Soy Candles Made in Vermont...by Vermonters! The Vermont Simple Soy Candle
The success of the Vermont Simple Soy Candle was never supposed to happen. When Sheri came to me with the idea of launching the company that eventually became Vermont Simple Beauty, there was no discussion about candles. We talked about lip balm, moisturizers, scrubs, even makeup (sort of glad that one didn't pan out), but not a word about candles.
At some point throughout the first several weeks of our piecing together Vermont Simple Beauty products, we had a minor discussion about Beeswax Candles. This seemed interesting. We already bought beeswax as a trial ingredient for some other products. How hard could a candle be? Haaa...haaa...haaa...haaa...
We quickly learned that beeswax isn't for scented jar candle making and abandoned ship, but my fascination with candle making didn't die with this bad idea.
Next up, soy wax.
From Zero to Sixty
In the beginning I had no idea what we were doing playing with the idea of a Vermont Simple Candle. Soy seemed like the logical next step, so we sought out the materials needed to start R&D on a scented soy wax container candle.
The original strategy was to buy the most expensive ingredients we could find under the assumption that it must be good if it cost that much. I can't say that sentiment ever steered us completely down the wrong road. I can, however, say that it didn't always present us with the best raw materials for our purposes.
Within a week or so, we had a big bag of wax, several wicks, lots of various fragrances to test, and a bunch of mason jars (you read that right) to pour it all into. Oh and don't forget #2 pencils because how else are we supposed to keep the wicks centered after pouring wax in the jars?
Before too long, we were out of raw ingredients and back to our suppliers for more. Not because we were headed to market, but because we had blown through everything already and weren't anywhere near market ready.
Finally Getting it Right
Research and development is a funny process. I'm sure most people think it means we spend countless hours slumped over a mixing bowl and the cook top boiling up some new concoction. While this does in fact happen, there's also a lot of time spent reading up on countless resources as we try to piece together the science of what we do.
Turns out the temperature that you add fragrance to wax matters. Also turns out the temperature that you pour the wax into a jar matters (a lot). And it also turns out all of this differs from one wax manufacturer to another.
Several weeks and dollars (I'd rather not think about the total right now) later and we had semi-viable candle. The wick was a little too large, the overall wax appearance was a little rough and the jar was hideous (sorry I don't have pictures) but we were certainly making progress. It even smelled like it was supposed to.
Nothing has caused more pain and frustration at Vermont Simple Beauty than the jar you all know and love. We don't love it quite as much as most of our customers. Not because we think it's ugly or anything like that--we think it looks awesome.
We simply know what effort has gone into sourcing this jar at a price that allows us to be competitive in the candle market. Like the day we thought it would be a good idea to drive six hours one way to pick up 44 cases of them instead of paying to ship them. Fun fact: turns out 44 cases of those jars with lids and enough soy wax to fill them won't all fit into a Volvo wagon.
We also remember when we attempted to change the jar and were handsomely rewarded with a huge decline in candle sales.
There was a pretty big disagreement about the jar in the beginning. Let's just say the two of us had very different visions for the Vermont Simple Soy Candle. Whose vision ultimately won isn't important (at least that's what we tell Sheri). What is important is the fact that we appear to have made the right call from the very beginning.
Believe it or not, there are several different "types" of soy wax on the market. Some are completely soy wax. Others are blended with botanical oils for various purposes. Others still are mixed with paraffin so that one can sell the candle as soy, but reap the lower manufacturing costs generally granted by paraffin wax.
I mentioned earlier that one of our original strategies involved buying top shelf-priced waxes under the assumption that it must be best. While the original wax used for Vermont Simple Soy candles did possess superior aesthetic qualities, we felt it came up a little short on fragrance.
We eventually reformulated with a different wax manufacturer, which has allowed us to offer a candle with incredible fragrance capability far exceeding our original wax choice.
We started with a the plan to match candle fragrances to our body care line fragrances. This made a lot of sense for eventual gift set offerings. We ran into some problems. Not all fragrances work super well in candles. Additionally, not all candle fragrances made a lot of sense in soap, moisturizing cream, etc.
We decided instead to focus on two main inspiration points for candle fragrances. The first was spa/aromatherapy inspired. We are, after all, a spa-inspired products company. This gave us fragrances like: Lavender, The Spa, Eucalyptus and Mint, Mint Sage, Vanilla Bergamot, and Antique Jasmine.
The second was developing fragrances that reminded us of something related to Vermont and/or New England. This gave us fragrances like Vermont Lodge, Fresh Lilac, Mountain Air, Maple, and Fresh Picked Apples.
We've admittedly struggled a bit to accept seasonality of candle preferences, but the concept is certainly real and we now embrace it. Nothing serves better evidence of this than our wild success with Balsam Fir during the holiday season.
Pulling it All Together
After hours of research and development and several reformulations, the Vermont Simple Soy Candle is a 100% soy wax candle free of Phthalates, Paraffin, and heavy metal-core wicks.
We feel the candle performs exceptionally well with respect to fragrance, and we've received a lot of feedback that appears to agree with us on this. This is a testament of our picky approach to high quality fragrance and/or essential oils used to develop our fragrances.
The candles are handmade by us in our manufacturing workshop located in Windsor, Vermont (which is much more spacious than the closet I used to make them in at our house in Brownsville).
The Unexpected Success Story
The Vermont Simple Soy Candle was not suppose to be the success it has been for us. It wasn't even suppose to exist if you look at our original plans for Vermont Simple Beauty. We are, however, mighty glad that we made the effort to bring this product to market and beyond thrilled with the reception it receives.
We're super proud of this product category. It excels both in our direct to consumer business as well as wholesale.
Suffice it is to say that our focus on candles is here to stay. You can anticipate even more amazing fragrance options to come in this product category.
- Brandon Roberts