Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.
This week we chat with candle maker, Jacklyn McCulloh, Founder of Inner Alchemist. For a cruelty-free home, she believed in the powerful combination of candle and crystal, to curate a beautiful addition to any home. With the beauty of affirmations kept at the forefront, the brand transforms your inner self with its positive energy and ethical materials.
Designed with 100 percent soy wax, these vegan-friendly candles come with a wooden, lead and nickel-free wick and a produced in Dubai with fine attention to detail by keeping the environment in mind.
To delve further, Emirates Woman spoke to McCulloh to understand how she converted her passion into a full-time business.
What was your first job?
A waitress in a small Scottish restaurant when I was 17 years old or technically it was when I was 8 and set up a “business” in school selling homemade CDs which lasted a couple of days until I was caught and suspended and my entrepreneur dreams were crushed.
What brought you to Dubai?
When I was 21 my friend was going to the Emirates cabin crew open day in Glasgow, I went along with her and ended up getting the job and left for Dubai pretty much as soon as I could, because I was going to university at the time and really really hated it with a passion, so moving to Dubai was my way out of uni. Plus an amazing, magical adventure! I was crew for a few years then became Executive Assistant to the CEO of a Financial Planning company for years after that too. 10 years on and I’m still here.
What inspired you to enter candle space and launch Inner Alchemist?
My laptop has lots of unfinished business plan folders because I’ve come up with so many over the years, and my mind is always thinking of business ideas in everything and anything. At the end of my last job as an Executive Assistant, I was coming up with a new idea every month because I was starting to get restless and knew I had so much more to offer than what I was doing…even though I loved my job and my boss so much which I was so so grateful for, I’d started to outgrow it and wanted to create something I was more passionate about. Crystal-infused candles happened to be my business idea of the month when I was made redundant, and also one of my more long-standing business ideas, as I get really into one for a period then get bored of it, but crystal-infused candles stuck with me for a long time. My boss had moved to another country a year prior and I had been working for him remotely from Dubai, and despite his attempts to get me to travel to the country he moved to, I wanted to stay in Dubai. I was excited (with a hint of anxiousness) when I was made redundant because I felt like this was the universe pushing me in the direction I wanted to go in…and like I had a new blank slate to do or create anything I wanted to. So Inner Alchemist was born!
Talk us through the inspiration of your candles?
The name Inner Alchemist means “inner magic”, which I believe all of us have, we just have to activate it and work on it – through meditation, prayer, rituals, gratitude, mindfulness etc. And I want my products to help bring out and inspire the “inner magic” in everyone. I suffer from allergies quite badly and whenever I used to light a well-known candle in my house it would set me off into a coughing fit and feeling short of breath. I started looking into what exactly is put into candles and it led me to a little project of making my own non-toxic and vegan ones at home because I refused to let my allergies get in the way of letting me use candles. They just do so much in a room, something so simple but it creates so much ambiance, changes the whole aura of space and makes it so cosy and this was important as my surroundings are so important to me. I also used to suffer quite badly from anxiety and affirmations have helped me so much in the past to overcome that. I still write affirmations daily and feel like they’ve helped me so much, so I wanted to incorporate that into the candles too. I feel affirmations can magically change your energy and my candles are all about “Inner magic”, so I wanted to incorporate that into the candles too. I’ve always been obsessed with crystals since I was young I used to collect them. Both candles and crystals I feel are a perfect combination for meditation and rituals which is why I feel they’re so perfect together. Additionally, the crackling wooden wicks.for me this is the ULTIMATE noise for meditation as it’s perfect too. I’m also against animal cruelty and so without a doubt, I’d never create something that wasn’t vegan. So that was a no-brainer.
What are the key elements of your role?
I’m involved with everything – design & production of the candles, web development, social media and marketing, sales, customer service & accounting. I’ve had a bit of difficulty with delegating and it’s something I’m working on this year as a top priority, because I can’t do everything I’m doing everything myself. It’s been really difficult for me to trust people to hand over my “baby” to, even though I also know that there are so many people out there who will be so much better at certain aspects of the business than I am. I’m extremely impatient so if I have an idea, I want to make it happen instantly. If it’s a design for example, I’ll convince myself that it will be faster for me to stay up all night training myself on Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator (via YouTube videos) to make it myself rather than hiring a graphics designer. Or I’ll convince myself that it’s faster to train myself in Facebook ads than to hire someone in Marketing. I have “do everything myself” syndrome, but I’m working on it!
Talk us through your daily routine.
