Many of us have played this game before. A holiday is around the corner, you’ve got family and friends on your list in need of meaningful gifts, but your budget is — oh, shall we say limited?
Desperate, you scramble around the house looking for something — anything — you can magically spin into last-minute holiday gold.
This is exactly the situation Vancouver’s Relix Candle Collective founders, Johanna Schlyecher and Jacynta Michell, found themselves in leading up to Christmas in 2018.
The duo were long-time friends and often got together to try out wild craft experiments. So, together, they thought surely they could think of something to make for gifts.
“We had random old dishes and glassware we’d collected throughout the years and had this idea that we could turn them into candles,” said Michell. The two had made candles once or twice before, and they knew that from-scratch, soy-based candles would be a hit with their loved ones.
“The only problem was that I was living in a tiny basement suite at the time with little-to-no ventilation,” says Schlyecher.
The hood fan on Schlyecher’s stove was also broken, and so on their first run, they overcooked the wax and all of the scent escaped. “By hour two, Jo’s floor was covered in spots of wax drippings and I had burns all over my hands,” remembers Michell.
It may not have been the smoothest or most hazard-free craft effort, but at the end of it, Michell and Schlyecher had made 45 candles to gift to loved ones, who come Christmas Day were all thrilled to unwrap their unique handmade treasures.
After this holiday candle triumph, the two started fantasizing about what it would be like to abandon their day jobs and run a small candle business. Schlyecher’s degree was in interior design, while Michell’s was in business, so it wasn’t that far out of left field.
Spending their days blissfully experimenting with candles, listening to music, and chatting about their lives sounded pretty awesome. “We love thrifting,” says Schlyecher, “and we thought we could thrift every canister and then sell them. And maybe people would actually buy them!”
Six months later, the pair debuted Relix Candle Collective at the Loutet Farm Market in North Vancouver. They settled on the name Relix to allude to “relic,” because their candles are all made in various charming vessels and containers, lovingly plucked from thrift shops, vintage stores, Grandma’s house, and garage sales.
“We spent every evening after work designing a logo, having signage printed, and sending out social media blasts so we could just sell at least one candle,” laughs Schlyecher. They ended up selling more than one and were beyond grateful that people were interested in their creations.
Since then, they’ve been perfecting their hand-poured, soy candle-making process, experimenting with scents made from essential oils and natural-based candle fragrances. The duo finally launched the Relix Candle Collective’s online shop this past June.
Sustainability, supporting the local community, and human rights are all strong values the two share, and so they wove that into their candle business as well.
“Relix may have started out by accident,” says Michell, “but nothing we do is an accident now.”
Each candle vessel is by nature recycled and beautiful in its own way. Think heirloom silver butter dishes, ’70s pyrex, and marigold crystal dinner party goblets fit for a medieval queen.
Launching during the pandemic, it was especially important to them that their business give something back, and so they contributed a portion of their modest sales to local organizations in need.
The first donation was just $17 to the Vancouver Food Bank, but they were committed to contributing what they could, even if it wasn’t much. Later that month, they were able to donate $300 to Hogan’s Alley Society, which works to preserve and promote black communities and heritage here in Vancouver. To date, they’ve donated $254 to the Vancouver Food Bank.
“We’re local women, we care about our community that we’ve grown up in, and we want to be one of those ethical local businesses that help make Vancouver a better place,” says Michell.
And while candle-making operations have moved from Schlyecher’s basement suite to her parents’ North Vancouver backyard, everything is still made locally by two great friend-preneurs who are living the dream, eschewing “day jobs,” thrifting, experimenting as always, and sharing creations they love.