Indie Oxford Interview: Littlemore Candle Company
Today in our series of blogs where you get to meet the people behind your favourite indies, we chat to Molly Stevenson, the maker behind Littlemore Candle Company.
Tell me about yourself and your life in Oxford.
After spending most of my childhood growing up in the south of Spain, I came to Oxford to study at Oxford Brookes University. After graduating from my undergraduate degree I found myself unsure of what I wanted to do in life so continued studying for a postgraduate in Publishing. Still unsure of which path to take I began applying for roles in the social sector where I found myself working for a forward thinking homeless charity. Although rewarding I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be so I decided to move on a pursue my dream – to create and develop a brand of my own whilst bar tending at the Magdalen Arms; a place close to my heart.
Can you tell us how you started your business?
When my late Grandma passed away she left various pieces of china, including tea cups and saucers, into which I decided to pour (unknown to me at the time) petroleum based paraffin wax into. What started as a hobby in 2015, and desire to produce handmade gifts for friends and family, soon evolved into a small business together with a true passion. After research I found that there were alternatives to toxic paraffin wax and found plant based soy wax; cleaner, sustainable and eco-friendly. I soon afterwards made the decision to invest more time and care into the business with the close support of my Mum.
Have you always had a passion for making?
In short no. I think it is underestimated how difficult it is for many young people to figure what it is exactly that they have a passion for and be able to apply this to your work. Doing what you love, at the end of the day, is what we all want in life. It was only in the last year or so that I realised my strengths lie in more creative pursuits. I was never overly academic or enjoyed traditional learning and vocational subjects, so finding something I’m good at and love doing has been a breakthrough for me. I finally feel like I’m on the right path and lucky to have found it.
Which part of the making process do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy spotting things in the great outdoors that I can take home, preserve and use for future ranges or special edition candles. Foraging and drying berries, for example, or gathering pieces of wood I can use to display the candles. Like the healing stones we use, I have an appreciation for natural beauty and making them stand out on various platforms whether on a stall table or embedded in the top of the candle wax. I’ve enjoyed learning various methods of drying and pressing beautiful flowers or posies, coming back to them months later and using them when developing new products.
Tell me about the meaning behind the semi-precious stones you include with the candles.
Having long had a passion for yoga and its ability to reduce anxiety and stress I’ve also had an appreciation for crystals and their spiritual healing properties. I therefore decided to include a healing stone in the candles to complement their fragrances. Lavender, for example, helps with sleep and overall tension, much like the amethyst, thus offering a combined healing energy for customers. Providing metaphysical healing properties, the crystals facilitated going one step further towards creating a ‘Littlemore’ than just a candle. Our signature range includes crystals separate from the candle which you can place under your pillow or drop into your burning candle. Our newer candles, including wedding favours, include crystals already embedded within the wax.
Which part of running your business have you discovered a talent for?
Having worked with people in various job roles, I feel this is where my strength lies. I enjoy building relationships, in developing the business and customer facing scenarios. I am particularly excited about our upcoming project working on bespoke wedding favours and centrepieces. We will be attending the Wedding Show in NEC Birmingham in March. The vision is to sit down with couples and discuss their wedding themes, together with what stones, fragrances and botanicals they like in order for us to create bespoke wedding favours for their guests. Numbers are definitely not my area of expertise; I try to leave most of that stuff to my Mum and our accountant!
What do you love to do when you’re not making candles?
Fairly simple things life has to offer. Practicing yoga and going on retreats has been a hobby of mine for a while now. I also enjoy long nature walks and getting to know the UK better as I spent most of my childhood in Spain. Eating out with friends and family, travel, and taking long bubble baths alongside a glass of wine and a relaxing burning candle!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
Persevere! Even doing something you love will become difficult and present you with challenges as your business develops. I think it’s important to accept that sometimes you won’t get everything done you set out to do in an afternoon; the whole list may not be ticked off. Creating a good balance of hard work and knowing your limits is crucial in business. I am known to be a perfectionist, but sometimes perfect is either unfeasible or unattractive…the products we make are all one of a kind and handmade and being able to see this is often a big part of the appeal for customers.
Tell me about your plans for 2019?
Where do I start? I’ve already mentioned bespoke wedding favours and centrepieces and how excited we are to continue evolving this idea. With several wedding fairs in the calendar already we feel this is a real niche for us. With regards to developing new candle ranges this is also on our agenda with plans to release a Cocktail Range in Spring and a Baking Range in time for the Great British Bake Off! Being as creative as possible with these, I feel, is essential for the development of our brand with talk in the workshop about Pornstar Martini and Coffee & Walnut candles!
Lastly, which are your favourite independent businesses in Oxford?
Keeping hold of their position in the Top 50 Gastro Pubs in the country, The Magdalen Arms never disappoints. Having worked for Florence and Tony for some time they are not only inspirations when observing how to run a business, but good friends of mine. Their ethos of sourcing only fresh seasonal produce for an ever changing menu never ceases to impress. Another favourite is Vinyl Revolution run by the lovely Simon which has contributed significantly to the development of my business as he has always completed print work quickly and professionally. Last but not least TOAD (The Oxford Artisan Distillery) has the most amazing eco credentials, sourcing sustainably grown grain from organic farms local to Oxfordshire. They always provide a warm welcome too!