Over the past decade or so scented candles have become big business. The findings of a study by the online retailer Vend estimated that British people bought an average of six candles a year at an average price of £7.40, which equates to the UK candle market being worth around £1.9 billion – and it’s an area that’s increasing in further value year on year. With the industry set to be worth double that by 2026 it’s certainly a profitable one to get into. But it was genuine passion rather than profit that inspired local resident Rachel Hunton to launch her own candle making business two years ago.
“I have always been a fan of fragrance in any form – whether it’s choosing the right perfume, scented washing powder, or cleaning products,” she explains from her fabulous new studio which is located at her house in Pembury.
“From a young age, I was always very aware of smells around me and feel strongly that the importance of scent should not be underestimated. They can enhance or deter behaviours, evoke strong emotions and forgotten memories – and the right scent can lift one’s spirits and create relaxing, uplifting or sensual moods depending upon the chosen fragrance.”
Rachel then goes on to say that in addition to appreciating nice scents, she has always loved burning candles, too.
“A flickering flame is calming and soothing and creates a warm ambiance within the home or garden.”
As was the case for most of us, 2020 proved to be a difficult year for Rachel but she says that lockdown actually gave her the push she needed to pursue her dream and launch her own business which she named The Outdoor Candle Company. This she says is primarily because she started making candles to enjoy while dining alfresco.
“I learnt a lot by completing an online candle making diploma and took part in several candle making workshops,” reveals the former primary school teacher.
But it was a visit to Keyneston Mill in Dorset – the beautiful gardens and home of Parterre fragrances – that proved to be a real eye-opener and the impetus to push on with her idea.
“This visit was incredibly inspiring as I was able to learn how essential oils are extracted and distilled from botanicals. Learning all about that gave me an even greater appreciation of the wonder of the natural world. When it comes to perfume I’m all about fresh, citrus scents; but when scenting my home however, my tastes are completely different and I am drawn to more warm, woody scents.”
And now Rachel is running her business full-time what are her key aims for it?
“To produce beautifully scented candles, that look and smell as good cold as they do when lit.”
“All the candles I sell are handmade in my workshop and I only use natural soy wax. I load our candles with 100% cruelty free, paraben free, finest blended fragrance oils and essential oils to provide maximum scent throw.”
“Soy candles have a ‘clean burn’ and as such are environmentally friendly. In addition, I am committed to using 100% recyclable or reusable containers and the packaging is made from recycled card. I offer a refill service, providing discounted prices as an incentive for customers to return their used container for a refill.”
Rachel says the other chief aim is to ensure that the candle making workshops side of the business takes off. And having recently experienced a fun session at one of them I am sure it will…
“Whilst I have spent the last two years developing my indoor and outdoor candle collections it was always my plan to host candle making workshops, offering customers the opportunity to make their own candle in an informative, yet relaxing setting.
“Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime of building work, the side extension and workshop was completed just before Christmas last year” explains Rachel before saying that she has been hosting both morning and evening workshops since January.
“Whilst I love making candles in the tranquillity of the studio, it is hosting the workshop experiences that I am really passionate about. It is great to see people enjoying the space and chatting to others in a relaxed and friendly setting. Everyone who has booked so far has been so complimentary about the studio and about the experience overall.”
Rachel says that each workshop lasts approximately two hours and begins with her giving a brief history of candles and candle making.
“I also discuss the different types of waxes and techniques that have been used over time and talk about different scents. I then introduce the scent wheel, which classifies the different scents in nature. It is always nice, at this point, to involve the guests and invite them to share their own personal likes and dislikes.
“We then take part in a fun ‘scent test’ which involves the guests trying to identify eight different essential oils. It’s funny as this has proved to be quite competitive on occasions! After that, it’s time to get making and so guests select a scent and a container in which to make their candle or candles. I offer the choice of either two small candles, in either glass, amber, tin or copper vessels or one large candle in a glass bowl or ceramic pot.
“As candle making is a science as well as an art, each participant – or chandler as I call them – needs to weigh out the correct amount of scented oil and wax for their chosen vessel. After glueing the wick in place they are ready to pour!”
But it’s not all work says Rachel who reveals that after guests have cleaned their work station, it is time to relax. In the evening that’s with a glass of fizz or a coffee and cake if participating in a morning session.
“It’s a nice opportunity to chat to the other attendees, whilst the candles cure. Whilst this is happening, I talk about scent extraction methods and candle care. I am always amazed by how many people do not trim their wicks – which helps your candle to burn cleanly and improves its longevity too!”
Rachel says that in terms of visitors to her workshops she sees a mix of both friends seeking something different to do together as well as individuals who want to meet new, likeminded people. She says that private hen or birthday parties can also be catered for.
“I’m just so pleased I’ve been able to finally do what I’m passionate about,” she smiles before setting up the large table in her workshop for another fun session of creating flaming beautiful candles….