Want to know what it takes to start your own candle business? We chat with the founder of Palm Beach Collection, Kirsten Walker, on how she started her own business in candle making.
Palm Beach is an Australian owned, made and run candle brand, who make affordable luxury fragrances in the form of hand poured candles, reed diffusers and soaps in an array of inspiring fragrances inspired by the Australian coastal landscape.
Kristen made the journey from fashion buyer to scent expert, running her own successful business selling beautiful fragrances, becoming a household brand for many Australians.
In 2020, Palm Beach Collection celebrated ten years of making Aussie homegrown fragrances. Family owned and run, the business started in the family garage. From mixing and pouring candles, to delivering in person, everything was hands on within this family-run business from start to finish.
Starting with only two products, one candle and one diffuser, the brand has expanded to create a wide range of fabulous products which includes room sprays, hand creams, body wash and essential oils.
Kirsten says it’s been quite a journey.
“10 years ago, we started a real grassroots brand in our garage. Selling everything ourselves, pouring everything ourselves and delivering products ourselves. We were so lucky with the timing too, and the product and the market, as everything kicked off pretty quickly when we started.
Since then we have grown organically and it’s been a nice ride. We haven’t had to push too hard in any way, to get noticed in the market of candles and fragrances.
People really want to buy into the family business and being one hundred percent Aussie homemade and grown helps as well. It’s really important to a lot of people.”
What was once just a stick of wax used for the purpose of creating light has now become an essential part of daily life, as a way of escaping to a favourite holiday location, helping destress and relax, and creating ambient scents of harmony in the home and workplace.
So, what does it take to create a candle with the perfect scent? Kirsten says it’s about quality fragrances, using life experiences and adopting elements of the environment around you to create the perfect candle people will love.
“When we first started, we were really just kind of going, okay well let’s capture a couple of florals and match them with some earthy ones and see how we go. We knew customers really love scents which transport them to a holiday location, or a whisk them to a memory they have of going to the beach with their family, even if they’re not living by the beach. It was important for us to recreate the idea that a candle could help heighten the sense of happiness and joy.
As the business continued to grow, we learned our customers really liked fragrances such as watermelon, coconut and clove. So, it was important to us to give our customer what they wanted.
Another thing we learned from our customers, is the type of depth they liked in their candle. For example, when using clove, our customers preferred a more subtle scent of the fragrance, so it wouldn’t be overpowering. This meant avoiding deep leathery tones and keeping them light instead.”
As for the process, Palm Beach work with a specialised fragrance house here in Australia, who help them develop the right type of scent for their products. This means, the scents have been expertly crafted to ensure the right type of control on the release of the scent as the diffuser or candle works to emit its fragrance.
“By using a specialised fragrance house, we can literally go to them and say, alright we want lychee and mango, and they will then workshop with us the best combination of those two scents and what else can go with them to help develop the right fragrance.
There’s a lot of yes and no in the whole process until you achieve the right scent. There have also been plenty of times where I have gone to them and said, okay, this is what I want. And they have then responded with, no, that’s not going to work. So, we will then workshop the process and try to get the right scent that does work.
It’s actually a fun process, but not without a lot of trial and error. In all honestly, it’s probably my favourite part of the whole process in creating fragrances.”
In-fact creating fragrances takes a lot of work. And Kirsten doesn’t recommend you mix them up yourself, especially when it comes to creating a successful candle or diffuser.
“It’s very technical creating fragrances, so you really need to go to somebody who knows what they’re doing to get the ingredients right and the balance right, as you can make a candle unstable if you’re using too much essential oils or if you’re using too much vanilla for example. Of course, if you already know your way around fragrances, then there’s really no stopping you from doing your thing and creating a great candle scent.”
Kirsten had little to no experience at all in making candles when she started. She was a buyer previously. A buyer is someone in the retail industry who selects what items are stocked for the store they represent. Buyers usually work closely with designers and their designated sales representatives and attend trade fairs, wholesale showrooms and fashion shows to observe trends for product which can be retailed in their shop.
Kirsten’s father however, did have thirty years-experience working in the wax industry, and provided a guiding hand to her and her brother (who was a carpenter) to help them start their business venture in candle making and selling.
“We were pretty naïve to be honest. We didn’t really think it through, which I think was probably a good thing in all honesty, as we had no expectations of the outcome.
And thanks to dad and his experience, he did know a lot of people in the trade, which really helped to have those contacts, as we could reach out to them for advice and guidance on where and how to start.”
In 2020, Palm Beach branched out with their new wellness range, a success contributed to the core foundational ideas of creating luxury type scents and fragrances which is both accessible and affordable to any demographic.
Calling it affordable luxury, the range includes a room spray, different sized candles, hand and body wash, hand cream and linen spray, the products use different packaging to help a customer identify the new wellness range from their core Palm Beach collection.
“We really wanted to try something new, try different sized candles, and it’s been good so far and has really taken off since we launched. We like to call it affordable luxury. Where we were positioned in the market, we wanted to have the right price point for our customers so anyone could have luxurious fragrances without the heft price tag.”