Meet the Maker: House of Lilah

We meet Chantal M’Biki, founder of House of Lilah. She explains how a love of art inspired her to start a brand that encourages us to unleash our creativity through the sensory experience of scented candles and flavoursome teas…

What is your inspiration for House of Lilah?

I’ve been working in marketing – mainly in the beauty industry – for around 18 years. I’ve worked both in Paris and the UK, so I have a good understanding of what it takes to build a brand.

There are a lot of candle companies out there that focus on relaxation and calm, but I wanted to create something different. I didn’t want to just add simple products to the market. I love the arts and creativity and House of Lilah brings this together. We make tea and candle sets that complement each other to produce a creative atmosphere and encourage the creative process.

We have three candles that pair with two teas each. The scents of the candles complement and enhance the flavours found in the teas. These fall into three categories that I believe mirror the three steps of the creative process: Mindfulness, Freedom and Curiosity.

Tell us about your products

There are three main gift sets to support and encourage each phase of the creative process. Mindfulness is stage one. Often, when we’re trying to be creative, we can have a lot of energy and not know where to begin. Mindfulness encourages us to pause and take a step back.

The candle in this set is called Slow Motion – it’s warming and soothing with notes of amber, dark woods and leather.  The two teas that pair with this candle are indulging and perfect for self-care. The flavours include Loving Kindness – a delicious combination of rooibos, orange, chocolate and cinnamon, and Here & Now – a blend of white peony tea, liquorice, cinnamon and star anise.

The next stage of the creative process is embracing freedom and unleashing your inner child. We’re all born with creativity but we tend to lose it. As we grow older we get scared of judgement. This is where the House of Lilah Freedom set comes in.

This energising set is all about having fun. The candle combines scents of lemongrass, lime and eucalyptus for a zingy and fresh atmosphere. The two teas that pair are fruity blends. This set includes the playfully named Enchanted Carousel – black tea flavoured with strawberries, cream and cotton candy.

The final phase of the creative process is curiosity. It’s all about exploring, escaping and not being afraid to try something new. The Curiosity set brings a combination of different flavours together –the candle includes ripened tomatoes, leafy greens and orchard fruits. One of the teas – Tropical Escape – smells like a pina colada and is an invitation to escapism. The other tea – Fruit on Fire – invites you to be more adventurous with a blend of rooibos tea, apple, chilli and kaffir lime.

How important is sustainability?

Any brand launching in 2020 needs to be aware of sustainability, and House of Lilah is no exception. Our teas are sourced from a few tea gardens in China, India and Sri Lanka and are hand-picked using traditional methods. The pouches that we use for our teas are recyclable and all of the labels are biodegradable.

All of our packaging is recyclable or reusable.  Our candle jars are made from concrete. I hand-paint each of the jars myself, so by nature we are very small batch. I encourage my customers to reuse the jar after the candle has finished – they make really lovely pots for houseplants.

How did you get involved with Arts Emergency?

Arts Emergency is a charity that goes into schools across the UK offering a mentoring programme to help marginalised young people. I’m a mentor with Arts Emergency and I work with a young person in London, giving them access to my network and opening up opportunities.

I was fortunate growing up to have a strong network around me – including my mother. She was very inspirational. But not everyone has these role models in their lives. Without role models or opportunities, kids don’t allow themselves to dream. Arts and culture help develop imagination but it’s still something that can be restricted to the privileged few. Anyone should be able to benefit from the arts, this is why Arts Emergency is so important.

Alongside being a mentor, 10% of the profits from House of Lilah go to supporting Arts Emergency.

How has lockdown been?

This year has been a struggle. At the beginning of the year I was still working full time alongside launching House of Lilah. I was working almost 24/7 and it definitely impacted my mental health. Alongside this, the plans I had for mentoring with Arts Emergency were put on hold and the creative industries have really been penalised.

But there have been lots of positives too. This time gave me the push I needed to launch my own business full time. I’m not sure I would have dared to otherwise!

I’ve also learnt a lot of new skills. My plan for the brand was always to launch at events and be face-to-face with my customers. Launching just two weeks before lockdown meant that we had to quickly develop a website and learn how to run an online business during lockdown.’

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