Introducing the imitable Sara McLelland of Alchemy Produx, a local artisan candle manufacturing business based here in Melbourne. Specialising in small batch production, each individual Alchemy candle is comprised of 100% soy wax and hand-poured into conical flasks and beakers as a nod to both scientific innovation and design. The thing we love most about Sara and her brand (apart from the fact that it makes your house/studio smell really, really heavenly) – is the considered approach, which we touch on in our interview.
We visited Sara at her local Footscray studio where all the candles are handmade in small batches. We chatted through marketing, brand collaborations and a successful trip to a trade show in New York.
Alchemy Produx is such a desirable brand! We love your products. How did get started and what drew you candle making? Can you share a little about the brand name?
It wasn’t always about candles to be honest! I have a huge passion for small business and entrepreneurship. I love talking to other makers and hearing about the way they do things. I’m passionate about design; which is my professional background and my partner Tristan is a chemist. For us, Alchemy Produx is a fusion of both. It started off with me just making candles in nice jars to have around the house and grew into what it is today very organically.
Have any past experiences informed your ability running a small business?
My experience in marketing is very beneficial, especially when it comes to keeping my books and accounts together, which I now love doing! I get so excited to wake up and balance all my accounts via my accounting software, it’s a great feeling when everything fits. These are skills I’ve really had to hone since becoming a business owner. It’s not all creative, there are some important things to deal with when running a business such as legal, IP, insurance and tax/accounting activities, for this type of work, I’ve found that it has been best to hire a professional, and dedicate my time to making candles and running the business.
How much has social media played a role in the growth of your business, particularly with regards to product development and brand direction?
It’s been massive! It has really changed the industry, particularly when you consider the current marketplace for crafters and makers, as compared to ten years ago. It’s all much faster now, we have access to brands, buyers and stockists from all over the world at the click of a button, where we once would have had to organise and attend trade shows. The whole industry is participating in a global, 24/7 trade show, really, because of the Internet. From a retail point of view, it’s incredibly interesting to see how a single Instagram post and generate sales and to watch them come through moments after you post. In terms of product development, social media is beneficial in helping to determine what people like and what people respond to, especially as our range continues to expand.
What was the driving factor for starting your own small business? A gap in the market? Defining a target audience?
It all happened very organically, we never really went to lengths to plan anything. One thing just led to another and progressed very naturally, from listening to responses from our friends and family and other makers from markets and trade shows. We continued to build on each experience and set the bar higher at the right time for us.
You’ve been to New York to attend a trade show; can you tell us about the experience?
We visited New York about a year ago for a trade show, it was amazing! We received a really positive response, everyone over there is so relaxed and open and seemed to love our product. We loved it, we’re going to go back again. Getting a mentor or speaking to someone that is experienced in this area is priceless. There is a lot more US trade shows compared to Australia, so it is important to find out which ones are worth it.
Can you tell us more about your collaborations? Which has been your favourite so far?
Brand image is something we have been working on a lot lately, in trying to strengthen who we are and how we are portrayed. We are different from most other candle-makers because we evoke trends like minimalism, androgyny and industrialism. We generally aren’t a girly, pink-hued and floral candle company, which I think has helped us create our point of difference. Our company mantra is “less is more”. However, our recent collaboration with Australian artist Laura Blythman was extremely successful (due to her amazing social following!) despite her aesthetic being slightly off brand. Sometimes leveraging off another creative is a great strategy to get your name out there, and our many successful collaborations, particularly the ongoing on we have with Gorman, are a testament to that!
I really enjoyed the one we did with local artist Sarah Kelk, her palette really suits our aesthetic and the fragrance direction we want to go in. We’ll definitely continue to pursue artist collaborations, where the artist designs our packaging and we match it with a scent. It’s a great way to attract a new audience and following. I’m also excited about our upcoming collaboration with artist Janina Victoria, an artist originally from Germany but resided in Sydney. It is a watercolour piece and is very earthy, perfect for winter. It’s launching in the next few months. Brand collaborations may have become a large part of our strategy, they’re a great way to grow our brand’s audience and working toward a creative outcome is always fun.
Thanks for chatting Sara, it’s been an absolute pleasure!