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From Candle Queen to Empowering Entrepreneurs

Anu Chandy of Kera London

Join us as we talk to Anu Chandy - a self-made entrepreneur who turned her passion for candle making into a thriving business.

Originally from Kerala, India, Anu was inspired to start her own company, Kera London, after taking a life-changing candle making workshop. What began as a small homegrown project soon blossomed into a full-fledged brand selling at markets and online. Now, Anu has combined her entrepreneurial drive with her desire to empower other women by working at Hatch Enterprise, an organization which supports underrepresented founders.

In this exclusive interview, Anu shares the story behind Kera London, insightful lessons learned along her journey, and her best advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs. Through determination and a commitment to her values, Anu serves as an inspiration for young women everywhere charting their own path to success.

Anu, we'd love to know more about you. Can you share your background story and what sparked the idea for Kera London?

Starting my own business was something I've wanted to do for a long time - I just wasn’t sure what kind of business. I started Kera after going to a candle-making workshop one day and bought what I made into work to show everyone. They loved it and put the idea into my head to sell my own ones.

Anu Candlemaking

I learned a lot during the workshop, so I decided to buy some supplies myself and started testing out different scents and branding. Whatever I did, I wanted it to reflect who I am and where I’m from. After a lot of going back and forth, I decided to keep it simple and name it Kera, after Kerala, which is where I grew up as a child.

I have a lot of fond memories from my time there, so I wanted the scents to be reminiscent of those times. I also wanted it to represent the eco-friendly lifestyle we had living on a farm where everything we used was natural and biodegradable, so it was important to me that I used non-toxic ingredients and materials. After many failed attempts, I finally had a few scents and designs I liked and with the help of a friend, officially set it up as a business.

I honestly didn't think anyone would buy it and just thought of it as a little project but somehow, through Instagram, I started to get orders and invites to sell them at markets. The first time I did a market, I was so anxious, I couldn't eat or sleep for a week! But as I got more and more comfortable and made more content, I started to attract more opportunities and sales.

Can you tell us about any pivotal moments growing up or in your professional development that made you decide to start your own company?

Kera London Candle Product

I found a video I recorded of myself when I was 22 (8 years ago now) where I was going on about wanting to start my own business. I had completely forgotten about it and didn't even realise I wanted that back then, but it was weirdly reassuring to see because it just felt like maybe it really was the right path for me.

I love the freedom that comes with doing your own thing - as much as it's riskier and oftentimes unpredictable, my introverted self loves the independence it offers. I also now work for a great organisation which supports underrepresented founders, so I am constantly surrounded by inspiration. Somehow, the universe has always just pushed me in this direction.

We all have that one inspiring woman in our lives. Who is yours, and what makes her so amazing?

Without a doubt, this would have to be my mum. She moved to the UK by herself, not knowing anyone here in the UK. She is probably the hardest-working woman I know and somehow never complains. I owe everything I have to her. She is the most giving and patient person (and cheeky) - I don't think I can do what she does.

Starting out in any business is hard. What was the biggest hurdle you faced, and how did you tackle it head-on?

It’s such a common answer but I would fit firmly in the perfectionist category. Whilst it can be a good thing in some instances, it also meant that I wasted a lot of time (especially in the beginning) trying to get everything right. I redesigned my labels a billion times, I spent an unnecessary amount of money on buying supplies which I probably didn't need or ended up using.

Starting a business can be such a daunting thing, especially if you don't come from a background of entrepreneurship. There is so much stuff we are not taught in school which would have come in so handy when setting up a business. You have to do a lot of research yourself and ask around for advice. It's really important to build relationships with like-minded people and put yourself out there a bit. People are a lot more willing to help than you think.

Can you share any interesting behind-the-scenes stories about a key decision that ended up having a big impact on your business?

I think working at my current job (Hatch) has had such a huge impact on my business. When I was struggling to figure out what career I should pursue, someone once told me to go somewhere where I can learn the skills I am interested in gaining.

