This week, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with one of our regular customers, the sole owner and operator of Wildwood Candle Co, Kylie Antolini. Kylie runs Wildwood Candle Co out of her basement, creating, packaging, and shipping out almost a dozen different scented candles.
All of the candles available on wildwoodcandleco.com are themed after different locations in Portland’s Forest Park, making this candle company one of the most unique and inspiring small businesses we’ve encountered.
Kylie and I spoke about her business, her inspirations, plans for the future, Forest Park, the Wildwood Trail, and more, so read on down below!
Hi, nice to talk with you! Thank you so much for setting this up. I was laughing because I know that I’ve been ordering a lot from Jar Store lately, and you’re probably thinking, “Who is this crazy lady buying all these jars?”
JS: We absolutely weren’t thinking “crazy lady”! But yeah, we did. We definitely notice when we have a good, regular customer.
Awesome. I love it. I’m ready to get started if you are!
JS: So, to start, Oregon is like obviously chock full of beautiful nature. Like, I’ve hiked Mount Multnomah and I’ve seen the International Rose Garden and everything. They’re transcendent experiences, to say the least. Wildwood Trail in Portland is your namesake. And each candle correlates with another trail connected to Wildwood or an attraction within Forest Park. Is there a specific thing about Forest Park that you think sets it apart from the other forest preserves in Oregon?
Yes, absolutely. Well, the first thing is that it’s so unique, in that it’s over 5000 acres of trail and it’s right in the city. So you can be downtown Portland and look up in the distance and see the trees, and that’s Forest Park right there. There are a lot of access points to get to the trails. It spans 30 miles, south to north. Wildwood Trail is about as long as Forest Park, give or take. So there are a lot of opportunities for people to hop on it at any point. It just feels like an escape, when you’re just a couple minutes away from it. It’s such a wonderful resource to take advantage of, you just feel like you’re transported to a completely different place. I was out there this morning, actually. I haven’t been out there in a couple of weeks, and just to get in the shade of the trees and cool off like ten degrees is great. It has been so hot here recently and to just have all this quiet and calm and not see so many people was just so rejuvenating. And that’s just what I love so much about it, it’s yeah, it’s a great getaway. And it really helps reset the soul, in my opinion.
JS: So, running on a 30 mile long trail obviously gives you a lot of time to think. Have any other strokes of genius hit you while you were out on the trail that you didn’t see through to the level of your candle business? Or was Wildwood Candle Co your first and best Forest Park inspired idea?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I’ve been running out there for eight or nine years now. I love running, so, you know, I would definitely use my time out there to meditate on life and think about everything. But the “aha” moment that I had for the business was shortly after taking a candle making class and then, you know, just loving this sense of nature. It was such a good idea that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and that I had to put it into action. I was so motivated and passionate that I just went forward with it. So nothing quite at that level.
JS: Yes, but it seemed to work out!
It worked out great. I have little moments, even when I’m out there now, I’m like, “Oh, you know, this is a trail I haven’t made a candle out of yet.” Like “what would I want that to smell like?” And just kinda like having space to think about things out there just gives my brain that freedom. I would say, at this point I’m kinda obsessive about it.
JS: I noticed that all of your candles have these nice little diamond shaped labels. Is that a nod to the blue diamond shaped progress markers on the Wildwood Trail?
Yes! Yes, did you know about that or did you look that up?
…I looked that up.
I love it, kudos for doing your research. I’m impressed. So the Wildwood Trail is the only trail in the park that has blue diamonds painted on the trees, they’re actually in the full diamond shape on the trail. My labels kinda cut off on the bottom. But yeah, every quarter mile there’s a blue diamond painted on the tree that indicates where you are, and there’s usually a little mileage posting higher up on the tree. And I thought, well, “there’s the inspiration for the label.” Developing the label actually took a lot longer for me than developing the scents. I went through so many different iterations and versions, but kinda stuck with the diamond shape, and then developed the colors to match the scent or what I would think.
JS: Your personal goal is to donate 5% of profits back to the Forest Park Conservancy. If you had an unlimited pool of money and resources to draw from, what, one change or improvement would you like to personally implement to the Forest Park ecosystem or management?
