• Tatiana Collier

Gifting Ballarat

As local candlemaker and entrepreneur Leah Haynes made plans to expand her business, she saw an opportunity to take other local businesses along for the ride. Now, Mia & Talbot is shipping Ballarat made products to all corners of the country.

Leah Haynes launched Mia & Talbot eight years ago, selling home-made, scented soy candles at local markets in and around Ballarat. It was an idea that stemmed from a desire to find work she could do from home, that also met with her artistic urge to create.

“I came up with the idea while I was cooking, because all these delicious food fragrances were filling my house. I think my first candle scents were Banana Smoothie and Raspberry and Pear Crumble.

“At the time I was working with a friend, and we decided on natural, soy wax candles, because we hadn’t seen any products like that at local markets, and it was important to us that we avoid chemicals.

“We started participating at local markets and it was always fun. We would meet and chat to other stall holders, and I discovered so many products that were homemade right here in Ballarat.

“It was inspiring.”

Since launching eight years ago, Mia & Talbot has built a sound reputation for making quality, natural candles in a wide range of fragrances. There are currently 13 scents in the signature collection, with a few additional options popping up at various times in the year.

“We like to keep experimenting and offering something new. We do a few extras at Christmas, and one leading up to Valentine’s Day. When we find a new one that proves popular, we add it to our permanent range.

“It’s an ongoing process of trialling and testing. Fragrances can change depending on the wick we us, or the way the scent reacts in the soy wax or packaging. It’s never a set and forget recipe.”

Demand for the candles increased so much in the past few years that Leah’s husband Chris joined the business to be a part-time candle maker too. This also allowed Leah to turn her attention to a new business idea.

“Each Christmas I became aware of gifting and what it involves. My children would be bombarded with toys made from plastic, and it made me realise I wanted to see something different; to give people an opportunity to shop differently.

“I have always tried to give thoughtful gifts – ones that people enjoy, but also ones that are made sustainably, are ecofriendly and hopefully won’t go to landfill. It’s hard! I was looking online for hampers, but nothing I found seemed right.

“I wanted fun, colourful hampers that had variety in their products, and when I realised there wasn’t anything like that around, I decided to do it myself.”

In December 2019, with Chris’s support, Leah took her collection of soy candle products and used her connections from the markets to combine locally made products and create colourful gift boxes and packages.

“During my time at the markets, I would visit the other stallholders and marvel at their creations. As a maker I appreciate the work that is put into hand made products.

“When I had the idea to coordinate hampers, I knew instantly I wanted to fill them with as many Ballarat made products as I could find that would fit the idea. Supporting other local makers has been at the core of this from the start.”

As a result, Mia & Talbot now offers gift boxes and hampers, each with their own theme, to meet the many gifting opportunities that present throughout the year.

Using her artistic skills, Leah created her own range of notecards to accompany each hamper, tying the theme together and delivering that special message from the customer to a loved one.

“We started with the main annual events, such as birthdays, Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, engagements, arrival of a new baby, and over the first few months we were pleased with how things were progressing.

“Then we began lockdowns, and everything changed. People had to shop almost entirely online, and there was also a huge push to buy local. Another shift was that gifting was no longer just about special occasions; it was about sending care packages.

“People overseas were ordering hampers for their Ballarat loved ones, with some very touching messages. It was a privilege to be a part of that caring process.”

While lockdowns may have passed, there is no slowing down for Leah, who continues to create new and interesting inclusions for her range of candles and for the hampers.

Leah recently collaborated with seven local artists to develop a series of post cards with the artists’ work on the front. On that back are the artists’ names, contact details and social media accounts, so when a card is included in a hamper, the recipient can follow up with the artist.

“Collaboration is a huge part of what I do and it’s important to me to share what we have here in Ballarat with as many people as I can reach. It’s such a positive experience too, collaborating with other Ballarat businesses. We have a supportive network here.”

With Christmas on our doorstep, Mia & Talbot has stepped up to offer a range of holiday season specialities.

“We have released six new scented candles just for the holiday season, which is something we do every year.

We like to include a few traditional fragrances, and then some that reflect the past 12 months. For example, this year we have “Cocktail Party”, because we think everyone is excited to be out meeting up with friends again.

“We also have Christmas chocolates, jewellery and drinks for the festive season. These can all be added to one of our existing hampers, or customers are welcome to build their own on our website.”

Shoppers can also find Mia & Talbot products at upcoming Ballarat markets and a pop-up store at Coltman Plaza, Lucas.

“We love the markets. It’s fun, relaxing and an opportunity to see our suppliers and potentially meet new ones. We’re always on the lookout for local products we can include in our hampers, and local people we can work with.”

Candles, hampers and other gifts can be ordered online. Same day local pick-up and delivery is available in some instances, although pre orders are preferred. Follow Mia & Talbot on Instagram for the latest news in hamper inclusions and new candle fragrances.

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