Handmade in Harpenden is a fragrance and skincare business, founded in 2017 by school friends Farhana Haque and Henry Draine. “We create home, bath, body and skincare products. Everything is made, bottled, sealed and labelled in our studio,” says Farhana.

She came up with the idea for Handmade in Harpenden as a result of her allergies and asthma. “When it came to scented products, I had to read labels really carefully, to make sure what I was going to be inhaling wouldn’t affect me. It’s an issue that I wanted to solve by making scented products that aren’t full of preservatives and toxins that can affect people like myself.”

The co-founders sell their products through their website, local markets and a network of 20 stockists. Earlier this year, they opened their own shop in Harpenden near St Albans. In 2021 their sales have grown by 285%. They use Starling to manage the business finances.

From tech to fragrance

Farhana and Henry, both 26, have known each other for 10 years. “We met at school in St Albans and have both worked in the tech start-up world. We were in front of computers all day and so making a physical product was something we found really therapeutic. It began as a weekend hobby and grew from there.”

Before Handmade in Harpenden, Henry had worked as a data scientist for Tesco. Farhana was the Head of Legal for the digital receipts provider Flux, a Starling Business Marketplace partner. Marketplace is the section of the Starling app where customers can connect to third-party products and services. She first heard about Starling while she was working for Flux.

“Our backgrounds complement each other - Henry handles all the production, cosmetic testing and science side of the business. And I do marketing, sales, design and legal work.” Henry has been working on the business full-time since 2018. Farhana went full-time in 2020.

Selling scented candles

One challenge that Farhana and Henry face is around communicating the different scents of their candles to an online audience. “It’s so difficult to market scents online - with clothes you can watch a video and describe the material. But scent is so personal. It has so much power to trigger memories,” she says.

“When someone smells fig, they don’t always know that it’s fig, they know that it’s something that reminds them of a garden with a fig tree.”

The co-founders aim to use this association between memory and scent to their advantage. “We named the scents for memories that either Henry or I have,” says Farhana.

Handmade in Harpenden was founded by Farhana and Henry, pictured above

“For example, one of my favourites is Mother’s Allotment. My mum is a great gardener and grows all sorts of fruits, vegetables and flowers. The scent is a blend of rhubarb, pear, plum and blackberry. One of Henry’s is Summer’s Evening, which is a jasmine and ylang ylang blend, inspired by his childhood memory of having a jasmine climber across his house,” she says.

The glassware and the majority of their ingredients come from the UK and all their range is free from animal testing and products.

Simplifying business with the Starling Marketplace

“When Handmade in Harpenden first took off and we began looking for a business bank, Starling’s Marketplace was a huge winning factor,” says Farhana.

Farhana particularly loves the Marketplace integration with Xero, which she uses for bookkeeping. “The integration runs in real time which is really useful and not something high street banks offer,” she says. “Starling is effortless and reliable - it solves problems.”

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