If you've been to our studio you've probably seen our growing collection of Austin-based Slow North candles, because — well — we're obsessed! Believe it or not, these clean-burning candles only contain three ingredients: 100% essential oils, soy wax and coconut oil. So, it doesn't take a lot of burn time to fill the whole room with pure scents like Geranium + Rose or one of our personal favorites: Eucalyptus + Lavender.
We sat down with co-founder Michelle Simmons one afternoon to find out more about her inspiration behind these vegan, zero-synthetic candles and how she and her husband grew their passion project into a growing nationwide brand. Plus, Michelle dished on some of her Austin favorites, local makers and Instagrammers you should be following!
Why did you decide to launch Slow North?
Our idea for Slow North began while I was home on maternity leave with my son. We had rid our home of synthetic, toxic chemical — including most candles. While searching for healthy replacements, I discovered there was a need for well-designed, candles made with straightforward, natural ingredients. That was a year and a half ago!
What makes Slow North different from most candle companies?
We take a lot of pride in creating beautiful, all-natural candles with transparent ingredients. Our candles are made with only essential oils for the fragrances, so you know exactly what’s in them. This is and always will be an important differentiator for our company with any other products we develop in the future (and we have a lot of stuff in store for you guys in 2017!).
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love working with my hands. Creating something tangible and valuable for our customers brings us great joy. We love imagining the transfer of energy and love from our studio to your home as you enjoy your candle!
How do you decide on the scents for your candles?
Over the last year and a half, we have collected a huge library of essential oils to choose from when formulating a new scent. I’ll start experimenting with recipes by using drops of essential oils on Q-Tips and testing out different ratios. I usually have an idea of the type of scent profile I want to create (floral, relaxing, spicy, etc.). Then once we decide on our favorites, I’ll pour test candles to see if the scent translates well before deciding to add it to our line.
If you had to choose, what's your favorite Slow North candle?
Well, since I’ve created them all...I’m definitely biased. In my office, I burn Grapefruit + Spearmint when I need to focus and get stuff done! It’s our most energizing, pick-me-up scent. I highly recommended for that afternoon slump!
What's your proudest small business moment?
Being able to hire our first employee! The gravity of being able to employ other people passionate about our mission is hugely motivating. It was definitely a turning point for our business, and I’m proud to be growing with the help of our team!
Do you have any advice for those looking to start their own small business?
Get started! It’s easy to feel paralyzed by all the choices and decisions and the desire to want it to all be perfect from the first launch, but it’s going to be a process. Our business is still so young, and we’ve already iterated on our design, website and product line at least six times. It can feel scary and vulnerable to take the leap, but it’s more beneficial to start learning what works and what doesn’t sooner rather than later.
What have you been inspired by lately (professionally and personally)?
I just finished reading a book for my book club called “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and it’s life-changing. I already want to re-read it again. I especially love the idea of scheduling in time to think by blocking off my calendar from distractions and giving myself permission to say “no.”
What are your favorite things to do in Austin?
Let’s be real...I love to eat! Little Deli, Mother’s Cafe, Casa de Luz, Bouldin Creek Cafe and Maudie’s are my favorites. My husband and I also love two-stepping at the Broken Spoke!
Who are some of your favorite local makers?
We feel so lucky to be in this amazing local maker community who inspire us daily. Some of our favorites are Claire Sommers Buck Jewelry (she created our custom wedding ring set) and Kristen Saksa Juen (a talented ceramics artist and plant-lover).
Anyone we should be following on Instagram?
Check out @claraepark — she’s the sweetest, and I love her feed’s aesthetic and her romantic calligraphy work!
Any exciting plans for Slow North in 2017?
Yes! We will be rolling out some new lines this spring, including reed diffusers and wax melts. You’ll also see a few other secrets debuting later this summer. 2017 is going to be a fun year of growth and refinement for Slow North, and we’re excited about what’s coming up!