Nov Meet the Maker: PF Candle Co
P.F. Candle Co is a beloved candle company based in Los Angeles run by Kirsten and Thomas and their growing team. We got a tour of the company! When you first step inside, all you can do is feel elated by the amazing scents that linger in their office. They have a bar set up where you can smell all the different types of candles and sprays. Their team has doubled in size compared to a year ago. We love the way they value the hand-pour process and how their candles are made-to-order. We featured the Spiced Pumpkin candle on our November box--- reminding us of delicious lattes and pies and the overall autumn season.
Tell us about the creators of P.F. Candle Co.
P.F. is co-owned by wife-husband team Kristen Pumphrey & Thomas Neuberger. I (Kristen) founded P.F. in 2008 and made a variety of handmade goods. The candles really took off in early 2013, and Tom came on board - after we got married. I focus on brand and product development, and Tom is the Operations Manager. We also have a daughter, Poppy, who was born in June 2016, and a shop dog named Max. Oh, and a grumpy cat named Seymour. When we’re not working at P.F., you’d probably find us hiking or fixing up our house.
What has influenced some of these scents? What are some local examples?
A lot of our scents are influenced by our memories, experiences, and travel. Golden Coast, for example, is inspired by the California coastline, specifically Big Sur. We took a trip there in 2014 and it really stuck with us. When I imagine my happy place, I go to a memory I call “feet in the Big Sur river” - it’s a big adirondack chair pulled into a cold river, surrounded by redwoods. That scent has notes of redwood, salty sea air, lavender, and eucalyptus.
For someone who may not understand the growing usage of soy candles, can you describe to us what makes it significant?
Soy candles have become increasingly popular as people look for an alternative to petrochemicals (which is what paraffin candles are made of). Personally, we love that it burns for a long time, and it’s a great base for adding fragrance.
I love your lounge and kitchen area. Especially that photo booth! What kind of environment do you want to provide for your crew?
We love the photo booth! Basically, we’re trying to create a relaxed, fun environment for the people that work here. We have a foosball table - although Tom and I mainly use it! We’ve always wanted to create the type of company we wanted to work for, one that’s fair, relaxed, and fun. We have a work hard, play hard mentality here.
Tell us about the Spiced Pumpkin Soy Candle we featured in our November box! It has a delicious scent. What's the process like for this one?
Spiced Pumpkin was one of my very first scents - literally, it’s No. 1! When I was first making candles, I tended to be a little more traditional. Our Pumpkin is traditional in the sense that it’s a fall candle, but it’s buttery and rich, and that gives it a more dynamic range.
Have you considered creating a “Pommes Frites” scent? Just curious.
We get asked that all the time. It’s actually why we shortened to P.F. - people thought our candles were actually MADE of french fries! I probably wouldn’t do a French Fry candle - it’s a little more camp than we tend to do now. But who knows, the future is open. All I can say is, be careful when you’re naming a business when you’re 22.
What's the most adventure you had in sourcing or putting together a scent?
Our Copal scent, which is inspired by the incense of the same name, was conceived on a trip to Mexico. At one of the boutique hotels we stayed at in the Riveria Maya, Hotel La Semilla, the owner was burning white copal incense. It was amazing! She told me how its use is similar to sage - cleansing and ritualistic. I brought a ton of incense back and endeavored to create a candle that had the same scent, but wasn’t as smoky as the incense - which can last for two hours. It took us over a year to develop that scent, working with fragrance houses to get it just right. When your inspiration is so specific, that can be a challenge!
You’ve been expanding ever since you started. Can you describe to us some of the challenges that you’ve faced in growing this company?
Expanding from one person to 30 in the span of three years has had major ups and downs. First and foremost we ran into supply chain issues - we would constantly run out of materials to make our product, because I wasn’t projecting enough to handle our demand. We now have a great supply chain in place, based on projections and scaling. It was also a challenge to learn how to be a manager and leader - my last job was as a host at a restaurant. Tom was a supervisor at Best Buy, so he had more experience with that, and his Logistics experience (shipping, warehousing) was a savior to us as we grew.
How about current challenges?
We’ve basically said yes to every opportunity that’s come up, but now that’s presented a new challenge: how to keep buyers interested when you’re everywhere and the value proposition isn’t that you’re “unique". We view our candles like a great bottle of wine - you’re gonna keep coming back to it as a little daily luxury - and we want our stores to stock us like a staple and cult classic. I look to brands like Burts Bees or Dr Bronners for inspiration here in terms of our growth. I set out to have a handmade business, and wanted to just make a living for myself. I didn’t see this future - but now that it’s here, it’s awesome. We’ve created jobs for over 30 people, and that’s amazing. I want to continue growing so we can support those people and grow them as well.
What keeps you inspired?
Hiking is my number one way to keep inspired - it just clears your head and allows you to see the big picture. My daughter is also a huge inspiration. She’s like a sponge - she picks up on and mimics my moods in a crazy way, so it’s extra important for me to stay calm even in the face of stress. It’s taught me a lot about how you can control your reaction to things.