Willow & Bay: 'My lockdown hobby became my business!'
We caught up with the candlemaker behind Willow & Bay scents, to discover what inspired them to set up a candle making business...
When and why did you decide to launch a candle business?
'I wanted to learn a new skill during lockdown and as I love scented candles I thought I’d do some research to see if I could learn to make them so in December 2020 I bought some supplies and really enjoyed the process and it was a great distraction from work/life etc.
'I don’t do things by halves so the hobby quickly evolved into having a brand name, branding and after much testing, I had created a scent list to launch a handful of candles and diffusers. 4 months later I have my own business and I’m really proud of how far it’s come already.'
Did you used to make candles for yourself before you went into business?
'I basically went from learning to make them to deciding I wanted to see if this could take off as a business idea.
'The testing of products meant I did share with friends and family to get their views and also have other homes to test products in but I didn’t have months of making them just for myself.
Are you doing this full time or alongside another job?
'I’m doing this alongside a full time job at the moment which can be pretty full on but I do enjoy being busy.
'The business is a great escape from my 9-5 routine and a really nice way for me to be creative outside of a career in the civil service.'
Where are you based? Do you make the candles at home or in a studio elsewhere?
'I am based in south London. At present I make everything from home but I am quickly running out of space so am looking at alternatives. I’d love to have my own studio some day!'
What are your main raw materials? Which wax do you use and why?
'I use soy wax only. When I researched candle making I weighed up the options and quickly gravitated towards soy; it gives a really clean and long/even burn and fits in with my brand's ethos of keeping everything natural, vegan friendly and cruelty free.
'It’s also a really great wax to work with and after years of unknowingly buying paraffin candles which create a lot of black smoke I knew whatever wax and wick combination I chose, it needed to create a clean burn without soot and black smoke that ruined my walls. I’ve learnt a lot about candles on the market in the last few months.'
Where do you source your fragrances and which ones are your/customer favourites?
'I have a few UK suppliers I buy my fragrances from. I buy a lot of different ones in a sample size and test them fully to ensure they are strong and smell good when lit. Coconut Lime was part of the spring/summer collection and one of the first 5 scents I launched and it was my best seller.
'My other scents all sold pretty well and evenly too and it’s always surprising how some scents just do a lot better in person than online. I don’t launch any scents I don’t like as the lack of enthusiasm or excitement for them would just show through in my captions and I wouldn’t enjoy making them.
'It’s hard for me to pick my favourites but from the current autumn/winter collection I’d say I gravitate more towards Vanilla Hazelnut and Amber & Sweet Orange. Generally speaking, I like woody and sweet scents.'
What's the hardest part about running a candle business?
'There’s always so much to do for the business in general but specifically to candle making, I’d say the time it takes to find scents I’m drawn to, making and then testing them thoroughly can be quite time-consuming.
'I can be quite impatient so waiting for the candles to ‘cure’ before testing can be frustrating. I’ve tried to release scents in a thought out manner, rather than just for the sake of launching a huge variety at random times. However, when I find a fragrance I like the smell of in the bottle, I’m always so eager to test it.'
What's the best part of running a candle business?
'I love receiving feedback on my products from the branding, packaging, luxury look of jars to the overall quality of the products and scent choices.
'I put a lot of pride and effort into every element of the business so when people notice and then take the time to tell me it means the world.
'I really enjoyed being able to sell in person at markets all over London this summer and can’t wait to get back out there in the coming months. I think people love seeing the face behind the brand and I love hearing the feedback so it’s a win-win.
'I also really enjoy the process of candle/diffuser making and even though I’m always thinking of the next milestone or goal I want to achieve, I always remember to enjoy it otherwise it just wouldn’t be worth it. It’s not to say some days aren’t stressful and overwhelming though!'
Which is your most popular candle?
'My Coconut Lime candle was a huge hit over the summer as I’d light one at my stall at the markets and everyone would stop to tell me how much they loved the smell.
'As we’re approaching autumn, the more woody, cosy scents are all selling pretty evenly.'
What do you have coming up this year in terms of new product launches?
'Autumn/winter is going to be my busiest time and as it’s my first attempt at this season I don’t want to rush it and look too far ahead just yet.
'I’ve been working behind the scenes on the more festive other A/W scents to add to the current line that will see me through the next few months so I’ll be launching those soon.
'I will also be a doing a limited edition drop of a luxury scent which I think will be really popular with those who like a more masculine scent. Also, if all goes to plan then hopefully a larger candle should be available as an exclusive this season too.'