Behind the Brand with P.F. Candle Co
Hi There! Can you share with us how a little about yourself and how you got started?
Hey Grace & CYL Community! My name is Kristen, and I’m the Founder, Co-owner, and Creative Director at P.F. Candle Co., a home fragrance goods company based out of Los Angeles. I founded the company in 2008, and now I co-own it with my husband and business partner, Tom. We live in East LA with our baby, Poppy, our dog, Max, and a cat named Seymour.
I got my start working at a craft publishing company after college. I wrote about people who were making a living being a maker, and though - that’s what I want to do! When the magazine folded, I took it as a sign to start my business. I struggled for years until it really look off in 2013, after the launch of our amber jar line of candles.
What was your original intent or goal when you first started?
I actually have this in writing - back in 2012, all I wanted was to be able to travel the country in a VW bus and sell my candles out of the back of it. My, how things have changed (although I’m still hoping for that VW bus situation).
During the early days, what was one of the biggest challenges you faced, and how did you move past it?
For years, during the holiday season, we’d run into a huge lead time. One year it was six weeks and we just stopped taking orders. People would order in December and I’d say “ok, do you want this for January?” and they’d cancel or shrink the order. The problem was multi faceted: we didn’t have enough people to make the product and ship the product, we didn’t have enough space to store the product, and in the very early years, we’d even run into situations where we wouldn't have any materials to make the product. As the years went on, I got more confident about over-ordering. We also set up Net30 terms with all of our suppliers, which was a major help. In 2016, we were producing ahead of our demand for the first time ever. Because we have a limited sku offering, it made it easier to make things in advance.
When was the aha moment where you started to really believe in the business and felt proud and confident in what you were doing?
We were participating in a holiday market - Unique here in LA - in 2013. We weren’t sure how we’d do at the show, so we split a 10’ x 10’ booth with a friend. This was the year I knew it was our breakout year - our booth was slammed the whole time! At one point, Tom and I both had a line of people waiting thirty minutes to check out with us. That was stressful, but it also told me people liked what we were doing. We were on to something!
How did you know it was time to ramp up and hire people, and how did you facilitate that?
We had a giant order going out for West Elm. Tom and I had just returned from our honeymoon and dove right into working on the business. We got the order and had to ship it out in 30 days - two people pouring, labeling, and packaging over 4000 candles! At the time we were only making 240 candles a day - so it was crunch time. We asked a friend to help us with our labeling pile up, then another friend in the new year when business didn’t slow down. The first time we really hired people, though, we placed ads on craigslist and did the whole interview process. Looking back, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we ended up with some gems!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I get in around nine after dropping our baby off at daycare, and have an hour to work on emails and catch up on creative work before our daily all-hands morning meeting. The morning is the time when I can really get things done - the afternoons, I tend to slow down, so it’s good to work collaboratively then, when it’s not crunch time. I go to a lot of meetings - we have weekly meetings with each different department (sales, marketing, production, and shipping) as well as one-on-one conversations with our management team and the people I work closely with. These days, it’s a lot of talking through problems and dreams, planning for the future and organizing. As the Creative Director, I sign off on all content and product (pictures, design, scent) before it hits the market.
What advice do you have in regards to balancing work life with personal life?
That’s a tough one, and I don’t know that I achieved it or will achieve it. There’s a certain amount of work that’s always going to be present when you’re obsessively growing a business. I try not to judge myself for that. The best way I’ve found to balance work and personal life is to cultivate hobbies that don’t relate to your business. I do ballet, and I recently picked up knitting again which is incredibly soothing.
Currently what are you feeling most inspired by?
I’ve been reading a book on Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese philosophy/aesthetic approach rooted in imperfection and impermanence. For me this means letting go of the idea of a perfect end goal - things are constantly evolving or devolving. It makes me take things a little slower, as I don’t feel like I’m constantly chugging up a mountain - it’s more hiking through rolling hills. Forever. haha!
What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
Recently, my favorite part about being an entrepreneur seems like a cop-out - the flexible hours. I didn’t always think they were that flexible too - I still have commitments to people and events. But with my daughter starting daycare, there have been many instances of day care colds and doctor visits that would not be as workable if I was working for someone else. Also, we can bring her in when her school is closed and hang out with her all day - that’s definitely a plus!
Have your goals changed since you started? And what’s in the future for your company?
Oh, absolutely. My goal was just to make a living for myself, and then maybe for Tom and me. I didn’t dream about employing 30 people. Now, though, my goals are to continue sustained growth so that the people who work at P.F. can grow and enjoy a good quality of life. LA is an expensive city, and we are dedicated to paying fair wages and creating a good work environment. Product wise, we’re expanding our home fragrance repertoire with a few new style offerings - to be released this year!
What is your go-to karaoke song!
What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes.