Smell is one of our most powerful senses. Freshly mown grass reminding you of blissful spring days or catching someone’s perfume and it taking you back to a particular time or place.
And scent is one of the key things for Thabang ‘Thabi’ Motsei, founder and creative director of LAGOM – The Good Balance a home fragrance brand with a focus on artisanal natural scented candles and wax melts.
“The scents I use for the candles are heavily linked to memories,” she reveals.
“That is why I chose lavender and ylang ylang for my first candle as it reminded me of my gran.
“She had a wonderful herb garden so there were so many smells I associated with her, but I wanted something calming and peaceful. I was initially going to call the lavender candle comfort but instead I went for balance.”
The business recently celebrated its one-year anniversary
Thabi lives in St Leonards on Sea, she moved from Hackney in London after looking for a ‘quiet pace of life’.
“I was tired of London and wanted to live somewhere I could be near real people, that wasn’t busy all the time,” she explains.
“I wanted somewhere that wasn’t really ‘cool’ such as Brighton so we found St Leonards on Sea and Hastings.
“But Hastings actually has this amazing creative bubble.
“There is a really creative vibe here and there is a buzz but people know when to stop. For example many places close on a Monday and Tuesday as you live by the sea why would you want to work seven days a week.
“In London shops are open at 1am and you can just whip out your card without thinking whereas here places will shut at 11pm and some you need cash and if you don’t have it, you have to find it.”
Thabi hopes that her candles and melts can help people relax and unwind.
“The business is about finding balance and taking time for yourself even if it is 20 minutes in the bath to just stop and relax,” she says.
“I am very careful to switch off as running your own business can mean you can talk about it 24.7. I have recently been running a pop up shop and I spent all day talking to people so when I got home I want to catch up with my husband or my friends and hear their stories rather than talk about the business.”
The name La Gom is Swedish and means ‘not too much, not too little, just enough’ and Thabi adds that in modern culture everything is about getting more - more time with your family or more money whereas she doesn’t understand why people can’t be happy in the middle.
She had previously lived in Moscow working as a broadcast journalist, but when Thabi came back to the UK to live with her husband, she found herself unemployed and saying yes to everything, including a candle making workshop.
“I did it and loved it,” she reveals.
“I started making them for myself and then friends kept saying ‘why don’t you sell them’ but I felt the candle market was saturated so I didn’t want to enter it.
“But then a friend of mine said do it. She had her own business and said ‘I want a product by this date and I’ll sell it on my website. What have you got to lose if it doesn’t work then you have started a business from start to finish and if it does, who knows where it will go’, she was right.”
The candles are made using soy wax and Thabi makes and blends everything by hand to make sure she doesn’t use more than three natural essential oils.
“Someone once said to me in a cafe if you don’t love the process than stop doing it,” reveals Thabi.
“People think if something is your hobby you will love it as a business but you have to love the other bits in between the creative process. The finding new suppliers, thinking about your next market, looking at branding. Yes the making is the fun part but there is so much more to it that you need to love it all or it won’t work.”
For the website, visit www.wearelagom.com
Portrait picture: Ivo Pauls
Product pictures: Thabang Motsei