The couple behind Our Lovely Goods share their story of building a business while juggling childcare and lockdown, all while making home the place we all most want to be
Photography Susie Lowe
Words Catherine Coyle
Ebi and Emmanuel Sinteh do not do things by halves. Even as we chat via Zoom, there’s a lot of multi-tasking going on. Where most couples would be collapsing on the sofa in front of the latest Netflix boxset, this pair are catching up on emails, planning their next buying trip and checking outbound orders – as well as breastfeeding. The husband-and-wife team set up their boutique lifestyle brand Our Lovely Goods in Aberdeen in 2019, not long after getting married, moving house and having their first child, Eliana, and it has been non-stop ever since.
It was while 28-year-old Ebi was on maternity leave from her job in occupational health that she first indulged her creative side, exploring the aspects of home and health that she’d always been interested in but never had the time to properly discover. “We’d always light candles in our home – it’s our way of creating a cosy atmosphere with scent and light,” she recalls. “Then, when Eliana came along, I began to think about ways of having a more natural, sustainable lifestyle.”
By seeking to make a more eco-friendly life for their growing family, Ebi, a pharmacy graduate, began making soy candles at home. “It links back to becoming a parent, I think. Our daughter had very dry skin when she was born and I started to look more deeply into natural remedies and where products come from. As we tested our sample products on our friends and family, we realised how much people loved them.”
Our Lovely Goods started life as a small online business selling these handmade candles and body butters, but the idea had been brewing from as early as Ebi and Emmanuel’s first date, when they discovered a mutual desire to run their own label. “Even from those first conversations about our aspirations, we both knew we wanted to work on our business ideas,” agrees 31-year-old Emmanuel, a consultant mechanical engineer who came to Aberdeen in 2014 to complete his Masters. He and Ebi always had a side hustle on the go during their student days – not just as a source of additional income but as a way to keep their creativity alive.
Ebi dabbled in photography, even shooting weddings, while Emmanuel managed properties. Having lots of projects running concurrently set them up well for a whirlwind start to Our Lovely Goods; their home-based online shop grew very quickly into a much bigger operation. “I had a eureka moment,” admits Emmanuel. “I could see how much people liked what we were doing – they kept stealing our samples! – and the markets and pop-up shops were selling out of our stock. I visit Nigeria every year and always come back with homewares and things that our friends here love and ask about. I thought if we could expand on the designs, we could add these to our collection of products.”
Championing their heritage through Our Lovely Goods, the couple were eager to offer authentic products that have clear provenance and which give the artisans who fashion them the kind of kudos they deserve. “Raffia and hand-woven products are common in Nigeria and are traditionally given as gifts,” Emmanuel explains. “There’s definitely a trend for woven, textured homewares in the UK at the moment but we wanted to show the lasting connection and develop these products authentically.”
Ebi is pragmatic about the overnight hike in Our Lovely Goods’ profile. The business was just finding its feet as the first lockdown was being enforced across Scotland. The knock-on effect saw people spend more time indoors, thinking about how to make their homes cosier, comfier places to be. Lots of us were also searching for ways to boost our health and wellbeing, so self-care purchases surged. The murder of African-American George Floyd by a police officer in May incited global outrage; the Black Lives Matter movement, in turn, shone a light on Black-owned businesses, where Our Lovely Goods garnered much support from existing and new audiences. The power of social media kicked in: “We went from having a few thousand followers to having 20,000-plus overnight,” Ebi recalls.
Adapting to the unexpected twists and turns thrown up by the pandemic during the infancy of their brand actually stood the couple in good stead, forcing them to realign quickly and do what they do best: multi-task. Today, their collection has grown from their handmade candle range to homewares, skincare and carefully curated pieces by fellow artisans and makers including Bare Bones, Pairs Scotland and Fauna Folk. Their ‘pinch me’ moment came when they got the news that Anthropologie wanted to stock their range and orders in their thousands forced them to temporarily shut their website. “It was overwhelming,” she admits, “but it has certainly settled down now.”
Moving the business into new premises has allowed the family to reclaim their home and they are excited to reacquaint themselves with the space. They live their brand; it’s a relaxed and comforting aesthetic where being child-friendly doesn’t mean plug covers and stair gates; instead, this is a home full of texture and natural materials – it functions for this hardworking family but also looks the part. They’re not much into trends – weaves, wood and simplicity speak to them regardless of fashion, offering Ebi and Emmanuel a space filled with atmosphere that celebrates the best of Scottish and Nigerian artisans. “It’s a homely style. We want to create something warm and welcoming.”
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