Vic and Kat are chemical engineering graduates who attended the same high school and both worked for two of the world’s largest global cosmetic companies. Victoria worked for L’Oreal as well as a personal care manufacturer for brands such as Le Labo and Byredo, and Katerina holds a European and Fragrance Cosmetics Master from ISIPCA (post-graduate school in France) and had worked at Estee Lauder for brands like MAC and Tom Ford. After working in the industry for a few years, the two connected with the idea to start their own thing.
In 2018, they launched LOHN, a candle brand with clean scents and recyclable packaging. Each candle is vegan, paraben-free, phthalate-free and lead-free. They also launched a custom scent studio based in Toronto last summer.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to start LOHN?
Victoria is Polish and Katerina is Lithuanian/Estonian, and we wanted to find a story that connected these countries. What we found was “The Amber Road”, which was the inspiration for our first candle collection! The word Lohn means ‘scent’ in Estonian, and ‘reward’ in Old German. Our brand tagline is ‘the journey is the reward’, and we are all about embracing and scenting your own personal journey.
We create scents that are inspired by the roads less travelled, specifically ancient trade routes. Our second collection is inspired by the Tea Road, where tea was carried across the Himalayas to Nepal.
What does your typical day look like?
Everyday is so different! That’s what we love about running a business. When we’re not in the studio together, Kat is usually handling the operational/financial side of things, like ordering raw materials and corresponding with custom clients. Vic is the creative genius behind the brand and she’s usually working on digital marketing strategies or new product concepts.
What was the worst piece of advice you've ever received?
Kat: To accept a corporate job last summer instead of pursuing the business full-time (pretty much everyone except my boyfriend gave me this advice). Luckily I listened to my gut and despite the stress leading up to really seeing the work pay off, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Vic: Making the decision to work on LOHN full time took months of back and forth. Just like Kat, the advice I got from a lot of people was to play it safe and continue to work full time until LOHN could be a full time business. Unless you dive in head first and fully invest yourself in your side hustle, you can never realize its full potential! Looking back I can’t believe I didn’t trust my gut feelings more to take the leap a lot earlier.
What does success mean to you?
Kat: Feeling fulfilled by putting in 110% into my everyday work (even on the mundane tasks!) and making our customers happy. Also, when I see customers re-order from us :)
Vic: Feeling excited and proud about what you do.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
Kat: Listening to podcasts such as “How I Built This” and “EXPANDED with Lacey Phillips” has helped me a lot with overcoming self-doubt. Taking a break from social media (especially right now!) when I find myself comparing ourselves to our competition is another hot tip for anyone else who is going through something similar!
Vic: I think moments of self-doubt can be caused by how we talk to ourselves.
I build myself back up by quieting my mind. I’m a pretty anxious person and only recently learned there’s a difference between what you feel and what you think. When you voice your feelings vs. the thoughts in your head, it helps you quickly realize that the awful thoughts you have going on in your mind aren’t true. It’s something I check on daily and makes a huge difference in my outlook on life.
Do you have any morning routines or evening rituals to help you stay balanced?
Kat: I try my best to get some movement in for at least 15 minutes every weekday morning (I take weekends off to treat myself for all my hard work). Whether it’s a quick yoga or HIIT session, or just a stroll outside, moving my body really helps set the tone for my day.
Vic: I don’t look at my phone until I’ve made a smoothie (banana, blueberries, vanilla vegan protein, almond milk and water), washed my face, brushed my teeth and put on my skincare. At night I’ll put my phone on do-not-disturb and charge it in the kitchen. It helps me have a restful sleep and I definitely need a good sleep to stay balanced.
What are your tips for finding a great co-founder?
Kat: Find someone who has complementary skill sets to yours! Vic and I are completely different in our strengths and weaknesses, and I believe that’s what really helped us build our brand and flourish after almost five years of working together now.
Vic: I wouldn’t recommend starting a business with a close friend. Kat & I are obviously friends but the friendship came to be over the years of working together. Things are way more personal when you work with a close friend, it makes it hard to have the tough conversations you need to have with your business partner.
If you liked this interview, you might like our recent interview with Nicole Smith, founder of Flytographer.