Ntombizethu Zulu is the 32-year-old founder of the scented candle business Mocebon. She spoke to Slay Nation about the journey to building her company to what it is today.
Who is the person/people behind Mocebon?
My name is Ntombizethu Zulu, and I am turning 32 this year. I work as a writer/copy editor, and I’m also currently pursuing my MA in English Literature. I’m a Durbanite but currently living in Joburg. I belong to a book club (it keeps me accountable), and I really enjoy going on long walks and hikes, and I enjoy a good action movie too!
What inspired you to start Mocebon?
I got the idea to start a scented candle business from my ancestors at the beginning of my spiritual journey. Prior to that, I had been yearning for an activity to do in my sunroom because it was an unused space. I’m quite good with my hands – arts and crafts are my things – so when this idea was presented to me, I grabbed it with both hands (so to speak) and gave it a go.
Tell us more about your business:
Mocebon currently falls under the small business category, especially because it is something that I only get to do after my day job and during the weekend. The name itself is an anagram of my second name, Nomcebo. I handmake all the candles myself in my fledgling home studio.
When did you start the business and how long has it been operating?
I made the first few candles in January 2021, went on to sell a few more unbranded candles to my friends and colleagues, and then I started operating officially in April 2021, when I had the business registered and got branding done. We’re turning one in April 2022.
What kind of products do you offer?
Mocebon sells scented candles, as well as reed diffusers. I actually registered the business as just Mocebon because I knew that I would like to expand into the home scents category so I can eventually introduce more home fragrance products.
How did you fund the business?
The business is self-funded. I spent about R5,000 in total to get all the basic equipment and starter inventory.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
What I love about Mocebon’s branding is that it’s so much fun. It’s bright and bold without being loud. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yet there’s something quite sophisticated about its simplicity; also, our scent combinations cater to everyone. I am also very mindful of pricing – I really believe that luxury should be an everyday indulgence, which means that our price point is sensitive to that to allow as many people as possible to afford luxurious home scents.
Where are you based and how many people do you employ?
I’m based in Joburg, and I’m proud to say that what started in my kitchen, using a stove and old pot, has now grown to a mini home studio. For now, I am still the sole employee.
How have you been received by consumers and the industry in which you operate?
Competition is very stiff in the home scents industry, especially because it grew exponentially in the past couple of years due to the pandemic. Mocebon is still very much in its infancy, so my intention, for now, is to grow my community and customer base. The customers that I do have, however, are incredible and very supportive. Some have even pushed me to start a subscription service because they love my products. That is very affirming.
What are your hopes for Mocebon?
My biggest goals for Mocebon are: to have my own workshop/studio/office; to make our own jars; and for Mocebon products to be in as many households as possible. Being listed at Africa Rise in Sandton and Menlyn this early in my entrepreneurial journey has made me realise that it is very possible to be listed at even more retailers nationwide. I’d love to partner with more national and global retailers.
Where can people find you?
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you and Mocebon?
For me, Mocebon is a manifestation of the type of products and experiences that I really like – there’s something charming and eccentric about handmade products and I hope that that comes through my scented candles and diffusers. I’m not averse to perfection but I really do like things that stand out and are truly unique.
What is the one thing you’d say to young people out there who may be sitting on brilliant ideas?
You know, an idea will remain an idea until you actually decide to do something about it. Nothing ever turns out perfect after the first try, but trying is better than mulling over an idea for too long. As with anything, you refine as you do. Give yourself and your ideas a chance and then commit to investing as much time into refining them until something special happens. Actually, the magic is in the doing!