Oh, that’s an awesome question. Well, they do a really great job of doing what they can. Right. Gosh, I feel like it’s already so well maintained. I think just maybe more money for funding the awareness of the park. Yeah, it’s kind of a twofold thing, because, I mean, for one, of course, I want people to get out there and experience it. People have lived here for years and they’ve never been out there, which is crazy. Yet, of course, I don’t want to get too crazy and too busy.
JS: Okay, solid answer. Alright, next one is a two-part question. Was there a moment when you questioned your decision starting this business? If you doubted yourself or felt yourself maybe cracking under pressure? Inversely, was there a moment that you knew that it was all worth it and that it was something that you needed to see through?
Yes. I would say more often than not, I definitely I “had the blinders up,” and I was going all-in for it. If someone tried to talk me out of it, they couldn’t. It was pretty much like I was dead set. When I want to get something done, I make an action plan. If I say I want to do something, I do it and I follow through. I created my basement space and organize things painted and really created a space for it. I think once I started ordering equipment and putting everything together myself, it was definitely intimidating. I will say, ordering the jars, when I would get these large shipments and be like, “Oh, boy, I have to take all these apart and break them down and deal with all of this cardboard and bubble wrap.” And like those were the times where I was like, “This isn’t very fun.” But, you know, it’s part of the necessary process of doing it. I feel pretty lucky and that I’ve had a lot of really positive experiences growing the business so far, and I haven’t had a lot of moments of doubt.
JS: You’ve done an excellent job setting yourself apart from the competition. Do you chalk it up to your unique packaging and presentation, (which features jar store jars, of course), your inspiring mission statement or something more ethereal?
Yeah, you know, that’s a good question, I know a lot of people have been getting into candle making the past couple of years, and for me, kind of jumping into it, I feel like I had a subconscious knowledge of candles and aesthetics and scent and kinda what I liked and didn’t like because I’ve been a candle consumer for a long time. And so, when I had this business idea, I thought, OK, well. I feel like this has a story, which has more of a purpose behind it, rather than just being another like frankincense candle or another pumpkin spice candle with a cute label. I think the story brought a lot of value to that, and that it’s centered around a place that people know of. It can be something that can be shared with somebody that used to live in Portland or that you give to someone to send your love from Portland.
JS: I think you really you really took scents, which are kind of nebulous, you know, and kinda grounded it in a way. You see a lot of candles that are based on real world things, but they’re more general. You know, you took it and you centered it in a place in the world that people can relate to.
Absolutely. There are a couple of other brands that are doing that now, like National Park Candles, I don’t know if you’ve seen those, but they definitely grabbed my attention more than the other candles. There’s something about that that makes it more personal to you and can be more personal to other people.
JS: Totally. So what’s next? Are there any new developments in store for Wildwood Candle that you would want to tell us about? Do you have any new scents coming up? Any new ideas?
Well, you know, I’m actually percolating the idea of maybe a Fall scent if I can get it together in time. I just got some new fragrance oils that I’m super excited about, and I think I have the right trail in mind for it. It’s also a lot to keep track of, just ten scents on their own. So I’m actually really happy with the amount I have at the moment. And I also don’t want to burn through the scents, no pun intended.
So I’m kind of pacing myself there. There is an exciting collaboration that will be released in the fall. I can’t say with who at the moment, but we’re getting that ball rolling right now with a well-known Portland business. And honestly, my biggest challenge and goal for myself, for the business, is to grow and hire someone. That’s kinda been a thorn in my side, because it’s easy to do it all myself. And I also balance working part time at another job. So, yeah, really wanting to hire somebody and just be able to grow and make more product because the demand and the interest is there.
JS: And you’re expanding! That’s awesome, you want to add employees?
I would like to. I do this all in my home in the basement. So it adds a little bit of a tricky factor there. But, you know, you can only do one step at a time. Can’t go from like, working in my house one day to having a studio space and five employees the next. So, you know, I’m just slowly growing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
JS: Exactly. A marathon through Wildwood Park.
JS: All right, Kylie. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today!
Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it!
So there you have it! Don’t forget to check out Wildwoodcandleco.com to see Kylie’s exceptional selection of Forest Park inspired scents, and if you think her candles look nice in those jars, check out our line of candle jars on Jarstore.com.