Willow & Finn

Surrey-based Willow & Finn specialise in the creation of hand pouredsmall batcheco friendly soy wax candles and offer a specially curated range of home and wellness products. They will be bringing their fantastic Candle Bar experience to The Artisan Collective Fair with interactive workshops, to give you the chance to learn the craft of soy candle making.

Find out more about the workshops here.

We caught up with Nicola, Willow & Finn’s founder, to find out more in our latest Meet the Maker interview, take a look below…

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How and when did your business start?   

The business actually came from my microbakery business that I started in 2016 after having a traumatic year nursing poorly parents, and losing my Mum.  I wanted to nurture my creative side, and wanted to move more away from a desk job which I’d done for more than 20 years.  Having made soy candles for years, in 2018 I had candles in the bakery burning when customers collected their orders, and several wanted me to make some for them.  I had the same ethos for my candles as for my bread, I wanted to make candles with pure ingredients that really fed the soul.  Not long after that Christmas I realised that I was going to be very busy making more candles, so Willow & Finn was created, but it wasn’t until 2019 that I created more of a brand and website and sold the candles further afield.

What inspires you? 

I’m really super aware of fragrance, that might be when walking in the countryside, by the sea, or going into a spa.  I get totally inspired by recreating memories of those everyday moments where fragrance plays a big part, like the spices around Christmas time, or the earth underfoot when walking through woodland.  At the moment I’m working hard on a coastal fragrance that I really want to smell of the ocean, it’s important to me that there’s a true reflection of that fragrance in the end product so it’s taking a while to find the right oils to blend!  But equally I’m all about enhancing mood, with a background in massage and aromatherapy, essential oils play a big part in my life.  So I’m often inspired by blending oils that offer a true therapeutic value. 

What is your creation process? 

If I’m thinking about an essential oil candle, I start by researching specific oils that will either help to alter a mood or help with a specific ailment. Then I work with those oils to create a blend that will both smell good, and give a therapeutic benefit.  I use the fragrance wheel a lot to help with getting me started as well.  If it’s a memory scent, or just a scent I have in mind like the Coastal one – I figure out the key elements in my mind that I’d like, and research what oils I’ll need to bring that together. Often I use a lot of cotton wool balls, dropping on drops of oils and combining until I get to what I like before I get to any sort of testing stage. This part can take months, but it’s worthwhile spending time on the initial process. 

What are you bringing to the show? 

We’ll be running our Candle Bar at the show, which means people can come along and make a candle of their own using any of our fragrances.  We’re also bringing all our candles, including those we make in vintage containers and our range of artisan made products like botanical wellness, cups, tea light votives etc. 

Who is the team behind your company?  

We’re a small team – we moved into a new studio/workshop last December near the river in Shepperton, after growing out our workshop in our garden.  Claire, Katie and Roshni all help me to keep the business ticking over and everyone is part of the whole process from printing orders, making candles to doing stock takes.  Every day is different, and now we have the shop we get to meet some lovely people during the day. 

What makes you, your brand or products unique? 

I guess partly it’s down to the experience of buying from us, in that we create parcels of joy for people to open – we’re all about creating pretty parcels with lovely, but eco-friendly packaging, that we create from a curated range of British artisans that perfectly complement our uniquely scented candles.  We try to be creative when we name our candles, so it really does bring the fragrance alive – Comforting Hug was last year’s best selling candle, purely down to the name probably – but it really helps people share their feelings with friends and family, and provides an emotive connection. 

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What is your next project? 

We have a few planned, but probably the most imminent is the opening of our Candle Bar at the studio in Shepperton.  It’s been delayed a bit, just because we’ve been so busy, but we hope by early September that people will be able to come along and spend time just making their own candles to burn at home. 

What are your plans for the next 12 months? 

To keep working on new fragrances!  We still have some in the pipeline that need to come to fruition, but I hope to have more time to do that in the next couple of months.  As well as having more variations of our Candle Making Kits – we sell two at the moment, a Luxe Mood Boosting Kit that has pure essential oils included and a Beginners Kit for those who’d like to get started and just choose one oil. They’ve been super popular, so I’d like us to offer variations – like Valentines specific ones, or ones where you can blend your own oils with our guidance. We’re also planning to create some new gift sets by collaborating with makers to create more unique combinations. 

What is your biggest achievement? 

Probably last year in managing to grow the business despite the restrictions and challenges we faced in the pandemic.  We moved into a temporary new unit in September because we’d grown so much, and by December were in our shop and new studio.  It was rapid, and a bit scary at times but we have some amazing customers who are extremely loyal and we can only thank them for being so supportive. 

What do you love about exhibiting at shows / fairs? 

Quite honestly meeting people and chatting with them – it’s the best part of what we do, talking to customers and sharing our story with them, and talking them through our fragrances.  It makes our hearts melt when customers return to us after seeing us at a fair! 

  

Your three top tips for someone starting their own business  

Plan, plan, and plan again.  I wrote a business plan, because being organised suits me – I also leaned on friends that had experience in different areas of business to help with pricing, to make sure my margins were realistic.  I also spent a long time testing fragrances, and ran a local market research focus group to really find out what people thought about my fragrances and candles in general.  It really helped to inform my future plans, and those insights from the initial research still help us with decision making today.    

At some stage you just have to be brave and go for it – you can test away for years, but ultimately if you want to make it a business you need to start selling something.  Being brave and taking risks is part and parcel of being self employed. 

Understand and learn all there is to know about social media, it’s a great way to reach a bigger market.  Social media has connected me to not only a direct audience, but lots of businesses that want to sell my products in their shops. It helps spread the word, and also gives customers an insight into your business, your values and ethics. 

Any advice for creators / makers who are currently starting their journey?  

I guess it’s being brave again, as creators we can feel so worried about whether people will like what we create.  Test the market, speak to potential customers and get feedback.  Make your tweaks and then get out there! 

Has anything surprising or unusual happened in your business journey? 

The amazing support we get from our customers on an ongoing basis truly surprises me every day.  We have a huge amount of returning customers, who are incredibly loyal.  I’ve never had a retail-based business before, it truly makes you humble when you receive such lovely emails from customers who’ve received, or gifted our candles.  We genuinely can shed a tear when people message us to tell us how much something has meant to them, it makes the late nights candle making all worth while! 

Read more about Willow & Finn’s world at: www.willowandfinn.co.uk

  

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