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Rachel Hunton

The Outdoor Candle Company

“Having been a Primary school teacher for over 20 years I had begun to feel disheartened with various aspects of the job for a while and felt the urge to do something more creative. I considered several different ideas initially – the craziest of which was to buy an old van and convert it into a mobile Prosecco bar, although my friends rightly suggested that I would probably drink all of the profits!

Whilst considering my options, I came across an advert by Reed for an online diploma in setting up a candle making business and decided to use my long holidays to further investigate this idea. During this time I also booked onto a candle making workshop which was being run locally to me. During the 2 hour workshop we learned about the history of candle making and about the different types of waxes and fragrances that can be used in candle making and left with our own hand poured candle. However, I felt there was so much more that could have been done to make it more of an engaging experience.

Then last year during the summer holidays, I visited Parterre Fragrances, England’s biggest producer of essential oils. They grow their own botanicals, and, like a distillery, they extract the oils and from different types of plants and flowers, from which they then make their own perfume. During the tour we took part in a ‘sniff test’ where we had to guess the different fragrances – it really challenged the senses but was great fun. The whole experience really inspired me, and I realised I could do something similar – but for candle making.

My big plan is to run similar workshops, making it a real event, as I think there is big demand for it. It would be a fun experience for groups of friends to do together, brides-to-be could make candles as wedding favours or for the tables and it could also appeal to teenagers who love candles and would enjoy creating their own scented candle. Obviously, the Health & Safety aspect of this business is going to be a big factor with lots of areas to consider as there are a lot of things that can go wrong, especially when dealing with hot wax and volatile fragrance oils.

It was also important for me to find a USP to make me stand out as the market is saturated with people making candles – apparently handmade candles are one of most widely sold products on Etsy, so I needed to be different. That’s when I came up with the idea of outdoor candles, as it’s actually really hard to find decent ones. Most garden centres only sell those that are in terracotta bowls, heavily fragranced with citronella. These can be overpowering so I started by buying some nice plant pots and made them into candles using other naturally insect repelling, but more subtle scents. All my friends loved them, and I quickly sold out. It soon became apparent that to make this into a business I needed to start looking into finding a wholesaler to buy more stock at trade price, but this in itself has proved to be a challenge as stock is very low due to COVID and setting up trade accounts is always hard when you first start out.

Excitingly, I have now applied to add an extension on to my house to set up a proper workshop – the plans have been approved so now it’s just a case of getting on and building it! It will be great to have a designated space for people to attend the workshops. Getting my brand out there has been the hardest thing as I didn’t have huge amounts of savings to invest from the outset. I considered several names, but I eventually decided on The Outdoor Candle Company to keep it simple, as although I offer a home collection, I really want to focus on outdoor candles. Eventually I would love to see my products on tables in local pubs and restaurants, as well as in garden centres and gift shops. Launching my website and promoting on Instagram and Facebook has really helped to get my brand out there.

I am hoping that the onset of good weather and people being able to gather together outside will lead to a surge in demand for outdoor candles. With all the containers being refillable at a 30% discount too I’m hoping customers will see added benefits. What I’ve enjoyed the most about this new venture has been meeting my customers at the market fairs and getting their feedback and return custom. It’s been great making connections with similar local crafts people too – we all chat and compare ideas on social media, supporting each other and sharing tips on promoting our businesses.

Once lockdown lifts, I’m really keen to start preparing for the workshops because when you’ve been in a job like teaching all your life, you’re with people all day and to suddenly be working from home on your own is hard. I am now raring to go and ready to take my business to the next level. I would like to offer Brilliant Business members a 10% discount on products on my website https://www.theoutdoorcandlecompany.co.uk using the code Brilliant Businesses”

About the business

Beautifully scented candles to adorn your home and garden whatever the season.

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