GRADUATION 2020: How one student's journey with mental health led to business success
Natasha Boorer is BA (Hons) Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Salford alongside her studies, she is also the owner of the Manchester-based vegan candle and homeware brand NOA.
Natasha had always struggled with her anxiety, especially throughout university. Feeling like she didn’t fit in to the stereotypical student lifestyle, Natasha’s issues with her mental wellbeing meant she never participated in social events missing out on things like fresher’s week and other university social life.
Dealing with the struggles of her mental health and feeling unhappy in her part time job, Natasha decided to take up candle making in December 2018.
She said: “It was basically a bit of an accident. I said to my partner that I wanted to start something new because I was really unhappy in my job and I knew I liked making things, so I figured I’d try candle making. So, I saved up £200, my partner helped me with my website and the photography then it just kind of took off in February 2019.”
After seeing how expensive homemade candles were Natasha decided to try making them herself but at an affordable price point. She said: “I wanted to make products that are natural, organic, and made with UK materials.”
“I just wanted to do something that would make me feel a little bit happier especially as I was struggling so much at the time. I needed something to keep me occupied and that was my own that I could focus all my energy into.
It started off as something I enjoyed making here and there and then it just took over my life and snowballed. It’s just crazy!”
The success of NOA only continued to grow. So much so, that in May Natasha was able to leave her part time job to run her business full time alongside her studies.
“It’s a bit of a juggling act behind the scenes. I do the styling and then my partner photographs them literally in our lounge at home! It’s very makeshift and do it yourself. It’s not perfect but it works, and it saves money. A lot of people are shocked to hear that it’s just me and I don’t have a team behind me,” she said.
“I try to balance running NOA with my university work. For example, say I know I have a deadline approaching I will take a step back from NOA and perhaps shut the shop for a week or 2 or do a smaller restock and just pace it out to make sure I get my work done and focus on university,” she added.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted businesses all over the world but for Natasha sales have been at an all-time high.
“This time of year is when my final pieces of work are due in and I figured the shop would be really quiet so I would be able to just step back and close it for a month while I finished my work but the reality was it was absolutely crazy.
Even with COVID going on I have been busier than Christmas. Last month I sent 300 parcels and 30 wholesale orders. That was probably the first time I really felt pressure from running and business and trying to complete a degree,” she said.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Natasha, like most businesses, has had to adapt to new ways of working. “I have a little studio space in Manchester that I share with my partner but obviously because of COVID I had to move everything NOA related to my spare room. So, it’s now my packing room where I pretty much make, store, and pack everything NOA related. It’s a little bit cramped at the moment but we’re making it work!”
With over 8,000 Instagram followers, Natasha has built up a large community on social media that love her candles. She said: “I create products for different things. For example, I have my best seller, Anxious Mind, which is my own anxiety release blend and that’s always been the most popular - everyone raves about how much it’s helped them.
For me, that’s so humbling to know that the products I’m making are actually helping people. It’s one of the main reasons I started NOA because I wanted people to find a little bit of calm from the outside world.”
When creating the brand, Natasha wanted to make sure she could offer products that were affordable, especially with being a student.
“A lot of time and love goes into making the candles. I just wanted to have that option there for people who are maybe strapped for cash, but they still want to get a little treat for themselves that can brighten up their day. That’s why our products start from £7.95, it’s always been really important to me,” she said.
When thinking about the future Natasha said: “Salford has been great, I’ve had a lot of support from my lecturers regarding my mental health. I love journalism and I find it so interesting!”
She continued: “Running your own business is not all that it seems, it is hard to get to where you want to be but just because you’re a student doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Anything is possible and there’ll never really be a right time to do it. You could wake up tomorrow and say ‘right I want to do this’ and if you’re driven enough to do it then you will get there and over time you will grow, and it will be your own little amazing thing. I’ve never really looked at myself as a ‘businesswoman’, NOA was my little happy hobby that has turned into what it is today.”
You can shop NOA products here.