“Oh my gosh, NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! It’s too much to manage!” “And I’m like, ‘That’s part of what makes us different.'”
This is just one of the many quotable moments that Amberlee of the mother-daughter business duo Scripted Fragrance shared in a sit-down discussion with us at Jar Store about strategy, candle making’s crowded yet democratic advantage, and why breaking the mold is essential for your brand aspirations.
With over 125 different scents in their glass candle inventory, Scripted Fragrance illustrates many tales about some of all of our most favorite things: man’s best friend, states, birth flowers, and wellness. Whether you gift yourself or someone else, there is guaranteed to be one candle that tells your story just right.
For now, let’s hear the story of this inspiring brand that will help you tell your own brand’s story.
Okay, well, I appreciate you stopping by and chatting with us quickly here today. I’m pretty sure you’re really busy with the holidays and everything like that, but I guess we’ll kind of just dive right into it. I had a chance to look over your birth story so to speak for your business and while perusing your website, I see that you started with yourself, and your mother, Elizabeth, in 2015. So, I was just wondering if you could explain how that came to be for you all to embark on this kind of journey. Why candle making? Maybe particularly if you had a background in cosmetics perhaps? What led you here, if you can share?
Of course. So, I don’t have a background in fragrance or cosmetics even though I designed for a number of fragrance brands, but my background is actually retail strategy and design. So, before Scripted Fragrance, and for about five years overlapping, I was doing that in New York City as well as pursuing this business with my mom. Scripted Fragrance is all my mom’s idea.
What happened was she-we have two Miniature Dachshunds. We love animals, and my mom was shopping in Home Goods one day and she’s in the candle aisle and she’s looking for like docks and stuff and she thought, “If there was a Dachshund candle, I’d buy one!” So, she comes home, sits down on her computer, does a little clip art with a little description, and sends me an email in July 2015 that says, “This is my idea. What do you think about it?”
[A pause ensues for laughter.]
So, a little context of the relationship between my mother and me. We’re very close, and she has a very strong entrepreneurial spirit and countless ideas. So, I told her infamously, “Excuse me, I’ll think about it,” with like, a laughing, crying face.
[Actual, real laughing strikes once again.]
Fast forward, my mom did some research and bought a starter candle kit that Fall, and we learned how to make candles. And we went through hundreds of candles-probably close to a thousand honestly-in order to get the right wax we wanted to work with, the wick size, and everything with that. And then, in Holiday 2016 is actually when we launched our very first candle.
Oh wow. Cool journey. Nice! It was great to hear that.
Yeah, so when we launched in 2016, we only had a few SKUs. We had our dog collection, our Pet Collection, which today boasts 35 unique dog breeds, including rescue dog and cat, as well as some of the most popular states. That’s sort of where we started in 2016 and today we’ve grown iteratively to six candle collections and over 125 different unique candles.
Nice, very cool. And that leads me to the second question I was going to ask, like uncovering the meaning behind the selection of dog breeds and everything like that, and why it was a big focus, so that was really cool to hear.
But what’s the meaning behind the name itself-Scripted Fragrance-and how you all decided to go about naming your business that specifically?
That’s a great question. So, it’s all about telling stories for us, and that is really what Scripted Fragrance has been all about. That’s all of our candle collections-designed with that spirit in mind. And we’re really inspired in telling the stories of what we love most and celebrating and having folks bring our fragrances and our candles into their home. So, the Pet Collection is where we began alongside our State Collection, which expanded into the cities that we love [the City Collection], and, also, when we thought about birthdays and how meaningful they are, we expanded into our Birth Flower Collection. We also really much believe in meditation and mindfulness, so that branched into our Wellness and Meditation Collection as well, and we’ve grown from there.
Nice. We see that you just recently appeared on the local “CBS Sunday Morning” in New York earlier this month, or last month now at this point, and also have been highly featured in other avenues like Oprah Magazine, House Beautiful, et cetera. What has been the most exciting aspect about those appearances and everything of that nature? What are some insights that you’ve gained-if any-from being on the higher promotional side at this point in your career?
