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Mentoring Programme by HSBC UK: Aya Aromas Success Story

How mentoring made ‘everything seem possible’ for one home fragrance brand

For Aya Aromas, getting mentoring from HSBC UK through the UK Black Business Week and Show has taken them in the right direction.

Georgette & Sophinne Aikins-Sancho
Aya Aromas Founders

Sisters Georgette and Sophinne founded their business, Aya Aromas, in July 2020. Their luxury affordable home fragrance brand specialises in candles, wax melts and diffusers. The sisters get inspiration for their scents from childhood memories, and all their products are plastic-free, recyclable, and use vegan alternatives.

The business started when the sisters moved house and wanted to buy luxury affordable candles, but the only ones they could find were overpriced, bad for the environment and didn’t burn for long enough.

“We bought a candle-making kit and the rest was history.”

Their aim is to create authentic uplifting scents for people in their homes.

“Especially during lockdown, when it was such a difficult time, we wanted to give people something positive to look forward to in the future,” says Georgette.

Before starting Aya Aromas they had no business experience, says Sophinne, so getting mentoring via HSBC UK has really helped their business journey.

“We came across HSBC UK and our mentor Maria through the UK Black Business Show,” says Sophinne.

Since then, Georgette and Sophinne have been meeting Maria Alavi, an Area Director at HSBC UK, fortnightly, to discuss their business progress.

“Maria has helped us in many ways, for example, she helped give us ideas of how to keep a long-term relationship with brands we’ve worked with in the past,” says Georgette.

“One thing I love about working Maria is that as a small business, we always have ideas of new events we can put on, new products we can put out, but she really helps us take baby steps in the right direction,” says Sophinne.

“The best thing, though, is that Maria just makes everything seem possible.”

Along with advice and suggestions, Maria has also supported the sisters in practical ways to drive sales online and in person, for example, giving them the opportunity to work in the HSBC Canary Wharf space for two days, and build exposure for their brand.

“It has been a great opportunity and a pleasure to mentor Aya Aromas,” says Maria.

“Sophinne and Georgette are an inspiration to me as they work full time and run the business in the evenings and over the weekends.”

Areas she has worked on with them, she says, include rebranding, thinking about their price, and growth strategy.

Aya Aroma’s ambition is to be stocked in stores around the UK, and to continue to sell globally but on a bigger scale. They want to expand Aya Aromas into a wellness brand, and introduce new products. They have also partnered with a charity in Ghana that works with female entrepreneurs.

“What we’ve really enjoyed is the journey,” says Sophinne. “Being an online business, we’ve been able to sell to countries we’ve never even been to, such as Saudi Arabia and Germany, and we’ve also sold all across the US.”

So, what have Georgette and Sophinne learned from having a mentor?

“One of the biggest lessons for me is that there are many ways of getting something done. Try exploring every avenue and find what works for you.”

Maria has helped them to think of creative ways to engage their customers and grow sales. As well as keeping them motivated when they’ve felt down about certain business areas.

Maria agrees that the mentoring sessions have been valuable. “The discussions are engaging and they always come prepared with an update on all actions we agree on. I am excited about the future of their business,” she says.

The Aya Aromas sisters have this advice to share with others who are considering working with a mentor:

“Everyone benefits from having a mentor,” they say. “Come prepared to sessions but also listen and action the points discussed and slowly you will see differences.” 

As headline partners of the Birmingham Black Business Show, HSBC UK is offering a FREE mentorship program for Black-owned businesses, providing guidance, education and support to help you thrive as an entrepreneur.

Participants will be matched with a HSBC UK mentor who will provide support across various areas of business including business forecasting, digital development, working capital management and communications.

With only a limited number of places available, apply today.

Meet HSBC UK at the Birmignham Black Business Show. Book a meeting here.