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Head of the candle studio taddywax

Katya Khozikova

the journey by enty
Managing two businesses in immigration amidst Russian-Ukrainian war
Business is not only about money and paperwork. Most of all, it’s about people, inspiration, and passion. With that in mind, we present you the Journey — a project where entrepreneurs share how they started their businesses, what made them successful, what drives them, and how they came up with what they ended up doing.

Our today’s guest is Katya Khozikova, the head of the candle studio taddywax. Katya's entrepreneurial journey began as a quest to break free from corporate burnout and pursue her passion for creativity. After leveraging her background in chemistry to master the craft of candle making, Katya designed a collection of candles that instantly became a hit among consumers in Russia. However, just as her business was taking off, Katya was forced to move to another country in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She now lives in Barcelona and manages her Russian business remotely along with running a second candle studio in Spain.

The studio in Barcelona has become something like an attraction among the Russian community. The amount of support we’ve received thus far has been really encouraging.

Tell us about your background. What was your occupation prior to starting this business?

I opened my first candle studio in 2021. This decision came after years of working in the Russian branch office of a large American corporation. My role involved implementing complex technologies in a large industrial market. I dedicated a decade of my life to this career path. Over time, I found myself growing weary of my job. The monotonous nature of corporate work and the constant business trips had taken their toll on me.

I was yearning for personal fulfillment and wanted to create something of my own. I knew it was time to break out of the stable routine and start my own business, but I lacked the courage to do so. Not that I doubted my own abilities — at the time, I just had no idea what exactly I wanted to do.

Why did you ultimately decide to open a candle studio?

It was my business partner, Tanya, who first proposed the idea of making candles. We both had a deep appreciation for candles and already had a collection of them at home. And I have an education in biotechnology, so chemistry is easy for me. Tanya suggested that I give candle making a try, and I thought to myself, "Sure, why not?" The chemistry knowledge I picked up during my university years was useless in my corporate life, but now I had the perfect opportunity to apply it.

So you were making candles on your own? How long did it take you to master the craft?

Back then, candle making wasn’t as widespread in Russia as it is now. There were only a few brands and no established knowledge base on how to enter the industry and start making candles on your own. But in the US, the market volume was already about 2 billion dollars. There were plenty of blogs and videos where people talked about how they do it. So I mostly used English resources to learn everything I needed to know.
It took me roughly a hundred candles to get to the point where I was pretty confident about my skills. The hardest part was actually acquiring all the necessary materials to make the candles: jars, glasses, wicks, that sort of stuff. You had to look for everything separately and purchase certain ingredients in bulk rather than in small quantities.
This inconvenience actually inspired the idea for our first product. Having realized how cumbersome it was to collect all the necessary ingredients as a newcomer to candle making, I decided to create a DIY kit that would contain everything a person needs to get started without the hassle of searching for individual items.
This idea really resonated with our clients. Today, this candle-making kit is one of our best-selling products in both Russia and Europe.

How did you scale from making candles on the side to running your own studio?

It took me and Tanya some time to figure out the brand identity and design our first collection. Many brands at the time were focused on offering pricey candles with complex aroma compositions. When you buy a candle like that, you sometimes hesitate to burn it just because you consider it too valuable. Like, "Great, I bought a nice candle, but I feel bad burning it right now. Let it just stand there. It's an expensive candle, so I should probably wait for a proper occasion."

We decided to go in a different direction and create a collection of tin-canned candles with bright designs and simple scents that were meant to be just bought and burned. We took it to the market and got really good feedback.
By the start of the candle season in September, we had received several large orders from companies that wanted to offer our candles as gifts to their clients. This came as an absolute surprise to me. It’s been just several months since I started this business, but there were already opportunities to scale up and tap into the B2B market in addition to working in B2C.
I’ve turned the small space I was renting for storage purposes into a studio and assembled a team of employees to help me keep up with these high-volume corporate orders. We were steadily expanding our B2B clientele. The business was growing. Things were going really great. And then the war started and I had to leave it all behind.

Do you find it challenging to manage your studio in Moscow while living in Barcelona?

The first few months were certainly challenging for me on an emotional level. I struggled to understand how to effectively oversee operations and was afraid to take on responsibility for projects. There was a point where we were faltering quite a bit and losing clients, but eventually we managed to fight through. This experience taught me the importance of placing trust in my own team and knowing when to delegate tasks.