Yeah, one-hundred percent. Each opportunity provides itself a wonderful learning experience and an opportunity for us to grow, so most recently as you mentioned we were featured on “CBS Sunday Morning,” which is a long-format news program that airs nationwide, and we were blown away by the response to the feature that we were included in. The whole story was around Etsy and the opportunities that Etsy is providing entrepreneurs especially during a really challenging time this year and we were one of three Etsy sellers featured in “CBS Sunday Morning.” They came this fall to our studio and interviewed my mom and me, and it was hours and hours and hours of footage and interview that culminated into a really beautiful eight-minute story. And we’re extremely, extremely proud of it and extremely grateful to be alongside such a talented, talented group.
Sure thing. Okay, and then from that as well, is there any moment like-before all of this kind of success boom for you all now where you’re getting all kinds of accolades or attention-when you were first starting out…I know you mentioned your mom testing out the whole wax production process and seeing what consistency was best for you. Was there ever a moment at that point in time where you might have questioned if this was going to work? How did you manage if met any roadblocks so to speak-if any?
One-hundred percent. We have roadblocks every single day. It’s just whether or not you seize the opportunity and the challenge to come up with what I like to say is the second right answer and you push through. I am a firm believer that if it is happening to you, it is supposed to be happening to you. And how much it’s directly affecting you is in relation to how much you should be learning from the opportunity. So, for something like what we just experienced for “CBS Sunday Morning,” it was beyond our wildest imagination. We have been fulfilling thousands and thousands of orders out of our home studio and hand pouring every single candle. We still do it in that way to be handmade. We don’t have a stock of thousands of candles sitting on a shelf. Right from the beginning, it has been a non-stop marathon. The past month, in fact, I look up honestly and I’m like, “It’s February?! Wait, I see Valentine’s Day.”
Like, “What just happened?!” But I can tell you that it’s been a boot camp for us, and each new opportunity allows us the understanding-and the framework to understand-what it would mean to be able to scale our business in a meaningful way. Provide jobs and opportunities for other people as well. So, it is just learning day by day, and I can tell you that even with all of the opportunities that we have been fortunate to be on the receiving end of, there are literally thousands more that we were not. We actively pursue and pitch media constantly in order for inclusion because one of the most challenging things as a small business is awareness. If you can get people to look at you then you can make an impact and inspire them with your product, but if no one’s looking,…[Shrugs dismally with an empathetic chuckle for weight] then…
That’s about it. Right! Exactly.
No one’s there. So, we are very fortunate to have some real great highlights, but they are consistently ‘balanced and humbled’ each day by the ones that, you know…[Another conclusive chuckle to illustrate the perils of small business owners]
Yeah, exactly! I mean, what’s meant for you, is meant for you as you said. Everything is for a reason, so I definitely wholeheartedly agree with that. And I like what you mentioned about that. That leads me to what I was going to close out our conversation with: that’s a great starter tip and for people to really pay attention to. So, I guess from that point, we can move on to what do you see for the future for Scripted Fragrance? Are there any new exciting developments that you have coming up and in your journey that you can share? Or if you want to keep it on the low and let your customers be surprised about it, that’s totally fine too.
Yeah, we have some really exciting things planned for our customers. Over the past five years and beyond we’ve heard a lot of really interesting feedback and things that people want to see. While I can’t do specifics, what I can say is that big opportunities like this [press and media exposure such as “CBS Sunday Morning”] allow us to leverage the next big opportunity. We’re really excited to be able to really double down on gifting this year and really prove to be a trusted gifting resource.
