Get our FREE quarterly e-zine Seek Inspire Create
Search
Close this search box.
February 26, 2024 —

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Druid

Based in Edinburgh, Druid, founded by Harriet Aitken, is a small-batch candle studio and wellness brand, harnessing natural healing remedies tested over thousands of years.
Druid founder Harriet Aitken, in her small-batch candle studio and wellness brand, in Edinburgh
Artisan candles inside independent candle shop, Druid Edinburgh
Sine Fleet - contributingeditor of 91 Magazine
Sine Fleet
91 Magazine contributing editor,

Photography

Anna Considine
Photographer,
Save & share

Hi Harriet, how would you describe your business, Druid?

A natural candle company based in Edinburgh, with a strong emphasis on quality and design.

What did you do before setting up your business?

Before Druid, I worked in Hong Kong as a teacher for almost four years. It was here I was introduced to traditional Chinese medicine, and the idea of using ancient methods of healing and how plants can be used alongside modern medicine for relief. 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 7

SS Druid 91 Magazine 3

SS Druid 91 Magazine 8

What inspired the idea of setting up your business?

Druid was born during Covid simply as a project to pass the time. I did an interior design course, whilst living in Hong Kong and had some essential oils in a cupboard that I’d bought on a trip to the south of France many years before. Late one night, I pulled out the oils and created some lavender and bergamot candles and surprisingly they turned out pretty well. Fast forward 200 test candles and many mood boards later, and Druid was born! 

What is the ethos behind your business?

Quality, relationship and design. First and foremost, quality ingredients and a candle that performs perfectly. As cliched as it sounds, my business is nothing without my customers and the relationships I’ve formed through Druid – from regulars at the farmers’ market, online names I recognise, to the poor delivery drivers that have to lug around box after box of coconut wax. And lastly, design – my love for interiors meant I wanted to create something aesthetically pleasing and a candle that I wanted in my home. My ethos has always been not to create something that I think someone will like but to follow my intuition so as to create something authentic, that hopefully others will like too. 

Where do you find creative inspiration?

Almost everywhere! I spent a year in Paris and so have a fondness for all things French and quaint. But being proudly Scottish, I want Druid to encapsulate French charm but maintain an obvious Scottish identity. 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 1

SS Druid 91 Magazine 10

“I wanted to create a space that felt like I was welcoming someone into my home”

How did you approach the design of your space?

I knew before I got the keys that I wanted to create a space that felt like I was welcoming someone into my home. The first thing I chose was the colour of the walls, Edward Bulmers ‘Jonquil,’ which I could paint my whole house in I love it so much! From there, we got our sourcing hats on and spent a lot of time scouring antique shops, becoming marginally obsessed with Drum Antiques outside Edinburgh, and keeping a watchful eye on Facebook Marketplace. We sourced things like old fireplaces, original art, marble topped tables and had a joiner convert these into shop fittings. 

Tell us about your location and community…

My first shop was a six-month pop-up in Stockbridge, which was super exposure for the brand and gave me the confidence to take on my own permanent space. I didn’t know Leith all that well and wasn’t sure what to expect but I was blown away by how welcoming and supportive the local businesses and residents were.

Leith has a real sense of community, with many passersby poking their heads in to say hello’, and many to tell stories of what the shop used to be or what it meant to them. A large proportion of my customer base are regular buyers, so having the shopcomestudio keeps Druid accessible in an age where so much is online. 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 2

How has your business evolved?

Druid started out as a kitchen table project during Covid. As I delved further into candle making, it became my mission to find the perfect recipe, with no intent to do much with them. After a lot of testing, I was finally happy with my product and thought I’d try my hand at selling them. I had a designer create a logo for me.

After this, the only shops open at the time were farm shops and supermarkets, so I trotted off to Balgove Larder and Loch Leven’s Larder to sell my wares and to my surprise, had my first orders! From here I began doing the farmers’ market on Castle Terrace every Saturday in Edinburgh, building up my customers, and gathering a few more wholesalers. I created the website myself, and then took my first pop-up shop in Stockbridge.

Druid was now my full-time job and so after the pop-up, I decided to get my first permanent shop/studio place. I have now been in business for three years, and have been very grateful for the boom in business over the last year in particular. I have some grand plans for 2024 but shan’t be revealing these until summertime…

Exciting! Is the online community important to your work?

