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The Sweet Smell of Success

Tajinder Banwait started her luxury home fragrance business at her kitchen table back in 2002. She now sells her products in 34 countries and to major UK retailers including Fenwick, Next, and Selfridges…

Today, Urban Apothecary London is a sweet-smelling success born out of Tajinder’s passion for fragrance and aromatic nostalgia.

The company currently produces over 10,000 candles and diffusers a week at its factory in Leicestershire, a figure which they expect to triple in 2024.

Signature scents including ‘Oriental Noir,’ ‘Smoked Leather,’ and ‘Velvet Peony’ are all firm favorites alongside ‘Oudh Geranium’ – a global best seller.

“All of my fragrances are related to a memory or a mood, or something really personal to me,” explained the entrepreneur, who was born and bred in Leicester.

“Scents tend to start off with a memory from me, for example, we’ve got ‘Bay Berry’ – a fresh, fruity fragrance that reminds me of picking blackberries with my cousins as a youngster. It’s lovely for me as a founder to produce scents that mean so much to me and which are also enjoyed by lots of other people across the world.

“I think the fact that they’re handcrafted and made with a lot of love is what customers enjoy,” she went on to reveal. “It is a really hands-on experience, and I work with perfumers in the UK to create the fragrances collectively. I’ll sort of feed in what I’m looking for, and then I’ll go through hundreds of submissions until we find the right one. It’s a process – a labor of love which I really enjoy.”

Tajinder began Urban Apothecary at her kitchen table after giving birth to her first child. She’d spent ten years working in the beauty sector and felt that starting her own business was a natural ‘next step,’ especially since she comes from an entrepreneurial family.

In the 70s, her father ran one of the largest clothing manufacturers in Leicester. He also shared a jeans brand with his brothers, so was on hand to lend sound business advice to Tajinder as she plunged into her fragrant mission – to
turn perfumed passion into profit.

“I knew that I wanted my own business, and having my first child was the catalyst to make that a reality,” she said. “I really loved fragrance and when I looked at trends, the home fragrance market was forecast to grow year on year for the next five years. So I thought that could be a really good sector to be in.

“I pitched it to lots of retailers, and John Lewis took six months worth of stock, which sold out in six weeks.
“We went from 13 stores to 24 to 26 and then 30 very quickly. To think that we’re now selling in 34 countries and
growing year on year is just phenomenal. We worked so hard to build the brand internationally and it paid off…

In 2022, Tajinder’s business was given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – the most prestigious business award in the UK. They are the first candle brand to win the international trade award in its 56-year history.

As well as winning the Queen’s Award, one of the brand’s key achievements has been manufacturing the candles in-house. After previously using a third party, Tajinder learned how to make candles from scratch in six months and set up a candle factory in Leicestershire, which gave her full control of the business and the quality of the products.

Asked what it takes to run a successful business, she insists that hard work and resilience are some of the main ingredients required, as well as the ability to adapt to change.
“You’re always going to have challenges, and while it may look rosy on the outside, there is a lot of
hard work that goes into building a business,” she said.

“You’ve got to be prepared to work really hard until you can build a team. That legwork that you do in the beginning – researching your market and working out a niche will put you in good stead for the future. Networking is hugely important, and don’t be afraid to take calculated risks,” she added.

“When you have your own business, it’s difficult because you’re so close to it. You put your heart and soul into
producing something and just hope that it resonates with the end consumer. Luckily, it all worked out, and I couldn’t be any happier.
“Taking the plunge in business was the best thing I could have done for me. Just to do something that you love every day, is just so rewarding.”

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