This holiday gift-giving season, you may be thinking about picking out a beautiful new candle for your loved ones. Like any great fragrance or home accessory, selecting the perfect candle is a personal. With so many options out there on the market, you want to find a piece that smells great, relaxes you, and follows the environmentally-conscious brand ethos you care about. To get you inspired, the Richard Magazine team caught up with Tamara Mayne, the creator of Brooklyn Candle Studio.
The label is all about weaving international travel inspiration with the comforts of home, and that’s where their delightful scents come in. Be sure to catch our exclusive Q&A interview below to get to know about how the New York-based Brooklyn Candle Studio was founded – and is continuing to grow.
Richard Magazine: Can you tell us about how and why you started the Brooklyn Candle Studio?
Tamara Mayne: I started Brooklyn out of my apartment in September 2013. It was born as a tiny Etsy store. I’d been experimenting with candle making and scents since I started making them as gifts 9 months prior to opening the shop from a kit purchased at Michael’s.
After a few early debacles, I learned more about the wonders of soy wax, and started researching aromatherapy and perfumery, and became fascinated by the art of both. I was a graphic designer at the time, and was toying around designing labels.
Candles are such expressive products — they can embody beauty both in aroma and visual appeal. Scent is also such a powerful form of memory – it can instantly change someone’s mood to smell something they love or that reminds them of a time, person, or place near and dear.
Richard Magazine: How you think you strive to be different than what’s out there?
Tamara Mayne: As I was building Brooklyn Candle Studio, I always had design, affordability, safety, and environmental consciousness in mind, and, of course, amazing scents. Many of the very well designed luxury candles are unattainable price-wise, and I wanted to create candles that were beautifully designed, of high quality, and inclusive—all of our single candles cost under $40.
Our candles are thoroughly tested (I personally test every candle in my apartment for throw and burn quality) and we work with some very talented perfumers to create beautiful scents unlike anything out there that are certified phthalate-free. We make our candles with 100% soy wax and no chemical additives or dyes to enhance throw or color. I think it’s important to be able to burn candles knowing that you’re not breathing in any toxins, and beautifully designed to boot.
Richard Magazine: What are some of the inspirations behind your work?
Tamara Mayne: Mostly memories, elements in nature, places I’ve traveled and their distinct smells. The smell of hundreds of flowers at the New York Flower Market on 28th street, memories of a verdant hike in Fern Canyon, an evening walk in Santorini, the aroma of citrus trees and Eucalyptus when on my babymoon in Ojai.
Richard Magazine: Where do you come up with new product ideas?
Tamara Mayne: First, I think of a concept—what is the focal point going to be? For our Escapist series, there were notes I wanted to highlight that I remembered from different places I’ve been. Jasmine and Tuberose for Tuileries, Neroli and Eucalyptus for Ojai, Cardamom and Vanilla for Italy.
Then we give the concepts to our perfumer, and he or she (we work with several perfumers) will come up with 3-5 different variations to present to us.
I will smell them, choose my favorite(s) and request revisions (more cardamom, less sweet, more tart, more green, less musk. etc.) we’ll continue the process until we reach a scent I like.
Then comes the science part—how the fragrance burns in the final vessel, does it fill a room well when burning? Once all the elements are in place, we’ll order the final fragrance in a large quantity and gear up for our first production run!
Richard Magazine: What are some of your most popular gift items?
Richard Magazine: Can you describe the journey you’ve had since first starting the company until now?
Tamara Mayne: Since starting the company in my apartment, getting featured in that Etsy email, quitting my job, and finding a studio, so much in my life has changed! I got a huge order for about 1200 candles for a subscription box about 6 months into starting the business, and that was the point when I decided—this is FOR REAL. I can really pursue my dream of entrepreneurship.
I didn’t realize how lucrative the candle business was, and I set out to take advantage of it. I studied my competitors incessantly, I did tons of research, went to business workshops, worked until the wee hours making candles, responding to buyers and customers, and shipping product. The business really started to take off after I reached out to One Kings Lane and Gilt to have my products featured in 2014—and soon thousands of people on their email lists knew about Brooklyn Candle Studio.
Since then, we’ve gotten into major retailers like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, J.Crew, and more, have done a collaboration with Lululemon, and sent our products to over 500 shops around the world. My team has grown from just me to 9 employees (plus 3 for the holidays), and our studio has been upgraded from my living room to a 2000 (soon to be 3000) square foot space in Sunset Park.
There have been major ups and serious downs over the years—times when I was elated (when J.Crew ordered 4000 candles, when Anthro emailed and wanted to pick up our line) and times when I had a major pit in my stomach (when my studio manager quit, when I was kicked out of my 2nd studio in an artist building because I was a “business and not an artist”). But, overall, the freedom, the knowledge, and the confidence gained from creating a successful business was worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears.
Richard Magazine: How would you describe your customer, or the shopper you have in mind when you create new products?
Tamara Mayne: Our ideal customer is discerning, environmentally conscious, wants to support small business and ethical practices, and has a keen eye for design. This person has an impeccably designed home and wants it to smell as good as it looks.
Richard Magazine: Which comes first: your lovely product names, or the scent that you then match to a title?
Tamara Mayne: It can be either! Usually, the product names.
Richard Magazine: What are some of your goals for the company in 2019?
Tamara Mayne: I’d like to help my team get production to a point where it’s meeting demand easily, to improve our shipping lead times, and really streamline our product lines aesthetically. We are signed up for some really well-curated trade shows like Shoppe Object and Capsule so we can get our products into more beautiful shops. I’ve never really forced our company to grow—we’ve grown a lot organically over the years, so I would like to continue doing that.
We have plans for a retail space within our studio, so that is exciting! I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us.
— Kristine Hope Kowalski