Who doesn’t love candles? If like me you love candles and the light and atmosphere they bring to a room, you will be intrigued by my latest interview! Thanks to The Pink Shop in Barnet I had the pleasure to meet candle maker Gemini from Apothecary Essence.
I have been using candles for years but I never thought about some of the things I discovered thanks to candle maker Gemini. We had a really pleasant and interesting chat about her passion and how she started Apothecary Essence. I also learned quite a few things I didn’t know! There is so much involved in the process of creating a candle, from the quality of the wax, to the blends and the testing.
I love meeting makers and talk about their businesses, motivation and products. Thank you Gemini for agreeing to the interview, it was a pleasure meeting you!
Could you tell us a bit of yourself? What were you doing before being in the candle industry?
You probably won’t believe this! I am an accountant by trade and worked for 15 year in London for big corporations. My career was amazing and I loved the thrill of it but I didn’t have a balanced life. I knew I needed a change and do something creative!
How did you come up with the business idea of candle making? When and how was Apothecary Essence born?
I had been playing with candle making for a couple of years before starting Apothecary Essence. I had been making candles for myself, friends and family but never thought to turn it into a business. It was a couple of weeks after I left my job, in October 2017, that I decided to start playing around with the candle making again and found that I really loved creating new blends and sharing them with friends and family. I was getting great feedback, and thought “I can do this!”. So I did! I launched Apothecary Essence on the 3rd December 2017. The company was born! It was a very quick turnaround and just in time for Christmas!
Tell us a bit about the business and the Apothecary Essence brand
I love home fragrances and I am obsessed with every room in my house smelling nice. After reading several articles on aromatherapy and essential oils, I started to develop the idea of a natural candle range that not only smells beautiful but can have therapeutic benefits. I also wanted to use soy wax which is a natural plant based product and is clean burning. So then followed tons of research around aromatherapy and searching for the best essential oils and soy wax.
With regards to the name “Apothecary Essence” I just loved it! The term “apothecary” dates back thousands of years and is the profession of using natural ingredients to formulate remedies and the term “essence”is to go back to the basic and real nature of something. So Apothecary Essence is all about using natural ingredients in their purest forms to create beautiful, therapeutic candles!
Tell us a bit about the products. How do you come up with the fantastic blends?
The products I make at Apothecary Essence are made from pure soy wax, natural essential oils and a wood wick. The combination gives a natural clean burning candle.
As with any creator or maker, there isn’t only one process on how you come up with things. Sometimes it happens when trying to fill a hole. I think about what is missing in the range and start blending oils that have the property I am looking for. Other times, I come across an oil that I really like and then try to use it.
The most popular candle I sell The Unwinder came about from a completely different process. When I was creating the product line I realised that I was using some oils more than others. The accountant in me didn’t like this! So I decided to experiment blending these oils together in different formulations. The Unwinder is truly beautiful, it has a blend of rose, lavender and lemon and is often described by customers as a smelling like a spa! It is beautiful!
Is there a lot of trial and error when making the candles?
Yes! The process of candle making involves a huge amount of trial and error. The process starts by choosing the oils I want to use, dropping them into a cotton pad, I put the cotton pad into a box and leave it. I come back a couple of days later and either I love it or I hate it! If I love it I then make it into a candle. I will burn the candle and see how it is burning. Different oils will will have different effects on how the wax melts and reacts, sometimes you love the smell but then you realise that it is not burning well as a candle.
The key things in the whole process are: the candle has to burn correctly, it needs to smell great and be safe! If the flame is too big then it is not a good candle and it is back to square one!
I have a rule that I won’t release any candle that doesn’t smell nice not only when cold but also when burning. How many times have you bought a candle that smells amazing when cold but then it doesn’t smell of anything when you burn it? This doesn’t happen with Apothecary Essence’s candles.
Where do you make the lovely candles and infusers?
I work at home and make them in my kitchen, label them in the living room and leave the boxes in the spare room!
How long it takes to make a candle? Or a batch of them? What is the process?
