Moments with Lesley Owen
PUBLISHED: 14:28 24 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:28 24 February 2020
Scent is the most powerful trigger of memories, a fact interior designer Lesley Owen knows all too well
You know what it's like. You walk past a flower, or get a whiff of something familiar and are instantly transported back to a time and place with a shock of memory that can take your breath away. It's a science thing, apparently - scents go straight to the brain's smell centre, known as the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb is directly connected to the amygdala (the bit of the brain responsible for emotions and survival instincts) and hippocampus (the bit that converts information from short term memory to long term memory). This could explain why the smell of something can so immediately trigger a detailed memory or even an intense emotion.
When Lesley Owen, sister of the football superstar Michael, tells me about her candle business, however, she doesn't get all scientific on me. For her, it's clear, this is a passion-project. It's something she's come to only very recently, however, having been a successful interior designer, with a shared business, until 2019, when her business partner decided it was time to part ways.
'I loved working in interior design,' Lesley says. 'I came to it by accident really. I started with one room at a time, first my own home and then for friends and family. Michael asked me to do his home in North Wales and then his home in Portugal. Word of mouth took it from there and I set up a business in Cheshire with a partner, but last year they decided to end it. I got married and had a baby in 2019, so it was all go - and then this happened.'
Talking to Lesley, it's clear she's been terribly hurt by the events of last year, but she's clearly inherited the Owen family work ethic (her sister also owns her own business) and last autumn she took on a scented candle franchise, and immediately set about making it special.
'When completing a home in my interior design work, scents were always really important,' she says. 'I would always finish a room with a candle or a diffuser. Then, when I got married, I wanted a scent for the occasion that would always remind me of the day. I went to see a friend, Helen McCue, who had established her own candle business - Moments Candles Co - and we did a scent testing session, using lots of essential oils. We kept narrowing it down till we found my final choice. That scent is Treasured Moments: my wedding day scent. Last year, Helen asked if I might like to get involved with her business and I realised it was perfect for me - I am still part of a bigger team, but I can push this as far as I want.
'I am not content to just plod along, ever! It's my business, but I have none of the worries of production, storage or distribution. It's ideal for me as a working mum - no need even to dedicate a room in the house for boxes of candles! One of the things I really love is all the candles are made with pure soy wax, which has none of the pollutants you find in so many home candles. My mum has asthma and usually can't go anywhere near scented candles, but with these she's absolutely fine. In 2020, we shall be developing a range made with rapeseed and coconut oil, which will also be a lot safer for people with health concerns.
'I already have three of my own signature scents. In The Moment: dark honey and tobacco, which I chose with my husband (he's in the building trade, which isn't usually associated with room fragrance, so it was great to work on that with him!); Moments Together, which is a lovely blend of myrrh and tonka; and of course my wedding scent, Treasured Moments, which is a blend of oriental poppy, orange blossom and patchouli. We do candles, wax melts, diffusers and a scent spray too, which I spray on everything, from furniture and clothes to me!'
People can just buy the candles online, of course, but Lesley has big plans for 2020.
'I am launching a scent service,' she says. 'One where I can scent a whole home, business, or an event such as a wedding, or baptism.
'I meet with the client and, together, we establish their preferred scent and how best to achieve this throughout the space - by candles, diffusers or wax melts (which are proving incredibly popular). I shall also be working on a corporate gifting concept and I am about to launch a special scent for a friend with a very successful beauty salon in Chester.
'I am also developing a bespoke service, where we can put names and dates on the candles, so if they are being used for a special occasion, they make beautiful bridesmaids gifts or wedding favours.'
Lesley is clearly happy and excited about her plans for Moments in 2020, but what about her first love?
'Interior design - I love it and I miss it so much, but I am taking a little step back in 2020,' she says. 'Starting again by myself is a daunting thought, but never say never!
'Things happen for a reason and I LOVE what I am doing now. Christmas 2019 was a real eye-opener for me. The candles were just flying out - once people have discovered them, the products speak for themselves.'