Like so many business partnerships, Joanna Whiting and Charlotte Hartley’s began at the school gate. Discovering a shared passion for eco-friendly, vegan, and naturally scented candles, they began exploring the world of candle making, launching GLØD, named after the Danish word for ember, in 2019. Hand poured in their South London studio, all of GLØD’s candles are named after a woman who has achieved incredible things, with a percentage of profits going to Women for Women UK. We spoke to Joanna and Charlotte about where the idea for their brand came from, how they adapted the business during the pandemic, and what’s been their most effective marketing method.
Can you tell us a little about your journey and how you met?
Joanna: We’d already been friends for a few years, having originally met at our children’s school. We were on a playdate, back when these were allowed, and discovered we were both massively into scented candles and were both trying to do more in our everyday lives to reduce our environmental impact.
Where did the idea for starting GLØD come from? Who suggested it?
Charlotte: We were discussing paraffin wax and how it’s made from the sludge at the bottom of crude-oil barrels, and the fact it’s often treated with known carcinogens. Prior to this, we’d been blissfully unaware that what we were filling our homes and our senses with was not just a nice fragrance, it was also the toxic fumes of paraffin wax.
Joanna: Right there and then we decided to start making our own candles. Our vision was to create clean-burning candles, scented with essential oils, in eco-friendly packaging. I can’t remember who came up with the idea, but i’m going to say it was me!
You’re both passionate about scented candles but also the environment, with a considered approach from every part of your product, from the wax to the packaging. Can you tell us why this is so important to you?
Charlotte: In our day to day lives we’re always conscious of our environmental impact, so it was a natural step for this to be a key pillar in our business. We’re by no means perfect and are always looking for ways to improve our impact, both at home and in the business.
We love that you name all your candles after women who have achieved incredible things, and that you donate a percentage of your profits to Women for Women UK. Did you always have this in mind when you were creating GLØD? Does the name come first, or the scent?
Joanna: Yes, we knew from the very beginning that we wanted to support a charity. After lots of deliberating, we kept coming back to the idea of supporting a women’s charity. This is how the idea of naming our candles after inspirational women came about!
Charlotte: Whenever we create a new blend, we decide who we want to name it after and then we think about what kind of scent feels like a fitting tribute to that woman.
GLØD is a very new business, launching your first product in 2019. How has the pandemic affected your business? Has it been a positive or negative experience?
Joanna: We really have no idea how it’s impacted our business! A couple of months after we launched, the pandemic hit the UK, so will never know how different things would have been without it! I think it gave us the motivation to push our instagram page a lot more than we would have otherwise, and we managed to grow our following hugely in the first lockdown.
Charlotte: We did miss out on several markets that were cancelled throughout 2020, so we’re looking forward to getting back to those this year hopefully! Overall I think it’s probably had a positive impact on our first year of trading, as our online presence has given us a global reach, we’ve had orders from several countries, rather than focusing more on London markets.
How do you find working as business partners? Do you always agree, or do you have different ways of thinking and working?
Charlotte: We have a great working relationship and agree on most things, or at least can come to a decision if we have different views. We both share the same vision for the business and so are both working towards that goal, which I think helps. Luckily Joanna is great at organisation (I say luckily, as I am not!), so she ensures we order supplies before running out, and also organises the markets and other events we do.
Joanna: I’d say we have a similar style of working too. We have both worked in large corporations, so can draw on our shared experiences from there, whilst making the most of the lack of bureaucracy and freedom that running your own business allows.
What lessons have you learnt along the way?
Joanna: I know it sounds cheesy, but I would definitely say a big learning for us is to not wait for things to be perfect before launching. There’s always time to adapt things after they’ve launched. If we’d waited until we were 100% happy with absolutely every aspect before launching something, be it a product, our website or a picture for instagram, we would never do it.
What have you found to be the most effective way of marketing your business?
Charlotte: Instagram has been huge for us this year. We wouldn’t have survived the pandemic without it, though we’ve still got lots to learn when it comes to social media marketing.
What’s next for you?
Joanna: We are about to launch a range of bath salts to complement our candles and are also busy working on a few other exciting products too, including a relaunch of our Emmeline and Rosa scents. We cannot wait to get back out to markets and speak to everyone – it’s so lovely to meet customers, we’ve missed it!