I wake up at 6-7am (depending on what time I finish work the night before). I do my gratitude journal and affirmations followed by 15 minutes of meditation. I have to force myself to do this because usually, I wake up wanting to get straight into work knowing I have so much to do. But I think it’s so important to set your energy and intentions for the day. I take my little dog peanut on a walk and listen to an audiobook. This part of my day is the only “set” part of my day – the rest really varies day by day. Sometimes I am involved with candle production and decoration, sometimes I’m out at a venue creating content for social media, scheduling social media, tracking and amending Facebook ads, invoicing and chasing overdue invoice payments (constantly), designing new products, customer service, sales/speaking with potential customers/event planners/brands or wholesalers, amending proposals and catalogs, calculating and sending quotes, liasing with the warehouse on any orders that need special attention, inventory and raw materials management, accounting and looking for people that can help me in specific areas that I can’t do myself. So, I don’t have a specific routine, I’m drowning in work at the moment, but I love the fact that every day is different and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I also love being able to work from anywhere a lot of the time and on my Admin days I normally sit on my laptop at Blended/ULA – one of the venues that stock my candles and it’s such good vibes that I like to spend the whole day there on my laptop.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
To stop caring what people think, because it keeps you trapped in an unhappy box. If someone speaks badly about you it is essentially just a reflection of them – not of you. If there’s something you want to do then just leap and do it. It’s your life and if you’re passionate enough about it you’ll find a way to make it work. You’ll regret looking back and wondering what might have been. “You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self-doubt” – Oprah Winfrey
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Feeding the trolls is a waste of your time. Ignore them and allow mastery to be your response – Robin Sharma
And what is the worst?
To be honest (I think due to the fact I’ve been an anxious person in the past), I’m selective of who I allow in my space and I’m so lucky that everyone I have around me is so uplifting and inspiring and doesn’t tend to give out particularly “bad advice”. When I was in high school all of my friends were aiming to become Doctors (and they did) and I was aiming to become a Dentist because that was what I was taught success and happiness was from school. All of my cousins are also Doctors and Dentists. I didn’t even think of or know there might be another option, other than maybe becoming a lawyer as a “back up”? I was one “A” short of making it into Medicine/Dentistry and I was devastated at the time. I went to uni to do Biomedical Science as the long way into Dentistry (9 years of being a student to become a Dentist). I hated it so much I quit and started Business Law, thinking it was something that is also “accepted and respected” by society. Then I moved to Dubai and left the university. When I came back to Glasgow for the first time I bumped into some old school friends and I’ll never forget one of them asking me what degree I ended up getting and if I was a Dentist or Lawyer yet. When I replied “no, I dropped out of university and moved to Dubai”, he replied by patting me on the head and telling me “don’t worry, at least you’re pretty”. It’s probably a moment that has driven me for a long time, I was furious at the time but I’m still grateful that it gave me the drive to prove that I am worth something more than face value. I guess it’s not bad advice as such, but more bad guidance…I’ve learned that you do not need to be a Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer or anything perceived in other people’s eyes as “success or happiness” to be successful. It’s what makes you happy and passionate that counts. I was living to make other people happy or impressed, and I wasn’t happy. Now I do what makes me inspired and passionate, and I am so happy I’ve been brave enough to take the risk.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Trying to juggle everything and time management. At the beginning, I was almost proud to say I did everything myself with no help from anyone, which yes I did, but it’s not productive. Everything ends up being done mediocre because your time and is stretched so finely, instead of each area getting the attention it needs and deserves. I also have ADHD and I find it difficult to jump about different tasks – for example, if I’m in the middle of something and get distracted by something else briefly, I completely forget whatever I was doing in the first place. This is why I’m prioritising finding the perfect team this year. It’s also been difficult (and still is) to find a balance. Sometimes I’m working so much that I turn down every invite to get work done. But going out and relaxing a bit from work has led me to meet the best connections, contacts, and sales and ended up being even more productive than staying home and doing work would have been. It’s also just healthy to give your brain a break from work sometimes because you come back even better and recharge. So finding this balance has been really difficult.
What are the future plans for your brand?
So many plans! One big plan I have is that I’d like to expand more on my bespoke candles and collaborations. I recently worked with Christian Louboutin and made bespoke candles for their Ramadan collection launch in Dubai Mall. I’ve been in contact with more luxury brands about future collaborations and I’d like to work with event and wedding planners to create their bespoke crystal-infused candles for their occasions or brand. This will eventually come under a sister company – www.bespokecrystalcandles.com – but I enjoy working with people and creating something together, and of course, it’s a dream to work with Christian Louboutin! I’m also in the process of making some design adjustments which I can’t wait to launch! New fragrances and crystals coming soon. I’ve been working on a few new wellness products, one recent one has been the Love Potion Botanical Soul Soak bath salts. International shipping is on the to-do list.
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