Bright and bold scented candle company Wick & Tallow was formed by three Fulham residents, brothers Tom and James Malcolm-Green and James’s wife Alice. Here they talk to The Resident about where the company began, the importance of being Made in England and why scented candles aren’t just for women
How did the idea for the company come about? Scented candles isn’t necessarily the first industry two men might think about entering – not to be sexist!
Tom: Six years ago Alice was making scented candles from a small flat we all shared on the Fulham Road and selling them at Portobello market. When demand got high, James and I would get roped in to help make them and then before we knew it we were down on the market stall helping to sell.
When I came back from working abroad it seemed a natural progression to take the company to the next level and launch a brand. It might appear to be a strange industry for two men to enter, but as with many other things we’re seeing a transitional shift amongst consumers with regards to who is buying what, and men make up a substantial portion of our customer base whether they’re buying our products as presents or for themselves. If it feels right, do it!
How has the company developed from the initial launch idea to where it is today?
Tom: From the outset we knew we needed to offer something different to what existed on the market in order to stand out. It’s a hugely competitive market with lots of well-established names, so it would have been all too easy to get lost in a sea of florals and beige. To do that we knew we needed to make a statement, and the obvious way seemed to be to introduce bold colours in wonderfully simple yet statement packaging. What began with candles is now diversifying into other products under the whole home fragrance umbrella. We’ve grown with every developmental leap in our business, and our office space has generally reflected that. What began with a laptop at a kitchen table is now a fully functioning office/showroom in the Gas Works, in Fulham, where we originally sub-let a tiny office backroom from a fashion brand and have since taken over the whole space.
How do you split your roles? And being a family business are there disagreements?
James: We all work together as a team while bringing our individual strengths to the table. I studied Product Design at Central St. Martins before heading up the production and operations logistics at a leading international contemporary design gallery, enabling me to take the lead on our branding and design practice on both our in-house lines and bespoke service.
Alice’s background is in interior design having studied at KLC School of Design before working for various agencies, including Blacksheep, and on a number of private commissions. Her love of scent combined with her interiors experience set her in good stead in her role heading up our bespoke service and ensuring we can deliver exactly what our clients want.
Tom runs the day-to-day at Wick & Tallow, following a number of years spent working abroad setting up the operational head office of an educational organisation in West Africa and heading up its communications. He oversees special projects, such as Future Scent, which we showcased at DesignJunction as part of LDF last year, and focuses on growing our retail network, as well as coordinating directly with suppliers to deliver orders.
Ultimately we all do a bit of everything and there is a huge amount of cross over within our roles. Of course there are disagreements as there are in any business, but because we are family we just jump over the hurdle and get back on the track so we don’t stay stuck on things for long.
The other day Tom and I thought it would be prudent to buy a wax sculpture by a reasonably well known artist at a contemporary auction, but we knew Alice would not think this a good idea so we placed a bid and waited until we had had won the piece before breaking the news to her over a glass of wine. She now sees the investment value but there is no chance she would have agreed to it beforehand!
Where does Wick & Tallow fit within the luxury candle industry?
Alice: Our candles fit nicely into the top end of the luxury candle industry. We have invested a lot of energy into our packaging, scents, quality and brand aesthetic. Wick & Tallow is built upon attention to detail so we don’t settle for anything that is not of the highest standard. It took us two years to develop our first collection because we were always modifying all the different components to make sure they were just right. We always set out to create a luxury fragrance brand that offers something different, and a large part of that was to celebrate colour and champion British manufacturing. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response to our brand and our candles.
How important is it to you that your products are made in England?
James: Because we all had a quintessentially English upbringing it is extremely important that we produce our products in England, we are proud of our country and great believers that we have some of the best manufacturing facilities in the world for our industry. As we are fortunate enough to already have this on our doorstep why should we look elsewhere, for us that would just invite problems. Made in England also has the added advantage of having a global association with unrivaled quality, something we associate Wick & Tallow with absolutely.
What’s your experience with making candles yourself?
Alice: We initially started making our own candles at home in our little kitchen in a flat we all shared. It was great fun and then we used to take the candles to Portobello market at the weekend. From there we gathered a loyal fan base – one woman even named her daughter after the most popular scent! After doing that for a while we all decided to take a step back and develop our own luxury brand based on what we had learnt of the industry so far. James started work on the logo and branding, I started developing scents and Tom started experimenting with colour.
Who do you visualise as your client and do you design your candles for someone specifically?
Alice: We visualise our clients as people who are into design-led quality products. Our bold collection appeals to both men and women both in terms of the aesthetic and also our scents, which aren’t overtly feminine. Our floral collection is more popular with women, as well as for weddings. One of my favourite parts of what we do is designing candles for other people who want to develop their own products in line with their brand. This has proved very popular with interior designers, fashion designers, hotels and restaurants, and it’s always amazing to create someone their own signature scent.
How have you marketed your company and got people to recognise you?
Tom: From the outset we’ve had a strong team in place to manage our PR and have hosted press events to help attract attention. We’ve also been very proactive at doing gift fairs and pop-ups in and around London – like Spirit of Christmas and PopUp Piccadilly or Tent London. Exposure in the press has been fantastic, and because our products are different we do get noticed. In December, we were picked to be a representative of Small Business Saturday that saw us visit Downing Street and feature on the BBC, Sky News and in The Guardian among others. Social media can be useful too and it’s certainly something we would recommend for engaging with customers. We’ve got some pretty exciting stuff lined up for later in the year, so keep your eyes open for what we’ll be up to for our next marketing trick.
What’s next for Wick & Tallow?
James: 2015 is a huge year for Wick & Tallow, we have been trading now for just over a year and we are really beginning to identify what we are doing well, what can be improved and what there is still to do. Over the coming months we will be launching new floral votive gift sets ready for the spring/summer market alongside a brand new range of reed diffusers in our signature bold scents.
These have taken a long time to develop and we are super happy with the results. They have been designed to perfectly compliment our existing bold range and we are very excited to be able to offer an alternative home fragrance solution alongside the traditional candle.
Later on in the year will see us launch in store with John Lewis, which is obviously a milestone for us as we build our company history. It was but a dream when we were discussing our target retailers before we launched our brand so we are delighted to have got ourselves into this position so soon. We are also focusing on the retail side of our business and nurturing relationships with new stockists up and down the country, as well as a few international ones too. There are some exciting brand collaboration prospects too, and of course we have the next collection to think about.