Welcome back to Later’s SelfMade series, where we showcase small business owners, their journeys, and tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
We spoke to Annabel Okeya, founder of Seventh & Oak, an independent brand of handmade and eco-friendly home fragrance goods based out of Ontario, Canada.
Annabel shares the inspiration behind the brand, why she’s passionate about sustainability, and how she’s built an engaged digital community -- all during a global pandemic.
In May of 2020, Annabel noticed a growing trend in the candle industry.
More often than not, she found that store-bought candles were riddled with toxic compounds, high amounts of lead, and paraffin wax, all of which “affected my breathing and gave me headaches.”
So she decided to do something about it.
It was then that Annabel tried her hand at creating candles herself, using familiar ingredients like soy wax and plant-based oils.
And what initially started as a hobby, soon turned into a wonderfully scented business venture.
Combining her passion for sustainability with her background in marketing and design, Seventh & Oak was born.
For Annabel, her mission is simple: create quality candles that don't come at the expense of the environment or our furry friends.
“I created Seventh & Oak to fill a void in the eco-friendly candle community and make a positive impact on the planet, one scent at a time.”
Later: Sustainability is one of your core values, how do you weave that messaging into your content strategy?
Annabel: My mum taught me to live sustainably, and it’s something I’ve always carried with me.
We’re so passionate about being sustainable that it’s one of our content pillars at Seventh & Oak.
Every other grid post, Instagram Story, or caption touches on sustainability -- we even have a series dedicated to sharing news about people bettering the planet.
Later: What has been the key to your success on social media?
Annabel: Creating shareable graphics and eye-catching photos of our products. This requires a lot of planning and batching behind the scenes.
Later is a fantastic tool that we’ve come to love for social media scheduling.
We’re able to schedule content across Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and even TikTok -- saving us a ton of time.
I’m also such a data nerd so the Analytics tab is my favorite. It has so much information to leverage and craft effective marketing strategies -- like hashtags to use, best time to post, and what type of content to focus on.
Later: Speaking of creating eye-catching photos -- you have such a strong visual aesthetic. What goes into creating your feed?
Annabel: We gravitate towards certain color palettes, and with my design background, we’re able to maintain that consistency across our social media pages.
A lot of the shareable graphics on our social media platforms were created by me so I like to think that I have a creative eye and that is reflected throughout our branding.
We plan content for the month based on our content pillars and any releases, events, or national holidays coming up.
It’s great to see content come together on Later’s platform -- it gives us an idea of what our feed will look like on Instagram!
ICYMI: Later’s free Visual Instagram Planner allows you to preview your feed aesthetic before you post — so you can curate the perfect Instagram grid for your brand.
Later: What aspect of social media has helped you grow Seventh & Oak the most?
Annabel: Consistently engaging with our audience. Whether it’s replying to comments or DMs, we do our best to make sure anyone who takes the time to engage with us feels like a part of the community.
That, and we love story polls and so does our audience. They’re a way for us to get to know them, some of their pain points, or get their input on any product we plan to release.
We get high engagement on the days we run polls -- they help us maintain a connection with our audience.
Later: What’s an underrated social media tactic?
Annabel: The importance of user-generated content and how it boosts a brand’s credibility.
We see a spike in sales when we repost a customer's post on stories about our products, compared to when we post our own content.
Later: What's the most surprising thing you've learned about starting a business (in the midst of a pandemic no less!)?
Annabel: If you try to sell to everyone, you’re selling to no one.
You have to know who your ideal customers are. Where are they located? What do they enjoy doing? What are they passionate about? What are their pain points and how can your products solve them?
Knowing your ideal customer will help you create marketing strategies that will help them find you, buy from you, and become advocates of your brand.
Later: Now when it comes to running a business, can you ever really “turn off”?
Annabel: Absolutely not. My mind is always working, but when I’m getting stressed, I turn off all my devices and take a breather.
Yoga calms me down. I practice during my lunch hour or right before bed, and of course, I always burn a candle.
*Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Later’s SelfMade series will be returning soon! Until then, sign up to our free email newsletter for industry news, interviews, and content tips to help you grow your business on social media.