After moving to Spain, you left your corporate job and opened a second studio in Barcelona. How did you arrive at the decision to go full-time entrepreneur?

I didn’t leave my job by choice — the company I was working for ceased its operations in Russia when the war began. I was dismissed along with other Russian employees. After that, it was either looking for a new job as a foreigner in Spain or fully committing to entrepreneurship.

In a way, the war has decided everything. I had some spare money that could be invested into opening a second studio, plus we already had an established brand in Moscow. Though I still had to take a bit of a leap of faith, because candle culture is not as developed here as it is in Russia. We are a seasonal business, and Spain is not exactly known for cold autumns and winters. But I’ve researched the Spanish market thoroughly and decided to take that risk. I think we can become one of the first businesses to successfully venture into this market.

Was it difficult to open a company as a foreigner in Spain?

Registering the business was probably the easiest part for me. There are plenty of websites with insights from entrepreneurs who have already gone through this experience that you can turn to. And I registered as a sole proprietor, so the procedure required only a handful of documents and was pretty straightforward. I asked my Spanish-speaking acquaintance to accompany me to the tax office, and we went through the registration process fairly quickly.
The issue that worried me the most was actually renting the premises. I’ve heard numerous claims suggesting that securing premises in Spain can be a daunting task for a foreigner. But even in that instance, my experience turned out to be completely different. I was lucky to meet an awesome real estate agent who shared my passion for candles. I showed her what we were doing, and she loved it. We quickly found common ground and managed to agree on an absolutely standard long-term contract. The experience was really accommodating overall. I think it goes to show that things can sometimes be much easier than we expect.

What marketing tools do you use to promote your studio in Barcelona? From what we understand, it has become quite popular among the Russian immigrant community in Spain.

Yeah, it’s become something like an attraction among the Russian community. We have opened the studio fairly recently, but the amount of support we’ve received thus far has been encouraging. We’ve had a lot of Russian-speaking people visit us and share kind words. I’m so grateful for that.
Answering your question, right now our main marketing tool is probably my blog on Instagram. I use it as a platform where I can openly share my experiences as an entrepreneur in a foreign country and talk about the challenges I face day-to-day. But I’d say calling it merely a sales tool would be wrong because it’s so much more.
Actually, I got that idea from Tanya. We didn’t have many friends in Spain when we moved here, so she started a blog in Russian to make up for the lack of a community and meet new people. She began on YouTube and then moved to Instagram. She managed to gather a huge number of subscribers there. I think it became so popular because she was honestly discussing topics that resonate with people who left Russia after the war.
I was inspired by Tanya’s example and decided to start a similar blog with a focus on entrepreneurship and immigration. She gave me a lot of good advice and helped me with writing scripts for my first videos. And you know, it turns out this personal brand thing actually works. I think honesty is key here. People value that. Right now, this blog has around 19,000 subscribers, which is a huge surprise for me. I'm generally more of an introverted person, so I never planned to become a blogger.

Do you have any other people on your Spanish team, or is it just you and Tanya?

For now it’s just me and Tanya. The season hasn’t started yet, so currently the two of us can handle everything. But we’re planning to expand the team. You know, we’ve been holding master classes in candle making for the Russian-speaking community, and the feedback on them has been great so far. I think we should attract Spanish-speaking specialists to organize similar master classes for the Spanish audience. And we’ll certainly need to hire someone to help with packaging and sales by the beginning of the autumn season.

Any other plans for the near future?

Lots of them. We need to establish partnerships with stores in Spain and beyond to increase the number of locations where we can sell our products. And we really want to tap into the B2B market here in Spain — not only as a brand, but possibly also as a production platform for other brands.
And I think we should take advantage of the fact that Barcelona is such a popular destination for tourists. We don’t have a specific strategy for business development in this area yet, but I’m actively working on it. For instance, take those candle-making master classes I mentioned earlier: maybe we could build on this concept even further and start to offer them in multiple languages. This way, any tourist in Barcelona can visit our studio and make their own candle to bring home as a gift. It’d be really neat if we could offer something like that.

Thank you for reading Katya’s story, hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you are looking to share your story, please leave us the form below and we will contact you back. Cheers!