There has been a shift in the world of scented candles—long gone is the trend of sickly sweet and cloying floral pillars. This new wave is inspired by scents rooted in nature, and made with clean-burning waxes, natural fragrances, and cotton wicks. At the forefront of this trend in Vancouver is Woodlot, a company centered around ethically produced candles, as well as soaps, bath salts, and aromatherapy products.
The company’s founders Sonia Chhinji and Fouad Farraj, partners in life and business, both have deep connections to the worlds of candles and soap. Chhinji’s mother taught her how to hand-roll cotton wicks for tea lights as a child, and Farraj started honing his soap-making skills while growing up on the Mediterranean coast, using the olives that sprouted in his backyard. A year and a half ago, the duo began making candles in their kitchen to give as gifts, which were well received by family and friends. After carrying on in their home workshop for a couple of months, Chhinji and Farraj went all in on their candle business, and things quickly took off. Woodlot celebrated its first birthday at the end of the summer, and a lot has changed since that first homemade batch. The products have made their way into boutiques around the world—even the Parisian emporium of cool, Collette—are sold on Etsy, and are tucked into Old Joy Gift Boxes.
Woodlot caters to the eco-conscious consumer who is particular about the ingredients that they bring into their home and put onto their body. “We are finding that people are becoming far more conscious of the oils and the waxes that they are using in their products, and we are really proud that our candles are coconut wax and GMO-free soy,” says Chhinji. The soap bars are air-cured for six weeks, just how Farraj’s family taught him, and the ingredients are almost good enough to eat. “Our soap bar is [made of] olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, shea butter, [and] coco butter,” says Chhinji. “There’s no palm, there are no oils or waxes in them that aren’t good for your body, and then we add clay to nourish your skin [and] charcoal to detoxify.” The attention to detail and quality of ingredients hasn’t gone unnoticed by customers, either. “People who buy it will email me and let me know that, ‘Hey, this soap bar has done wonders for my skin,’” says Chhinji enthusiastically.
This warm reception from repeat customers has extended to several candle fragrances, as well. “All of our new scents, like Wildwoods, Cinder, Flora, and Recharge are starting to gain quite loyal [followings],” Chhinji says. “It’s kind of exciting that some of our candles and soaps, like Recharge or Wildwoods, they’re starting to create a brand within a brand, which is kind of interesting—so we’re just going to focus on understanding our products, understanding why people like our products, understanding which products are doing [well], just kind of continuing to look at that information be able to create products that are inspired by those products.” Woodlot’s range also includes a bath soak of ethically sourced salts and essential oils, aromatherapy mists, and Palo Santo incense sticks.
With dreams of an expanding product line, Chhinji and Farraj, who both previously worked in the hotel and tourism industry, would love to see Woodlot carried as hotel amenities one day. “I love tourism and I love how a city can bring in people from all over the world, so it’s really a nice way for people to discover your products, in a boutique hotel in an awesome city,” Chhinji states. Despite the success of the past year and a half, Chhinji remains humble and feels that there is still so much left to learn. “As the maker or designer, [you] are always going to want to improve what you’re creating, and the consumer falls in love with something about that,” she says. “Whether it’s the scent, how it makes them feel, the usability of it, it’s my job to find out why you love it, so that’s what’s kind of really exciting about new growth: finding out why people love what they love and how we can continue to improve that, and iterate on that.” Indeed, Woodlot smells like success.
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