A good partnership is key in running a business, how did you meet? We met at college in 2014 and pretty quickly became close friends, though it wasn’t until two years later – just a couple weeks before Ab was graduating – that we actually started dating! Regardless of that crazy timing we’ve now been together for five years and running QCC for two and a half.
You are clearly artists. What made you choose candles as your medium? I think we are each drawn to candles for a different reason. Ab loves to work with their hands, and getting dirty each day cooking candles and then getting to hyperfocus to get the toppings just right is super rewarding for them. There’s nothing more satisfying than a melting pot of wax.
For Al, it has much more to do with the candles being a multi-sensory medium. Al has synesthesia, so she is our scent master. She loves being able to mix fragrances and use her interpretation of their color and shape to help guide the design as well as what we use for that scent’s name.
We also both love growing plants of all types and when we started the business we were excited by the prospect of being able to bring in that hobby to our candle work. There are so many directions you can go with candles, so when we first started pouring wax we fell in love with the potential to mix in our other interests as well.
Do you have favorite ingredients to work with; ie herbs or flowers? We love working with pressed flowers! Our Earth candle is a spring favorite not only for the smell, but definitely for how unique the toppings are. All spring and summer long we top them with a rotation of wild flowers, leaves, seed pods, and anything else we’ve grown or collected. Pressing flowers can be tedious, but the results are stunning. This part of the country in particular has so many amazing blues and purples that really pop on our cream-colored wax.
I love that you give back to our community. 10% of your monthly earnings go to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which is fantastic. Why did you choose the SRLP? We love our community! As a queer-couple-owned business, it’s very important to us that we use part of our profits to promote visibility and amplify the voices of members of our community – specifically the voices of trans women and non binary people of color. SRLP’s focus, leadership, and initiatives fit what we were looking for. When we were just starting to look into where to send our 10% we definitely wanted to find a smaller, more focused org, and SRLP immediately came to mind. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, SRLP began to fund microgrants that allow folks to self-determine how funds were spent – whether that be medical bills, rent, food, or other necessities. We are grateful to them for doing that work and glad that during such a difficult time our money has essentially been funneled directly back into the community.
What makes the perfect candle in your opinion? The perfect candle hits that sweet spot where it’s strong enough to fill the room without being overpowering, or being too obvious. The perfect candle brings up a good old memory or helps to create a new one in that specific space. The perfect candle makes your home feel fresh, clean, and bright, even if you haven’t been able to straighten up for a few days.
I know that you are very careful in where you source your materials and even the fact that you choose to use soy in your candles to get the best product. How long did it take to find the partners for you to source from? Or how difficult was that part of the journey to find the perfect materials? It’s been a journey to source high quality materials that we trust. We like to be really thorough in vetting our ingredients, so in the beginning, it took quite some time to figure out which suppliers and companies had values that aligned with ours (environmental awareness, non-toxic components, etc). However, now that we’ve developed relationships and trust with several companies that produce our supplies, we’re able to more quickly approve products. As with any handmade item, it took a lot of trial and error to land on the materials that work best for us and our process. For example, sourcing high quality wicks took us a while. Thankfully, once we found a few that we were really happy with, we stuck with them!
What inspires you when you are making new scents? Such a wide variety of things! Sometimes when we’re putting out a new scent, we’ve formulated that fragrance to go with a certain type of flower or herb that we’ve fallen in love with and wanted to include in a product. Other times we are inspired by scents that we both love – for example, we developed our Ginger Tea candle because we both love the scent of fresh ginger and wanted to find a way to incorporate it in our collection. We try to work with scents that are unique from the “typical” candle scents you might find in a big box store, so we’re always on the lookout for new ideas and combinations that we can get excited about.
What is something you like to do when you aren’t working and need to recharge? Though we haven’t been able to for a looooong time, we love to travel! Pre-pandemic and running a business, we were always setting off on adventures in places we’d never been to. We’re looking forward to being able to take a “just for fun” trip once things get a little more normal.
Do you have any advice for those who are just starting to make candles? Figure out what makes your brand unique! There are SO MANY candle companies out there, so it’s important to have a well developed sense of what makes your product stand out to a customer. Beyond that, focus on making products that you love! We are both super picky about scents, so we tend to only work with fragrances that we would burn in our own home, rather than trying out other options that we don’t love but that other people might like (i.e. vanilla – we both dislike vanilla candles even though they’re really popular with other brands). In structuring ourselves this way, we’ve found a really consistent customer base that feels the same way about scents.
I also love the sense of community that Queer Candle Co. has. On your Instagram you are always not only thanking your patrons but also asking them for other small businesses for you to promote. How important is community for you? Community is always top of mind for us. We love growing our business together, but being “business people” was never a primary career aspiration for either of us. What we love about the path we’re on is the ability to connect with like-minded shoppers and makers. We love that in the small business community, there’s so much room at the table. There are so many creative and talented small business people doing amazing things in the community, and we love getting to know them and the shoppers who are supporting them.
Any final thoughts you want to share? When you’re shopping with small brands, makers, and artists, try to remember that we’re just people! Chat us up, ask us questions, and let us get excited about what we’re making – it will only make you fall in love with our products more
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