Meet Milk Jar Candle Co.

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Whenever I see Holly, the creatress of Milk Jar Candle Co., my heart lights up. She is someone who when you're around her, you just feel light. From the few times I've met her I get the vibe that she is a kind, gentle, loving human - and her answers to our interview below confirm that.

Tell us a bit about what you do and how you got started.

Milk Jar is a soy candle company that I started last November as an effort to provide a more affordable clean burning candle with a beautiful crackling wood wick. I have always loved burning candles in my home and used to never think anything of the type of candle I was burning until a friend told me how harmful paraffin wax is. I started doing my research and found countless posts and research on the harsh chemicals that are in paraffin wax which are what the majority of cheap candles are made with. These chemicals can cause respiratory issues and produce a lot of soot in the air, and for someone that burns a lot of candles like me and cares about my health, I knew I had to switch to cleaner candles. At the time I couldn’t afford soy candles so I decided to learn how to make my own, plus I loved wood wicks and there weren’t too many companies that offered candles with them. I had so much fun learning how to make candles and creating my own scents, but never thought I would start a business out of it, it was just something I enjoyed doing, my zen time. 

Why did you decide to start Milk Jar?

My first thoughts of creating a brand and selling candles came after a full year of making my own soy candles for personal use. Whenever I made a batch of candles, I would give some of them to friends. A friend who I often gave candles to, asked me if I would be interested in selling my candles at a pop up market with other vendors to raise money for relief to people that lost their homes and belongings in the Fort McMurray forest fires. I thought this was such an amazing idea but knew I couldn’t very well sell a candle with no brand or business so that got me thinking “hm.. what if I did ever want to sell my candles to raise money for a cause”. Not long after I started thinking of what I would call my brand and contacted a friend of mine who does graphic design to help me design a label. I told her my idea to start a candle company and listed off 2 brand names I was trying to decide between... her favourite was Milk Jar. 

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I often get asked how I came up with the name Milk Jar. To me they look like glasses of milk because I do not use artificial dyes and use old fashion rocks glasses (which can be re used or re-purposed!).  I also associate Milk Jar with the milk program for children in elementary schools back in the day, because I donate a dollar for every milk jar to programs for children with special needs.

How did you learn how to make candles?

Through online blogs, companies that I purchased soy wax from, and a lot of trial and error! Every Soy wax is different and requires different melting/pouring/mixing temperatures, scent loads, wick sizes.. I probably used 7 different wax brands and 10 different wood wicks until I found ones that made the best Milk Jar.

How has Milk Jar evolved since you started out?

Well I never thought it would be this big ever! I honestly thought when I started milk jar that I could sell them at a couple pop up shops, maybe get into Market Collective one day and maybe just maybe, I could sell them in a local store. I have now been in several markets including one in Victoria, have come out with a second line of essential oil milk jars, and have them in over 15 stores. How the heck did that happen?! I am blown away and so thankful everyday with how far and how fast Milk Jar has evolved. 

Where can we currently find them?

My first stockists in Calgary were Outside the Shape in Inglewood and Meraki Supply Co. in Kensington. Francesca who owns OTS and Chelsea who owns Meraki are two amazing women who both took a chance on milk jar by bringing them into their stores before I barely had any sales! I now have a number of other stockists in the Calgary area and a few outside the city in Canmore, Banff and Victoria. All stockists are listed on our webpage milkjar.ca

I am working on getting my online store up and running by the fall 2017 for the holiday season.

A portion of your proceeds are donated to charity – what made you decide to do that? Which one are you currently supporting?

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This really was the driving force by why I created a brand and wanted to sell candles in the first place, to give back to a community that holds a special place in my heart. $1 from the sale of every milk jar candle is donated to a local program that supports special needs children. I have a Kinesiology degree from the University of Calgary and much of my past volunteer and work experience has been working with children with special needs. Any programs that encourage activity and connectedness with one another I believe are so important for healthy development. Oftentimes children with special needs have a more challenging time with feeling able to participate in sports and activities and connect with other kids, so programs that promote one’s ability and feelings of inclusion are so important to me.

Currently Milk Jar is donating to CADS Calgary, the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing at COP. I am hoping we will be able to raise enough by this winter to pay for several kiddos to have lessons on adaptive ski equipment. I was recommended this organization by a family that I have been honored to work with for the last 7 years, helping their son with his pool therapy and at home care. Every year he raved about the ski program that CADS offers and that it is some of the most fun he has in the winter. 

When it comes to running a small business, we seem to have two choices: keep a traditional job as a safety net, or cut all ties and take the plunge. Neither choice is better than the other, but I’m always curious why people choose what they do. What thoughts informed your decision? 

I recently took a break from my nursing degree to pursue milk jar and that was an extremely difficult decision to make. I have never seen myself as an entrepreneur and have always been focused on getting an education and working a secure job. Developing and running a business is not like me and I decided to go for it when I realized how much I actually love the whole process of it, not just the craft, but the business and networking side.  It also really helped that milk jar kind of became lighting in a bottle… the public loved it and it has proven to be a successful company early on. It is my baby and I am so darn proud of it! How could I not see it through?! 

What advice do you have for those starting their own endeavors?

A friend told me once “focus on progress, not perfection” and that has really helped me during times when I have been unnecessarily hard on myself. If you worry too much about perfection, then there may not be any progress. Progress will lead to perfection.

Biggest reward being an entrepreneur? Biggest struggle?

 Biggest reward is being your own boss! Biggest struggle, self-discipline!

What is your ultimate goal, both personally and professionally?

 Personally, to always keep doing the things that focus on my health and happiness.

Professionally, waking up happy most days doing the work that I do, but ultimately knowing that 100% of the time my professional endeavors give my life meaning.

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How do you define success?

Success is exactly what my ultimate professional goal is.. When the path that you choose gives your life meaning. Waking up happy everyday to do the work that you do is obviously ideal, but there will always be times when the job is a struggle or you would rather just lay in bed.. and this goes for all car

eer paths, whether you are a nurse, raising your children, or starting a candle company.. As long as the work that you do gives your life meaning then it is worth it and you are already successful. 

What inspires you?

The number of talented young entrepreneurs I have met in this city, and most recently since starting a company of my own. Calgary has such an amazing ‘up and coming’ makers community that I feel SO lucky to be a part of! 8 years ago I remember going to my first Market Collective at the old ant building in Kensington and thought to myself ‘these people selling their crafts are so cool! I wish I could be as cool as them!’ haha and last February I was in my first Market Collective and sold out of 260 milk jars! I met so many rad people that just wanted to give me a high five for doing my thing and that is what has inspired me, the overwhelming support of this community.

What do you feel is the most important thing in life?

My relationships with the people in my life. Friends, family, partner, acquittances.. I love spending time with people and bringing different people in my life together. It’s what I enjoy so much about starting Milk jar, I have met so many awesome new friends!

It is my relationships that build me up and bring me happiness, and why else are we here in this world but to enjoy life with others?

*all images by Laura of Wild Heart Photography