Getting to know you: Sam Aydee, Co-Founder, Temple of Incense

Sam Aydee, Temple of Incense Co-Founde

In an exclusive interview with ‘Business Matters’, the founders of Temple of Incense share their inspiring journey of turning a family tradition into a thriving business.

Rooted in their Punjabi heritage, they reveal the cultural inspirations behind their unique incense offerings, their admiration for their resilient ancestors, and the hard-earned lessons they’ve learned along the way. This candid conversation delves into the principles that guide their business, the mentors who inspire them, and their advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

What was the inspiration behind Temple of Incense?  

We grew up in a second-generation Punjabi household where life was a fusion. We ritualistically burned incense every day and it’s been a part of our being for as long as we can remember. Incense smoke would travel around the house, dancing beautifully, scenting the space and spreading a feeling of calm. Going to other people’s houses I didn’t get the same feeling and thought ‘they could do with some incense.’.

Since then, it became our mission to share this experience with the world, to fill each home gorgeous, natural, and authentic incense.

In 2012, our incense business was a pretty niche concept. It was a little bit out of fashion, and we wanted to bring it back with a new look and reputation.  We wanted to make incense that helps tap into our consciousness and enhances spiritual practice. Home fragrance with substance, ethical values and most of all, a whole lot of passion.

Who do you admire? 

Our parents and grandparents. They came to the UK in the early 70s to carve out a better life for themselves. Arriving with next to nothing, they built their homes and lives and eventually a great foundation for us. They faced racism and many closed doors, but their resolve and determination stood strong against adversity.

To this day, they give us guidance when we need it and a telling-off if we complain, which gets us back on track pretty quick.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her inspirational fight against gender discrimination and her powerful ability to inspire change.

Kelly Holmes. She was 12 when she started her journey and 34 when she realised her dream. That determination, and effectively hope, is beyond admirable.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently? 

You’ll always regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. So, in short, yes and no. We’d do exactly what we did, but quicker, with more ferocity, and less hesitation. We were more afraid of the risks than we would ever be now.

Personally, if I could turn back time, I would understand people better. I am, and was, naturally very trusting and naively expected that everyone had the same values towards business as I did. Experience has taught me that sadly, that’s simply not true. Not all people work honourably, and it was our business that suffered in the end, leaving us with sore hearts and thousands of pounds of unpaid invoices from a big retailer.

Knowing what we know now, we have tight contracts and credit lines only for those we’ve worked with for years otherwise, it’s payments up front.

Even through everything, I still look for the good in everybody and welcome all business with open arms, I just do so with more reasonable boundaries when it comes to business.

What defines your way of doing business? 

We focus on a few essential principles – creating a great product, respecting your work, and at the core of it all, being good people. Work honestly and communicate, both with your team as well as your customers.

Do all these things well and everything else will fall into place.

Our customers are important to us, we see them as our extended family. We dedicate time and energy into making them happy, making them feel valued and never take them for granted. They pay our bills and keep us in business; they are beyond just an order number.

What advice would you give to someone starting out? 

It’s a cliché because it’s repeated endlessly because it’s true – go with your gut instinct. It’s always right and won’t fail you.

Things don’t often magically fall into your lap so don’t be afraid of hard graft and getting your hands dirty. Have the gumption to overcome initial hurdles and rejections. See rejection as redirection, there’s something better around the corner and you need to be ready when it comes.

Understand your customer then give them what they want, but a better version of what they think they want. How do you do this? Go with the data. In the end, this is what will define your bottom line.

Be humble and open to hearing what people around you have to say. The best ideas can come from unexpected places and there’s always something to learn.

The first sale gets you going, repeat business keeps you afloat. Work on customer retention.

If you mess something up, own it. Keep customers in the loop, tell them what’s happened and how you’re going to fix it. Don’t try and blag it – be truthful and human. If you communicate right, you’ll be surprised how much people will support you and stay on side.