Passion and Hustle with P.F. Candle Co.
The sweet duo of P.F. Candle Co, Kristen and Tom, have just opened up their flagship shop in Echo Park. The space is fresh with stacks of amber candles, diffusers, and incense galore, along with a quaint, curated collection of handmade home goods. Warm and welcoming, like the founders themselves, the new P.F. Candle flagship is a space cultivated by passion and hustle. Read on to learn how the owners of P.F. Candle Co. stay on top of their business, mental health, and lessons they've learned along the way. (In the interview "K" is Kristen and "T" is Tom.)
Tell us about the beginnings of P.F. Candle Co. Do you remember how the process got started? What was it like to create your first batch of candles together?
K - I started P.F. in 2008. Everyone knows us for our candles and home fragrance goods now, but originally, I was making a lot of different products for our Etsy shop and craft fairs. Candles were the thing that stuck. It wasn’t until 2012 that I started enlisting Tom in making the candles during the busy season. Our entire bedroom was filled with racks of candles – we didn’t have any space left! In 2013, Tom came on board full time when there was a big order on the horizon.
T - I remember very well when the business went from second bedroom to studio. I got Kristen to bother the buyer of West Elm to write a PO by guaranteeing that I would make it in the required time no matter what. Yeah, that order was 4,000 candles, and I could only make 100 a day, so our first batch was us trying to figure out how to make 4,000 candles in a month. A lot of stress, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it, because it was also a lot of fun.
Was there ever an “aha” moment that helped move the brand forward?
K - I’ll always remember doing a market in 2013 where Tom and I both had a line 30-minutes long to buy our candles. It was when we realized – oh, people really like this!
T - Kristen has always been about the brand. For me the “aha" in the business was to try and create the type of business that others would want to work for. My experience in the workforce was pretty demoralizing, so I didn’t want our employees to have that experience.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned on maintaining a strong partnership in and outside of the office?
K - Running a business is similar to having a kid, in that it really tests your relationship because you are both in “stress” mode 24/7. It’s just about recognizing that the reason you’re stressed is because you have a ton of work (or a newborn baby, or both) and not because it’s something your partner did. The worst thing you can do is take it out on your partner. Having clearly defined roles and tasks is a lifesaver, too.
T - Defining our roles, which has only happened recently. Also learning to love talking about the business, because it is both of our passion.
You have a day off, a mental health day. This day is all about you realigning and gaining back positive energy. What does your ideal mental health day look like?
K - Going for a long hike followed by a vegetarian meal.
T - Going for a hike. Nature is pretty rejuvenating because there isn’t much to think about out there. Just walking, breathing, eating, and drinking.
Self care matters because....
K - You only get one body to take you through this life! Unless we all become cyborgs in the future.
T - There is a Vox article about the pitfalls of extreme altruism. The moral of the story is if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of others.
As entrepreneurs, what is one piece of advice you can give to others on cultivating productivity in your passion?
K - For us, it’s less about cultivating productivity and more about staying busy. Saying yes to every opportunity. Keep yourself busy. If you’re having to convince yourself to be productive, it’s probably not your passion.
T - This a place where most people tell you there is one thing you can do that will change everything. The truth is, cultivating productivity in your passion is the result of a lot of small things. Just try and like what you do and try and be good at it.
My current definition of success is:
K - Setting a goal and achieving it. We have large overarching goals, that are broken down into smaller, bite size goal. When you set small goals every day, you feel success every day, and that keeps you going.
The secret to making a great product is:
K - Always Be Improving. Test your product, take feedback, and implement it. Never settle for “good enough.”
T - Caring about about the product and caring what your customers think about that product. Customers are the source of the most valid criticism.
Kristen: Is there a matriarchal figure that you admire or one that has influenced your path?
K - I love me some Martha Stewart, she’s just the boss queen.
Tom: As the business has grown, I’m sure the amount of work to do in a day has grown with it. What mindset and productivity hacks do you have to stay on top of it all while also steering clear of burn out?
T - I like to use Apple apps, like Notifications, Reminders, and Calendar to keep me on top of things. I’ve taken this trick from Kristen – when I remember something or a great idea, I immediately write it down in the Reminders app and set a time for it to notify me when I’m back in the office. That way, I don’t forget it! The only times I’ve experienced burnout is when I’ve lost joy in doing my job, and didn’t want to come in. It’s also important to keep your staff happy, because they will always motivate you.
Kristen is wearing the Matriarchy tee in Clay and Tom is wearing the Stress Doesn't Equal Success Men's Tee (sold out).