Neau Collective is proud to feature this Q&A conducted by Jo Reeves.
So, ladies, tell us about you. How did you meet and ultimately become business partners?
Carlie: We met outside the classroom when our kids first started school. Bec’s lovely son took my worried little girl under his wing and they’ve been firm friends ever since and so have we. We’ve bonded over a shared love for fashion and creativity and more than a few shared glasses of wine.
Bec: I knew we’d be friends as soon as we met. We have the same interests and like the same things. Going into business together was an easy decision because we knew our goals would be aligned, we have the same love of design, style and are always in sync.
You both pursued different careers quite unrelated to your Becca Project offering. How did you come up with the idea?
Carlie: I kept getting sick working at the hospital and eventually was diagnosed with auto-immune disease Chronic Fatigue. I had days on end where I couldn’t get out of bed. A friend was very sold on the benefits of essential oils and suggested I try them. I was quite skeptical at first but as I learnt more, I felt the benefits, but was stuck on one hurdle – so many of them smelt horrible to me!
Bec: I also suffer from an auto-immune disease of the joints. Carlie and I were both fascinated by the potential effects of essential oils but we agreed we needed to do something to make the scents better and less overpowering. We talked about burning the oils in wax as we were both fans of scented candles, so we signed up for a candle-making course. I had to miss the first one as my son broke his leg but I re-booked and Carlie came along then too so she has two certificates!
So, once you’d had the candle idea and learnt the craft it all flowed from there?
Bec: Not exactly! We were told it wouldn’t be possible to mix essential oils with candle wax. The professionals said they wouldn’t burn well, would be too expensive, and just vetoed the idea. So of course, that made us more determined to do it! But it took a lot of work, a lot of trial and error. A lot of wasted wax and wicks before we got it right.
And when did you decide to turn it into a business?
Carlie: It almost happened by accident. My husband’s brother runs a print and design company called Cube and we asked him to produce some packaging mock-ups for the candles and before we knew it we had a whole range and we thought, ‘well, we’d better sell them now’.
It all began with candles, but now you offer solid perfume balms and diffusers, as well as there being a body oil in the making. What made you decide to extend the range?
Carlie: We always wanted an idea we could expand and that was scalable. Once we’d created our scent ranges it seemed like natural progression to grow the range to that we had matching products and customers could chose a signature scent.
How do you choose your scent/oil combinations?
Carlie: We decide on a feeling – and experience if you like. So ‘how do we want this to make someone feel – uplifted, relaxed, sleepy – then we research the oils and start to blend.
Bec: It’s our favorite part of the process, we’ve started to get a good feel for what goes well together now so we can mix up a scent we are proud of and have fun with it too.
What has been your lowest ‘Becca Project’ point?
Bec: We struggled to find a wooden wick that burned well with the oil/wax mix. We trialed a few and finally found one that worked. So, we decided to pour our first big batch of around 100 candles. Only once we’d finished did we realize we’d used the wrong pack of wicks – the ones which smoked. Digging out the wicks and wax and starting over was a pretty depressing exercise.
And your high point so far?
Carlie: Probably when we were contacted by super-cool shoe designer Kathryn Wilson to ask if she could stock our candles. We were so happy, so of course we said ‘yes’ and she does now stock Becca Project in store. She has been a great inspiration for us.
What’s the biggest challenge Becca Project faces?
Bec: I think it’s getting people to see, in the first place, that we are not making your average scented candle. Our range is really different because it burns the essential oils in the wax – most scented ranges just use fragrance, whereas ours release the many health benefits from the oils into the air as the candle burns. But everyone says their product is special, so it’s hard to get across the point of difference. The flip side of that is that everyone is blown away when they try them. Sending out samples to potential stockists and editors is a great way to convince them.
Carlie: It’s the same challenges facing so many working parents: Time. Building a business while juggling a family, another career, trying to grow the business with new ideas and products while staying on top of existing orders and commitments. Life is busy but we love what we’re doing with Becca Project and we’re so excited about the future and where it will take us.
Carlie: Short term we are about to release an outdoor beeswax pillar candle which banishes bugs with a gorgeous-scented blend of oils rather than the horrible smell they usually have. We’ve also got a body oil in the wings and it’s packed full of skin-loving oils like macadamia, coconut and hazelnut seed as well as an essential oil combo that smells divine.
Bec: Longer term we’d like to grow into a factory somewhere local to allow us to produce the range on a larger scale. At the moment our production space is limited so we'd love to expand. We are proud of being a locally based company producing quality New Zealand-made products.
And finally, there’s an age-old adage that mixing business with pleasure is a mistake. Does the daily strife of running Becca project ever put a strain on your friendship?
Bec and Carlie in unison: No, never!
Bec: We never fall out and we just naturally agree on the little but important details as well as having a shared vision for the future. We’re always in sync. We’re almost like a good husband and wife team – we prop each other up when we need it.
Carlie: Right from the moment we met at the school gates we knew we’d be good friends – the kind you’d choose to hang out with even if you didn’t have kids that were best mates.
Bec: We always manage to have a laugh whatever is going on and we’re totally aligned with our goals. Basically, we like the same sh*t!
Check out Becca Project's brand page here