I try to make the candles in small badges. In the lead up to Christmas I have been doing 200 to 300 candles a week. It takes two days per bath from start to finish. That is a full two days! Then it is the marketing, pop ups, sales, online, everything. Every day is so different! There are days when I pull my hair out but others when I feel super happy!
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered setting up the business?
Having worked for large corporates my entire career, the biggest challenge I found was the change in how to work – there is no team, it’s just me. So everything has to be managed carefully. I have to plan when to make, when to work on my website and social media, when to get out and sell, etc. At the start, I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities so I said yes to everything! A year on, I have realised that saying no to some things can actually work in your favour.
I guess the other challenge has been visibility and awareness of the products. I love it when people come into a shop or come along to a market where I have my products displayed and seeing their faces when they smell them. It’s wonderful hearing what they have to say. So often, I hear something along the lines of “they smell so different and it’s not just another candle company!”. The challenge comes when trying to sell online as you can’t smell the products! I need smell-o-vision to be invented!
What materials do you use in the making of the candles?
I try to use natural materials, I use pure soil wax, essential oils wood wicks. I also make sure I use recyclable products, the boxes come from FSA managed forests and I use tins that can be used for something else and are recyclable.
What is the most popular scent right now? And your favourite candle?
Right now the most popular candle has been The Restorer which has a blend of sweet orange, vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper – it’s warming and cosy. It’s often described as “Christmas in a candle” by customers.
As for my favourite candle, it’s like saying what’s your favourite child! I like different candles on different days depending on the mood I want to create. At the moment I love The Meditator. I created The Meditator with a friend in mind. It is a blend that allows you to focus your mind but relax at the same time. The candle has rose, orange and eucalyptus and it is lovely to burn it when you work. I use it a lot!
I also really like The Dreamer diffuser which has lavender, clary sage and bergamot. It’s perfect for a bedroom and it’s wonderful to walk into the room and instantly feel calm and relaxed and switch off from everything!
You offer a bespoke service. Tell us a bit more about it.
The bespoke service I offer is completely open. As a candle maker I love talking to people about what they want to achieve with the candle and create it for them.
I can use different containers, create pillar candles or unique scents for the customer! In fact there is a bookshop near where live that was my first ever stockist that have their own scent. I showed them 7 or 8 scents I had created and they picked one. The candle is called “Bookshop Magic” and it is a co-branded product on sale only in the shop along with my other candles.
I love working on new things and creating bespoke scents and unique products for customers.
What does set your business apart from other candle businesses out there?
I use only natural ingredients – soy wax, essential oils and wood wick. Each essential oil blends have been created from scratch by me and so are unique to Apothecary Essence. They smell great, they have an aromatherapy benefit and the names have been picked up to match the feeling. I had a lot of fun coming up with the names – for example The Dreamer – this is a blend that is designed to calm, relax and ready you for a good night sleep so it just followed that this one will be called The Dreamer!
Where do you sell your products?
What are your plans for the future of Apothecary Essence?
I guess I love the business and I would love it to continue to grow. My plan is to play with more aromatherapy blends to create spring and summer scents and add them to the range.
I am also planning to get some more stockist next year and looking at pop-up shops.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a candle making business?
I have learned a lot of lessons in the process of creating the business. I guess the number one advice I would give to any candle maker is to experiment and test and make sure you are 100% happy with the candle before you even consider selling it.
Also, there are lots of regulations about candles. You need to know them! When I create my blends I have to get the formula tested to make sure it is safe.
And finally if you want to create a candle business, do it! Don’t think about it. If you have an idea and you believe in it only you can make it happen!
Talking to candle maker Gemini about candles and her business has given me an insight about the laborious process creating a candle involves. Picking the best natural wax and quality aromatherapy oils, mixing the scents, testing the burn of the candle, choosing the packaging and following regulations. Wow there is so much to take into account! There is so much to take into account! However, one thing I have learned for sure is to buy good quality candles that don’t have chemical ingredients. Thank you Gemini for producing such lovely products that are as natural as they can be!
What type of candles to you use in the home? Do you like scented candles or unscented candles?
Contact Apothecary Essence:
Until the next post.