One of the things that we’re really proud of is when people visit Scripted Fragrance, either in person when you can or online. One of the things that really attracts people to our products is our stories and our packaging. What is tremendous to see is our repeat customer rate that is through the roof and what we hear is, “We bought it because my French Bulldog is on it, and I’m so excited when I burn it at home! Your candle’s amazing.” Or, “It’s made of 100% natural soy, it has a great fragrance, and we want more of that.” So, we’re really looking to answer their requests as well in 2021.
Sweet, sweet. And I like how you mentioned the people and their feedback. My follow-up question to that is two-parted. One, how do you scope out knowing what your customers would like to see in the future and getting that kind of information, which you answered. And then, two, you mentioned some people really being emotionally connected to having their dog be like a star on the candle [packaging]. I notice that on your website, you have distinct scents for some of the breeds…
Yes. Each one has their own.
Tell us a bit more about that.
Yeah, one-hundred percent. What makes our candles unique is that each one of our collections and each candle has a different fragrance.
So, the beagle candle smells nothing like the Miniature Schnauzer candle. It’s all designed to capture their breed personality, their breed standard as put forth by the American Kennel Club, who actually carries our candles as well. So, for example, the German Shepherd who loves outdoors and adventure has a much more woodsy, earthy tone to it, whereas the Beagle is often very much comedy, very loud howl and bark, and that’s actually one of our strongest fragrances. Our Chihuahua is a little mango and papaya because he originates from Mexico, so we really tried to bring out that. It is not a direct interpretation of what the dog smells like; it’s definitely inspired and supposed to be a lot of fun for folks to enjoy.
Cool, cool. Okay, then to close it out here, you started with one tip in terms of people having to be willing to pitch their business and their story and not being afraid because they [customers, the public] can’t see you if you don’t see them [contact and pitch] or reach out to them. What are some other insider tips you would give to people? Candlemakers or really any kind of entrepreneur, doesn’t even have to be within glassware. What are some tips you would provide to them to encourage them to keep going to create their successful business? And I think particularly right now it’s really relevant in terms of the different circumstances we’ve been going through as a nation this past year. If you could share that, it’ll be great.
One-hundred percent. So, my advice personally would be to trust your gut and your instinct. I think really what makes the world beautiful is everybody’s uniqueness and diversity. And if you can hearken on your own experiences and tell stories, tell your own stories, through your product, that’s what makes you unique. Being original is about having self-confidence to put that forth in your product.
Candles are a tremendously crowded space. What is beautiful about candles is that it’s very democratic in that the barrier to entry is very low. We started our business with a couple of hundred dollars and was just messing around in our kitchen-and we’re not too far removed from that now to be totally honest with you. [A brief moment taken to find humor in that comedic transparency into entrepreneurialism] It’s a beautiful thing! If you can figure out what makes your candles unique and stand out on their own, that’s very important. You have to trust your own voice because it’s those things that give you your uniqueness that allow you to cut through. We’re very diligent and very purposeful about our business. When we talked to other candlemakers, for example, they hear we have 125 fragrances and their first thing is like, “Oh my gosh, NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! It’s too much to manage!” “And I’m like, ‘That’s part of what makes us different.'”
Hundreds of scents are Scripted Fragrance’s rule-breaking methods to success
So, you have to embrace that, and really challenge yourself from a design perspective as well, to be original and to break through. So, that’s something that we’re really, really passionate about.
Yeah, the way I take that is ‘defy the limitations.’ Whether it’s posed by people outside of yourself, or even within yourself. And I love how you mentioned it’s so oversaturated with candle making-and we’ve even found that on our side. Some of our customers voice things like, “I can’t really stand out within that [in the world of candles].” So, I really just love those words of encouragement. That’s really awesome. I thank you so much for your time and taking time outside of your busy schedule, and I just encourage you all [candle makers and other business owners] to keep creating and doing awesome work. That’s really all I have.
Thank you. I really appreciate your time.
And we at Jar Store and all other small business owners out there really appreciate your nuggets of wisdom.
Learn more about Scripted Fragrance at ScriptedFragrance.com.