Finding a positive focus – in conversation with Matthew and Yvonne from York Candle Company
This week I’m talking to Matthew and Yvonne, the couple behind The York Candle Company, who sell soy wax candles and melts which are all handmade by them in their kitchen in York. I first came across their wares at the York River Art Market and they smelt so good that I had to buy one! I think I’ve now had four all together, and they’ve all been gorgeous so I was keen to find out more about the story behind their business.
Hi both! Thanks for getting involved in this series. Please could you tell us a little bit about yourselves that we might not already know?
We’ve been together for nearly three years, after meeting each other through work. We both enjoy travelling, and together have been on many a European city break – we’re always planning our next adventure! Neither of us are originally from York, although we’ve made it our home now. Matthew moved from London, and Yvonne is originally from Liverpool. We both love living here in York now though, and consider ourselves honorary Yorkshire folk!
What led you to starting your business?
The business started when I [Yvonne] had to take a long period of time off work. I lost my mum suddenly, which led to health problems, and for a while I struggled to leave the house. During this time, I found a new hobby – candle making – and soon Matthew was hooked too! We spent a lot of time perfecting our candles and our brand through trial and error at home which helped me to find a positive focus and something I was passionate about. We then made the decision to start selling them at craft fairs which was a huge turning point in my confidence and health, and led to us becoming a proper business.
What’s your biggest motivation for what you do?
The fact that we use soy wax is a big motivation for both of us. I [Yvonne] can’t actually use regular paraffin candles as they give me headaches and sore eyes, so when researching candle making, we knew that we wanted to try with soy wax instead. It’s a natural by-product of soya beans, and therefore gives a clean and natural burn in your home, without releasing chemicals and soot like paraffin wax does. Showing people the difference it can make is a huge motivation for us, particularly when it comes to the fragrances. Soy wax has no scent of its own, so we can play around with fragrances and really capture the scents that we want, without having to compensate for the smell of wax. It also blends much better with the fragrances than paraffin wax, meaning that the scent will last throughout the whole candle.
The Autumn range
What have been some of your biggest wins?
Taking the first step and booking a craft fair was the biggest win for us – it sounds simple but that first step is by far the scariest! There was a a lot of worry about failing, or people not liking our candles, but to actually put ourselves out there made the biggest difference to us. And it’s paid off, as our most recent big win was being accepted for a cabin on Coppergate during the York St Nicholas Fayre! This is a huge compliment for us, and a massive undertaking, but we are so excited to see the results!
Where do you see your business in the future?
Having a stall at the St Nicholas Fayre will hopefully be a big step forward for us in allowing us to drive our business online and into retailers. Next year we’re hoping to branch out and get our candles stocked in businesses around Yorkshire, and perhaps beyond! We’ve also put together a wedding favour range, and are hoping to attend more wedding shows next year with our personalised candles.
What would you advise someone starting their own business, whether that be part-time or full-time?
Don’t let self doubt get in the way! Learn and grow from things that go wrong – every business has things that don’t go to plan, they just don’t shout about them! And sometimes going off plan can result in something good – we created our best selling candle, Vintage Bookshop, by total accident. It was supposed to be something completely different, but when we blended it it reminded Yvonne of paper and vintage shops, and so Vintage Bookshop happened!
Who are some other creative business owners you admire?
We’ve worked alongside the lovely people at Hippo and Co at a few fairs now, and we just love their work. Also Gemma Hayward creates some of the most amazing animal artwork we’ve ever seen, her pictures just draw you in – always wished for a talent like hers! And you can’t help but smile whenever you meet The Perky Painter. Her artwork is adorable, we love her characters, and she is the most positive person we’ve ever worked with!