do anything – especially if you’re a perfectionist – so it’s good to trust your gut and just go for it.
Favourite interiors/design accounts you follow
I studied interior design and am also obsessed with gardening so my entire Instagram feed is basically design-related. I am a big fan of Wild & Rosie interior design, her schemes are natural and the tones and textures are always reflective of the Irish landscape. Cathy from Flamingo Interior design marries practicality and effortless retro like nobody else. I am also a big fan of House Nine Interiors in the UK. Pollyanna Wilkinson is the best relatable garden design advice for a novice I have come across.
Best interiors purchase
We bought a large teak dresser for the kitchen in Industry & Co on Drury Street when we moved into our house. I had been looking at buying one for years and I love it now as much as I did then, plus it holds all the wine.
Other Irish brands you love
I love brands that offer natural ingredients and rustic textures such as Kinvara, who I keep going back to. Peigín Crowley’s Ground is stunning, Helen James’ Considered range for Dunnes Stores. Kotanical essential oils are groundbreaking for such a small island.
Most useful learning since setting up a business
Sometimes winging it is the only strategy required to get a foot in the door.
Proudest moment so far
When I got my first order on my website I was pretty overwhelmed. I’m not great with technology and to build it myself was a big deal so I think I was just glad it worked!
I want my brand to be remembered for…
My entire brand is based on the power of essential oils, so I would love for more people to explore them and try out new blends and products as a result. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot going on in the world and they’re only candles, but they make us feel nice and that can only be a good thing.
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