Online is extremely important to us, tools like Instagram give us a huge boost in exposure, creating new customers and allowing us to keep in regular contact with our existing customers. Not only does it play a vital role in direct sales, it’s also a superb platform to connect with other businesses, photographers, charities etc. It’s also an extremely accessible – and hopefully aesthetically pleasing – way to express who Druid is and what we stand for. 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 4

Working as an independent store owner – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?

I’ll start with the positives. The joys are being able to set my own timetable. If it’s a beautiful day and I know I can afford the time off, I can take the dog and choose to spend the day gallivanting around the grounds at Gosford House, or to spend the day with family and friends. The freedom of being your own boss is a big plus.

However, on the flip side of this, it is only you that gets the work done. There’s no outofoffice where someone will pick-up where you left off. The pressure of having to do everything yourself can be a lot. Your business is your baby and it can be very hard (impossible) to switch off from it. Whilst the community that I’ve built up with Druid is hugely rewarding, it can be a little lonely working by yourself a lot of the time – but a dog helps with this.

To end on a high, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I find it very exciting to be able to have the control to set my own goals and aspirations. I love how varied my role is, from poking around antique fairs, learning about marketing strategies, to days in the studio with my music blaring. The creativity that Druid allows is my favourite part. 

How do you approach marketing and PR?

I had no marketing experience and so this has probably been the biggest learning curve of all since I started Druid. Not one for the ‘hard sell’, I have depended a lot on recommendations and word of mouth to get me where I am. But in this day and age, and now speaking more to industry experts, I understand how a tailored marketing strategy would be a huge benefit for the business. This is something I intend to focus on more this year. 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 9

“The creativity that Druid allows is my favourite part” 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 6

What have been your business highlights so far?

It never fails to put a big smile on my face when I receive emails or in-person anecdotes about how much joy someone has had using or gifting my candles. To hear the routines, and sheer delight of what they bring. These stories are my highlights.

What does your ideal day off look like?

A slow morning, with a breakfast that has taken far too long to create. Jumping in the car, sticking on my wellies and taking the dog for a walk in the countryside. Exploring pretty places and catching up with friends or family over dinner – by candlelight of course. 

SS Druid 91 Magazine 5

“Create a space that is a reflection of you”

Any good advice for aspiring store owners?

Trialling out with a pop-up first is a definite! The commitment of a shop is huge, and this gives a true taste of what it’s like. Speak to other brands that are in a similar position to yourself, or six to 12 months ahead of you. People are friendly and want to help. When I first took Space At Seventeen, Aetla were in residence and Keira was very kind with imparting her wisdom. Create a space that is a reflection of you. Don’t fret about the bumps in the road. And lastly, try as hard as possible to keep a good work/life balance. 

What does the next year hold for Druid?

This is my year for growth! I have some grand plans in the pipeline for Druid. We are finalising some of the finer details and will be sharing very soon. 

druidedinburgh.com

@druidedinburgh

Check out our Instagrammer’s Guide to Edinburgh, featuring lovely independent shops and places to eat in the Scottish capital

Sign up for more articles

Join the 91 Magazine mailing list and we’ll send you our favourite articles, updates from our shop, news on the magazine and select promotions & offers.

More stories like this one

Shopkeeper Spotlight with &halt, a Brighton interiors and lifestyle store.
Based on a shared love of modernist yet timeless design, the life-changing re-focus of the global pandemic inspired Nick and Alex to…

New in 91 Magazine

Vintage dining table and a mint green spiral staircase in a white interior
French couple Marion and Frederick transformed a crumbling old barn into a beautiful gîte to rent out as well as use themselves,…

15 inspiring co-working spots for creatives in London

Substack: where creativity meets connection

Home tour: Rachel Ashfield

Recipe: Lemon puddings

91 is reading… Creative Homes

Love What You Do: Flora Roberts

Sneak peek at Volume 17

Small Business Stories: The Good Lyfe

15 of the best independent wallpaper brands

Seek Create Inspire

Subscribe to the 91 Magazine mailing list

Subscribe for our free quarterly e-zine packed independent shops and cafes, interiors ideas, delicious recipes and DIY projects.

We’ll also send you regular articles, offers, shop promotions and competitions (but never spam).