Sweet smell of success: A nine-year-old entrepreneur in Surrey has big plans

Jan 4 2023, 2:55 pm

Like many nine-year-old kids, Lily Harper enjoys baking cookies, going ice skating, and playing with her friends. But unlike most kiddos, Lily is also a successful entrepreneur with big plans for the future. “I would like to have a huge, huge factory,” she says. “I want more stock.”

Lily is the founder of Lily Lou’s Aromas, a Surrey company that makes candles, wax melts, reed diffusers, and room and linen sprays.

“My house smells delicious,” says Lily’s mother, Chloe.

Lily Harper and her father, working in the kitchen

The sweet-smelling products are sold through the company’s website and also in a handful of stores across the country. Lily started experimenting with wax melts and candles when she was seven, launched the business at eight, and now, at nine, sounds like a seasoned professional when she discusses the value of her product line. Candles, she says, remind you “to take care of yourself and just step back and have self-care time.”

The whole enterprise started in 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began. Lily had been having difficulties in elementary school, dealing with both bullies and concentration problems. “Lily really struggled with focusing on a book and sitting quietly,” Chloe says.

“I have ADHD,” Lily announces matter-of-factly. “I need to run around and stuff.”

Lily Harper pouring wax from a jug

Chloe, who was pregnant with Lily’s younger sister at the time, took on the task of homeschooling. “I was way out of my depth,” Chloe says. “I felt like I was failing at being a mom.” She recalls sobbing on the phone to her own mother, “I’m not a teacher! I don’t know what I’m doing!” But Chloe’s parents reassured her. “My parents owned corner stores in the UK. They said to me, ‘Just get some boxes and build a store and let her play. Let her learn through play.’”

The pretend store was a success, teaching Lily subjects such as math in a hands-on way. When she asked to learn how to make wax melts, Chloe agreed, figuring the process should deliver some science lessons.

“The more we leaned into it, the more we just realized that she was really thriving and enjoying herself,” Chloe says. “Coming from being bullied and being really subdued and not bringing her ideas forward to all of a sudden seeing her being able to be happy and excited about things was, I felt, a real ‘win’ moment as a mom.”

Lily Harper packing a box for a shipment

Lily started selling her wax melts as part of a fundraiser for gymnastics. After she shared some videos of her wax melts and candles on social media, a store owner reached out to ask about carrying the products in her shop. Lily Lou’s Aromas grew organically from there. But the young entrepreneur doesn’t view what she does as work, insisting, “It feels exciting and fun to do.”

At the same time, she learns useful real-life skills every day. “It’s really good life experience,” Chloe points out. “I learned how to play the recorder at school, but I never learned how to pay taxes.”

The business provides a wealth of opportunities for education and growth. “It gives us lots of daily challenges,” Chloe says. “We try and encourage Lily to sit and think about how could she solve the problem” when an issue arises, instead of giving up or immediately asking an adult for help.

Lily doesn’t feel troubled whenever things do, inevitably, go wrong: “It’s not a problem. It’s a puzzle.” Then she sets her mind to finding a solution.

Lily Harper typing on a laptop for her Lily Lou's Aromas business

Like many entrepreneurs, she has had to learn the importance of finding the right job for each person in the business. Lily describes an early moment in the company’s history when her mother was pouring wax melts: “She poured all of the wax onto the floor.”

“I realized that I’m not very good at making wax melts,” Chloe admits. “So I got demoted to bow-tying.” But her official title? “I think it’s chief snack-maker.” She also takes care of the company’s social media and looks after Lily’s young sister, Ellie.

Lily’s father, Sergio, is now in charge of pouring wax, along with handling customer service and deliveries. “He’s a much better help than I am,” Chloe says, then she notices the expression on her daughter’s face. “You don’t have to eye roll so hard, Lily.”

Lily Harper posing with some Lily Lou's Aromas products

In addition to selling items that make a home smell good, Lily Lou’s Aromas also places a priority on donating to organizations such as One Tree Planted and the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “Charity has always been very important to us,” Chloe says. She and Sergio clearly taught their daughter well, as evidenced by one incident in particular.

Lily always seemed to end up in the hospital around Christmas. “When I was younger, I had a heart condition. I had seven holes in my heart,” she explains. The first year she was able to spend the holidays at home, she decided to give back to the sick kids who weren’t as lucky by teaming up with a local mall and collecting gifts to be delivered to the hospital’s children’s wing.

“Before we knew it, we had over 2,000 gifts,” Chloe says proudly.

Someday, Lily would like to own a huge factory, expanding her company to produce more items. But right now her product line is limited by the size of the family’s kitchen.

“We need the warehouse space before we run with Lily’s ideas,” Chloe says. “She has lots of energy.”

Assortment of beautiful candles by Lily Lou's Aromas

Lily Lou’s Aromas is proving to be a useful example to the young entrepreneur’s friends. “We find Lily really inspires her friends to open businesses,” Chloe says. One friend has started making soaps, while another is contemplating making dog collars.

“I learned so much more from a business than being at school,” Lily says.

When asked if she has words of wisdom for her fellow entrepreneurs, Lily immediately offers advice that makes her sound older than her nine years. “Follow your passion. Follow your dreams,” she says. If you ever find yourself wandering off track, Lily advises writing down the three things you most want to accomplish each day, then focusing on just those three tasks. And if you don’t finish all three? “Just carry on.”

Sheri RadfordSheri Radford

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