Did you know you can buy locally-made Norfolk Gin candles?
- Credit: Contributed
Fragrance can have an impact on our mood and wellbeing. Some scents can make us nostalgic. Some are uplifting. And some are calming.
For Christina Brand, lighting a scented candle in the evening has always been part of how she unwinds at the end of the day.
"I've always loved candles," she says. "My mum always used to have candles around the house and in the evenings we’d light a candle and have dinner. It’s just always been part of my wellness routine - making you feel good, making you feel calm and relaxed."
It was what inspired her to start her own home fragrance company in 2018, making candles at her kitchen table to sell at craft markets.
Fast forward to now, and The Candle Brand’s products are multi-award winners, stocked by more than 250 stores in the UK and beyond – including at the Sandringham Estate.
And at the end of last year it expanded into new premises at Long Stratton.
“When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was looking for something to get me into the same sort of wind down mode and I found that there wasn’t a lot of candles that you could use while being pregnant,” she says.
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Christina has always been creative, and when she went on maternity leave from work, she decided to do a candle making workshop with a maker in Suffolk.
“I absolutely fell in love with it,” says Christina, who has daughters Ruby, 4, and Molly, 2.
“I found it really easy to pick up and I just absorbed all the information.”
She started doing her own research into ingredients and experimenting with making her own candles.
“I became so passionate about candles and fragrance, that I wanted to turn it into a business. I’d always been quite entrepreneurial and I’d always wanted my own business that would allow me to work around my children.”
Christina’s research led her to choose coconut and rapeseed wax for the candles rather than paraffin wax.
And she opted to use fragrance oils rather than essential oils, as some essential oils are not suitable for pregnant women and children.
She started out making her products on her kitchen stove in a bain marie, which meant that she could only make three or four candles in one go.
Christina called her first range The Classic Collection - the first fragrance being Eucalyptus and Lemon – which is still part of the core range today.
“It’s a really popular one and I think it’s always going to be a staple in our range,” she says. “It’s a really nice citrussy, refreshing one.”
To make her candles stand out, Christina chose frosted jars with wooden lids and to use wooden, rather than cotton wicks.
“It was something completely different to what was on the market at the time,” she says.
Christina launched her candles at craft fairs in 2018 and online in 2019, and went on to add diffusers and wax melts to her range of home fragrance products.
The Candle Brand’s fragrance library now comprises 15 scents, including refreshing English Pear and Freesia, relaxing Lavender with Clary Sage, uplifting Jasmine and Frankincense, a collaboration with Norfolk Gin and Christina’s own personal favourite, inspiring Peony and Rose.
As with her candles, Christina wanted her diffusers to stand out in the already crowded home fragrance market.
So, the reeds are topped with pretty flowers to look like a bouquet, and the bottle the fragrance comes in is shaped like a vase. The labels are impregnated with wild flower seeds, which are ready to plant too.
“Everything I do, I want to try and do differently,” she says. “So when I was thinking of reed diffusers, I didn’t want to just have the reeds because they just weren’t different enough for me.
“I researched the different ways in which I could diffuse the products and I found these sola wood flowers. I found a factory that would work with me, I tried and tested lots of different reeds and different types of flowers.”
The diffusers won two categories in in the 2021 Gift of the Year Awards, organised by the Giftware Association – the Home Fragrance and the My Gift Of All Time awards. The candles were also named the winner of the Beauty, Bath and Spa category.
It’s among Christina’s proudest achievements – along with the Sandringham Estate approaching her about stocking her products (“I was just absolutely blown away – it was a monumental moment to be stocked there,” she says) and moving to their first off-home premises.
“I moved to the dining room table, then I took a bedroom in the house, then I took two bedrooms in the house, and then my husband offered me his man cave, so I ended up taking them – and then we started to move back into the house,” she says.
“So, in December just gone we took the unit on in Long Stratton.”
The company is a real family affair – her mother-in-law was first to come and work for Christina, followed by her husband’s auntie, her sister-in-law and a friend.
“It’s all family and friends working here now,” she says.
Home fragrance was one of the markets which experienced a boom during the pandemic, and it was certainly true for The Candle Brand.
As Christina explains, there were positives and negatives to their rapid growth.
“We had some amazing successes, but we also had a lot of stresses alongside it as well,” says Christina.
“As soon as the pandemic hit, our business grew to three times the size it was, it boomed overnight. I think people were wanting to redirect their spending into wellness products, things that were helping them because they were all stuck at home, things that would make them feel better and make their home feel more homely.
“At the same time, we also had our suppliers and our manufacturers that were struggling. So we were trying to keep up with demand, but there was a shortage of wax in the industry, a shortage of fragrance oils and then my glass supplier went bust.”
Looking to the future, there are lots of bright ideas in the pipeline, including seasonal fragrances – Christina is currently working on some summery scents.
Sustainability has always been at the heart of what she does – The Candle Brand has been vegan-friendly and plastic-free “from day one” and a lot of the product packaging is biodegradable as well. Now, taking it to the next level, Christina is developing refill candles.
“Refills is another step forward,” she says. “To try and make candle glass a little bit more sustainable and give it another lease of life. It’s going to be a whole new candle concept, and that’s going to be really exciting."