Boujee Bougies: 'We have to keep a calm head in a crowded marketplace'
We caught up with Nick Gilbert (Creative Director) and Pia Long (Perfumer), the candle makers behind Boujee Bougies, to discuss what goes on behind-the-scenes at a candle making business...
When and why did you decide to launch Boujee Bougies?
'We'd been speaking about it for a long time, wanting a place to put some of our creative ideas that other people weren't asking for, but we felt deserved to exist out there. Then one day I woke up with the name Boujee Bougies in my head, which I thought was really funny.
'So, I told Pia, and we decided that we should use that name - and that’s one of the reasons we directed our creativity towards candles as our first own brand, even though it might have been more expected and typical to launch a collection of perfumes first.
'We'd finished the fragrances way before the pandemic, but it was during that time that it felt really important to have a beautiful scent in our homes where we were spending all of our time, and so we decided to push ourselves to make the brand a reality.'
Did you used to make candles for yourself before you went into business?
'Before we decided to launch Boujee Bougies, we were creating for other businesses, which is still what we mainly do. We have our own lab, so Pia would sometimes create fragrances based on ideas for accords she had, or if I wanted something in particular, I'd ask her to create it just because I wanted the smell.
'We can explore pretty much any kind of scent idea and it’s so satisfying to be able to ask: “what if?” and end up with a sample at the end of it, rather than be left wondering. One of the huge advantages we have is the speed with which we can create something completely new.'
Are you doing this full time or alongside another job and if the latter, what else do you do?
'Boujee Bougies is a side project that we're trying to dedicate as much of our time as possible to, alongside running our consultancy and fragrance house, Olfiction.
'We work with all kinds of fragrance and candle brands as well as industry bodies and raw materials manufacturers. We've been in the fragrance world for a very long time now, and launched Olfiction 5 years ago.'
Where are you based? Do you make the candles at home or in a studio elsewhere?
'We're split between my office space in Peckham, and the lab just outside of Leighton Buzzard, which is where Pia lives - the lab is in a really gorgeous countryside setting at a small business park which is on a converted farm estate, next to an equestrian centre, so there are lots of horses around which is quite relaxing.
'The candles are hand-poured in a factory in Kidderminster, because we don't have the space (or time!) to be able to make them all on site. During development, we hand-make all the candle samples for testing ourselves at the lab.'
What are your main raw materials? i.e which wax do you use and why?
'For wax, we use a blend of rapeseed, soy and beeswax, which our clients and Boujee Bougies manufacturing partner Parks Candles created - the burn is really beautiful, even, and clean.
'Honestly for us it’s about performance over anything else, and Pia has developed a talent for working with this specific blend and making fragrances that lift out of it in both cold and hot throw.
'Our fragrance materials are a mixture of natural absolutes, essential oils and isolates, plus the necessary synthetic materials to create the fragrances we want to share – some used for technical wizardry and others for their olfactive qualities.'
Where do you source your fragrances and which ones are your/customer favourites?
'We create all our own fragrance formulas in-house; so far it’s been all Pia’s creations but we are training a young perfumer who will be contributing in the future. Once the formulas have been created in small scale and tested at our lab, we send them off to be manufactured in bulk.
'We are fortunate to have a unique relationship with a specialist fragrance compounding house and service, Accords & Parfums, who manufacture the concentrated oil for us in the hills above Grasse in the South of France.
'They source the ingredients from all over, with a real focus on quality and the ingredient partnerships they have with producers of naturals are built around ethical and sustainable models, making sure the communities that grow them are rewarded fairly.
'We have access to their entire catalogue and stock around 400 materials at any one time, getting in new ones when the project at hand demands it. For Boujee Bougies, we wanted to make sure the fragrances were incredibly high quality, so we spend a lot on them!'
What's the hardest part about running a candle business?
'Getting our name out there, honestly. We've got a good reputation in the industry, but as far as the public goes, we're still relatively unknown.
'We've managed to get some great placements in magazines and some really wonderful feedback and support from people on social media, and we're just launching with our first stockist. We've got big ambitions and we have to keep a calm head in a crowded marketplace.'
What's the best part about running a candle business?
'Coming up with new ideas and names as a team - between all of us we have so many ideas, and we like to be playful with names. Finding a pun that works as a name is always really satisfying, especially when that then translates to the perfumery side of things.'
Which is Boujee Bougies's most popular candle?
What do you have coming up this year in terms of new product launches?
'We're working on two new candles and changing our packaging to help elevate it all and do the fragrances justice. They're going through burn tests at the moment to make sure they burn effectively - and it's going to be very exciting to see them come to life next year!'