Bringing a Mix of Culture and Nature

My name is Huda Sarhang Abdulrahman. I am originally from Erbil and am the founder of Lala Candles.  I was born in a small town of Kurdistan in Khanaqin and lived all my life in

Bringing a Mix of Culture and Nature
November 11, 2023

My name is Huda Sarhang Abdulrahman. I am originally from Erbil and am the founder of Lala Candles. 

I was born in a small town of Kurdistan in Khanaqin and lived all my life in Erbil. I am the fruit of a multiethnic union of my Kurdish father and my Turkmen mother. Due to this union, I was lucky to learn Arabic and Turkish in addition to my mother tongue Kurdish. I obtained BA and MA degrees in Politics and International Relations from the University of Kurdistan Hawler, which helped me develop a strong character with high ambitions and dreams for my life and community.

During school and after my graduation I worked in various positions for several national and international organizations. Before leaving corporate life, I was working for the British Council in Erbil and gained tremendous experience in learning how to manage time, people, and projects. I consider this time as a training for my next journey of starting Lala Candles.

The Machko candle

I am a lover of culture and history and consider myself a proud Kurd; therefore, I have always wanted to do something that reflects the love I have for Kurdistan. I used to travel a lot when I was a student and in my past corporate life, and on many occasions I wanted to bring nice souvenirs to the foreigners that I would meet abroad to tell stories of my roots and culture. However, it was a huge challenge to find high quality, locally handmade gifts that reflect the depth and richness of Kurdistan. Here is where my story of Lala Candles began. 

In 2017, while I was working on the final draft of my MA thesis on the para-diplomacy of the KRG, I focused on the importance of culture and was inspired to launch something along these lines. As a lover of candles, I wanted to mix culture and nature. One day by chance while I was sitting with my husband in the Machko tea shop located under the citadel in Erbil having a tea and was inspired to make candles inside the tea glass with little cultural elements of Kurdistan. I named it the Machko candle.

Little did I know then that this would mark the beginning of my journey to establish the first candle-making business startup in the Kurdistan Region. With the support of my family and husband, I was able to take serious steps to realize this dream. Taking various online courses on the science of candle making, reading countless books and other secondary research, finding the right suppliers from around the world, and experimenting with wax and different oils and colors to make a locally handmade candle that tells a story gave me incredible joy and filled my heart with excitement. The pride I had – and still have every day – for making such products is priceless. Starting on the stove of my kitchen while working fulltime, doing my MA research, and balancing my personal and marriage lives was a challenge but looking back on it today, I say to myself, “it was worth it, well done.”

Growing the enterprise

I approached university students, local markets, and most of the diplomatic missions and consulates to talk about Lala Candles and share my story with them. This led us to be noticed by many entities, media outlets, and officials in the region. I was also interviewed by different media channels in Kurdistan, Iraq, Qatar, UK, Australia, and the United States. 

In 2019 we received the first bulk order made by the deputy prime minister of the KRG, and the candles were gifted as Kurdish New Year’s gifts to all the diplomatic missions and consulates in the Kurdistan Region. From here our business took a different path, as many large orders were received from big startups in Kurdistan, including a 5,000-candle order from Lezzoo company. We also became the main supplier for the Mr. Erbil candle line and fulfilled large orders for KOREK Telecom with 1,000 candles as well as for energy and oil companies and other consulates in Kurdistan.

In 2020, I opened my first independent working studio outside the walls of my cozy home. 

Today Lala Candles is an officially registered brand in the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Operating from a little warm studio in Erbil, we offer candles inspired by culture and nature to promote Kurdistan and proudly produce ideas that are worth seeing inside the citadel. Through our official website, customers can directly reach us and place their orders. We also offer two amazing services of white labeling candles for companies and big institutions, as well as a unique experience of candle-making workshops for groups in our studio in Erbil. With a strong team of three, we achieved this success slowly over five years. 

Looking forward

My dream is to grow Lala Candles and I have short- and long-term goals to do so. Locally, I want to see my high quality, locally handmade candles, which are inspired by culture and nature, on shelves inside the citadel of Erbil, available for tourists to easily purchase and take a piece of their memories of Kurdistan home with them. Many foreigners visit Qalat, hoping to find a souvenir shop to purchase something of high quality but they are not able to find us there. Therefore, I will not rest until I make this come true. I strongly believe that Lala Candles’ products deserve to be represented there and for foreigners to have easy access to buy them inside the citadel.

Regionally, and as a long-term goal, I am aiming to enter the Gulf markets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as there is a large potential for my business to flourish, and to participate in events and markets in Dubai. 

Our culture and nature are beautiful and should be highlighted in soft, creative, and artistic ways. I believe art speaks louder than words and so do Lala Candles. As a young and energetic Kurdish woman, it is my responsibility to tell foreigners and guests of Kurdistan about this beauty through art.

Huda Sarhang, born in 1992 in the small town of Khanaqin. She holds a Bachelor's and Master’s degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Kurdistan Hawler.

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