Brandt started back in October 2016 in a small room of 12 m2 in Utrecht. Giselle Habraken, the owner of Earth-friendly soy candles, didn’t think that her path would lead to candle business:
‘Once I went to New York to help out the maker of the candle, a friend of a friend, and it was only 1,5 years after that that I realized how much I missed the candle-making. I come from a different background, Safety and Security Management, and after quitting my job I decided to start Brandt.’
This internship was the base that lit that interest. Before getting fully into candle making, Giselle consulted her candle master who did support her business ideas. Back then (and still) Giselle was fascinated then by honeysuckle scent. Being a person who is inspired by smells and techniques, later on, she introduced Kamperfoelie into her collection.
‘I’m not the kind of person that plans out everything before starting something. I just start walking and come across problems that I have to solve (which I love) along the way. So that helped me a lot, to have no fear or doubts and just see every little thing as an important thing of the process.
Not many people around me run their own business but my friends and family turned out to have amazing skills that came very handy. My boyfriend builds a website, another friend is a business consultant, another one is incredibly fast and skilled as a candlemaker and so on. Also, I have two marvelous interns that are just the best with designing and branding. I have many people coming over to help me a day or two in the studio and that is just fantastic!’ — Giselle Habraken.
For Giselle, the main struggle throughout operating Brandt was the planning of production. After only a year her hand made candles couldn’t fit in Giselle’s room anymore — the place where everything started. At this point, back then she had to find another studio. Of course, she soon grew out of that one as well and currently candle business is living in a studio in Utrecht, but not for long. As Giselle explains it is all directly connected to sales: ‘I have much more stock every season and it is very important to stay sharp on how much I need or the ones to come. The last quarter is absolutely nuts so I must be prepared.’
All Brandt candles are produced sustainable: soy wax, cotton wick, and natural oils. Nevertheless, this is not all: she uses eco ink for labels, reuses all boxes and filling materials received from suppliers, the website is running on green energy. Nowadays it is hard to stay 100% sustainable, but Giselle is finding little ways of making it as close to that as possible — even ask suppliers not to use plastic with packaging for shipping.
Don’t get fooled by this meticulous business approach, Brandt candles were born out of love in candle making itself.
‘I love this part! I have a 50-liter wax-melter and I pour about 1,5 liters in a jar. There I mix it with the oils and pour into the jars. To make sure the wicks are centered I use clothespins. Then while it is drying I can prepare the wicks for upcoming batches, pack orders or do some computer work. I used to play guitar for the candle when I made them at home but that is a luxury I can’t afford. After they dried, I clean them, label them and they are ready for shipping!’ — Giselle describes the process in details.
The botanical-inspired scents are developed to be recognizable to trigger a memory. The scents of candles vary by its complexity, for example, the Woodcollection (Houtcollectie) is more difficult than Apothecary ones. At Brandt, the ingredients must be complementary and have a good top-heart-base* structure.
*The middle notes, or the heart notes, appear once the top notes evaporate. The middle notes are considered the heart of the fragrance. They last longer than the top notes and have a strong influence on the base notes to come. A perfume’s heart is generally pleasant and well-rounded.
Giselle’s memories from traveling brought a lot to Brandt’s collection of scents. For example, from France, she brought Coconut & Aloe Vera. It’s from summer surfing trips — she tried to recreate the surf wax (which you put on a surfing board):
‘Every time I’m making a batch of that scent I am back in the water. And I just love to listen to my customers’ memories and associations while they are sniffing the candle.’
Scents that bring back memories is an addictive idea by itself. It also brings Giselle a solid customer group that she loves to talk to. By sharing their share ideas and thoughts help Brandt to be in a constant process of self-improvement.
Concerning new plans, the upcoming collection Nomad will be inspired by Giselle’s cycle tour of 4 months through Europe: ‘This collection will be an ode to our beautiful continent, with its forests, flowers, herbs and spices. It is going to be a real struggle to choose scents. The most popular ones are Honeysuckle, Sandalwood & Patchouli and Green Tea Lime.’