Entrepreneurship has always been the dream for me, so when I found Hatch, it felt like it was meant to be. The mission really aligned with me and I have learned so much by just being a part of the team. So many amazing opportunities and new people have also come my way as a result.

Maintaining a work-life balance can be challenging. How do you balance your ambitious career with personal well-being and self-care?

Kera London Candle Products

I know myself well enough to know what my limits are (not that I listen to it all the time) but being active is really important to me. I can sense how my mood is different if I don't work out regularly, so I always try to make time for it. Being outdoors and getting some fresh air or going for a walk also always works when I am stressed out about something. I journal a lot too to get out of my head, which always helps.

On days when you feel like quitting, how do you turn things around and find motivation again? What keeps you dedicated on the hard days?

Staying motivated is something I find really hard. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to do it. At times, I really lost the passion to work on my business and I decided to take a break from it. I felt a lot of guilt around that because you naturally end up comparing yourself to other business owners who are great at making content for social media or making more sales and so on. I really struggled with that aspect of running a business. Posting regularly on social media was something I found mentally exhausting but it is also a key part of making sure that you are getting good traction.

However, it got to a point where I just wasn't enjoying working on the business anymore and I decided to sell my candles more through wholesale orders and marketplaces, which meant that I didn't have to market it much. It's important to remember that it's your business at the end of the day and you can make choices which suit you. If something is making you absolutely miserable, find alternative ways to get it done that works better for you or take a break if you can. As it wasn't my full-time job, I was lucky enough not to have to worry about finances.

Kera London Candles

What advice would you give to young women who aspire to start their own businesses?

Probably the advice I should have taken, which is to stop spending too much time trying to make everything perfect and avoiding trying to do so much all at once.

A lot of the time, keeping things simple is the best way to move forward. Just take it one step at a time and things will start to fall into place.

Collaboration is also important. It;s always a bit daunting to share your business idea in the beginning, but you never know who you might meet that can have a huge impact on your business. Opportunities will only come your way when you put yourself out there. There is so much support available these days for young women aspiring to be entrepreneurs which I wish I had known about back when I started and more and more people are starting their own businesses.

What is the most valuable lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur that you wish you knew when you started?

It's a lot of hard work.

Running a candle business is seriously manual work, especially in the beginning. I've had several meltdowns in the process and things not going according to plan. It can take a long time for you to start seeing any progress and sales, which can be demotivating. It's really not as glamorous as it may seem - there's a lot of ups and downs. It's also hard not to compare yourself to others in the same space. I ended up unfollowing other brands on social media and I've not regretted it.

Personally, all the drama was worth it. It's such a great feeling when a customer buys something you've created and I've had so many great experiences and opportunities that came my way as a result.

We love businesses that give back. How does your brand make a positive impact, whether it's socially or environmentally?

This is something I would like to incorporate more into my business. The future plan is to create more of a community around the business for other South Asian women and to build a supportive network.

In the past, I have been involved in charity giveaways with other organisations where either a portion of the sales were donated or the candles were. I did a collaboration with Bloody Good Period and make a "Bloody Good Candle" to raise awareness of Menstrual Health Day and period poverty.

Are there any charitable causes or organisations you are passionate about supporting?

I would like to support organisations in India aimed at supporting women in the future.

Anu Kera London

Work hard, play hard! What is your go-to way to unwind after a busy day of work?

Depends on how social I am feeling! These days, I try to prioritise my health as much as possible, so usually I go to some sort of fitness class. Or I'll spend time with friends. Sometimes though, you just can't go wrong with a lazy night of watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram for an unnecessary amount of time.

Can you share a favourite travel destination or a memorable experience that left a lasting impression on you?

New Zealand, without a doubt! I think it is probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Some parts of it just look fake because it’s so pristine. The natural landscapes there are mind-blowing. Everything is very green. The people were lovely. So much interesting history as well.

Body & Mind

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