In early 2014, while working full time in a sales management role for a global brewing company, Matthew decided he wanted to start up a business that he could work on at evenings and weekends – the obvious choice was a website based business.
The next key challenge was deciding what he actually wanted to sell… His background was in wines and champagne, and this made the obvious choice for products to sell, however it just wasn’t sitting right and a website business selling wines and champagnes was just too competitive and un-viable to even attempt.
Around October 2014, Matthew was watching an episode of “The Apprentice” – the task where they developed and sold a candle and diffuser brand. “For one reason or another, these products just stuck in my mind, and from that point, I made the decision that it was candles and diffusers that I wanted to retail”
From this point, the Urban Candle philosophy evolved. Initially, Matthew’s plan was to simply buy candles from a wholesaler and retail through his website, however, it just wasn’t unique enough to do this – he wanted something more than simply to be a “wholesaler” with a “stack it high, sell it cheap” mentality.
The idea then progressed into finding a more local company who could manufacture for him, using a brand that he would develop – “Urban Candle Co” – Pursuing this plan, nearly through to agreement stage, something was nagging in the back of Matthew’s mind that it still wasn’t the right decision for someone else to manufacture the products and this wasn’t the kind of business he wanted to create.
At this point the real hard work started, and Matthew decided that he wanted Urban Candle Co to manufacture all of it’s own products. The problem however, was that he knew absolutely nothing about how to make candles. The next 12 months consisted of teaching himself the candle making process, and teaching himself to make them good enough that the products would be comparable to the big brands.
“Starting from scratch, knowing absolutely nothing about making a candle meant it was a very long, very frustrating, but almost obsessive experience” describes Matthew. “I remember my first delivery of supplies – a small bag of soy wax, containers, wicks, fragrance oils, a melting pan and a thermometer and off I went to the kitchen and started the journey”
Gradually, the candles that Matthew produced from his kitchen were becoming better and better but still a long way from being good enough to sell. “I used to test burn the candles in our hall constantly, and I remember people who came to our house would always comment on how amazing they smelt – interestingly though, I never told them that I had made them in the kitchen just a few days before, so I guess that was genuine authentic feedback - to say people were shocked when I revealed that I had made them was an understatement!”
As the quality of the “test candles” were becoming better and better, by chance, a small retail stand became available at a big north east Christmas shopping event called “Living North” and in November 2015 took part in the event with overwhelmingly positive customer feedback. The rest is history!
Starting at his kitchen table, Urban Candle Co then migrated into his office at home, which now formed the main “production hub” – soon outgrowing this, the garage was converted into the “candle emporium” as it was known, and from there, the business grew further and eventually moved into it’s current industrial unit in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Matthew’s vision for the products at Urban Candle Co are to consistently try and be different from all the other brands out there, not only with the quality of the candle, but the packaging and brand design. You might be interested to know that all of the branding and design was created by Matthew, and this continues to be the case – we’ve never used an external branding or consultancy business for any of our products.
Matthew continued to work full time in another job right up until February 2017, manufacturing everything we sold from his garage and building the business. In 2017 the business was established enough to allow him to focus fully on Urban Candle, and he describes resigning from his job as being the “most liberating feeling ever – waking up every morning to try and focus on a career you just don’t enjoy anymore was the most difficult thing – sometimes it’s more important to take a risk, and do something you’re genuinely passionate about, and for me, it was Urban Candle”