I'm one of those people who live and breathe candles everyday...
Hi, tell me a bit about who you are?
I’m aroma obsessed, and a co-founder of YAY Bangkok.
I studied science but I’ve always had a passion for essential oil and all things scent related. I decided to follow my passion after graduation.
How did you get together with the other co-founders?
One of them is my friend, so we were already talking about the idea of starting this business together. Another one is also a friend who had experience with making potpourri (scented dried flowers) who I persuaded to join us.
What was the early idea of YAY?
We wanted to make essential oils and aromas more modern and erase the perception of them being traditional and boring. We wanted it to be exciting. We then landed on the idea of making candles, and we wanted to make it fun by adding a surprise element to it.
FIRST THING FIRST!
What was the first thing that you did after getting together?
We went shopping and explored the market. I have a relative who does craftwork and makes wax figures so I asked her a lot about candles and wax. We later partnered with her so she makes our candles now. During that time, there was an event at TCDC Chiangmai design week and we thought it was a perfect opportunity to try making our first batch of candles and to try selling it there and collect some feedback.
How did you find the materials?
Some we got from a local market, some we ordered online, it depends. We bought only a little bit at first because we wanted to try making it ourselves, just so that at least we knew 30% - 40% of how to actually make candles before we pay someone to do it. It was important to us that we understand the different grades of soy wax, pricing of things, etc. so we could stay on top of things. We use soy wax because it produces the least carbon dioxide, which makes the least amount of black smoke from burning candles. It basically is just not harmful to your body.
How did you know about these chemical components?
I studied science in school. I know where each ingredient comes from, what is soy, etc. My background really came in handy because I was able to ask the right questions, get the right info from the suppliers, and altogether pick the best ingredients to use. It prevented me from getting scammed too since I knew what I had to ask for, for example, soy wax certificates and things like that.
How did you find your suppliers?
We looked online, but we only made the decision whether to use a supplier or not after we visited their factory. We love to inspect (laughs). We also found some suppliers by going to science expos and fairs where people bring different ingredients to show.
Was it difficult to try making candles by yourself?
We wanted to incorporate a surprise element into our candles. We tried multiple things. We tried putting little pretty rocks into the wax so that they get left behind as a souvenir after the candle finishes burning. That didn’t turn out that pretty. We tried making a candle sculpture where we didn’t pour the wax into a container so that it turned into a sculpture as it melted. That didn’t work because soy wax is very sensitive to heat so it liquified right away. Then, after a few experiments, we ended up with the engraved piece of stone in the candle that you see today.
How did the marble get involved?
Most candles that we see have a nice container and a nice scent, but that’s it. We wanted to give our customers more than that. We wanted to give them something they can keep forever. The idea of using stones and marbles came from that, something that lasts forever.
We also love the natural element of them. Each of them are unique because each cut always reveals a different pattern. There is also no other materials than could stand the heat of the flame like a stone. I mean yes, there was heat resistant resin that won’t melt in the candle, but what you get is chemicals in the air. We didn’t want our candles to hurt anyone because we knew that people who love candles live and breath candles everyday. I’m also one of those people.
Did you have any problems with the marble?
Not really. We knew, roughly, that the size of the container is about a standard water cup size and then the size of the stone was calculated easily. We basically couldn’t make the stone any smaller because they would start fracturing when we do the engraving. We found that not every rock can be cut and engraved, especially those rocks with a lot of patterns. They are usually very easy to break. The supplier was very good at educating us on these topics so we didn’t have to go through this ourselves.
How many types of stones do you use now?
We have 2 types of marble and 2 types of granite. Granite is super strong as it came from volcanic rocks. On the other hand, marble is a lot weaker than granite, but you get more pretty patterns as they are created by the accumulation of minerals. They are both beautiful but they are different. We don’t really talk about this in our branding but we really love how these rocks came about.
Who made the decision on the candle sizing? Were there any constraints?
The size came from our concern with the weight of the candles, especially when we have to ship them. I mean the current one is not super huge but it’s already pretty heavy (laughs).
Have you had any problems with any of your suppliers?
We work with multiple suppliers as each of the elements of our product comes from a different supplier. We have one supplier for the candle wax, one for the packaging, one for the rocks, etc. Most of the problems we faced came from the quality of the work. We had to make sure before making a deal that they had some sort of insurance in case they made a mistake. We needed to make sure that we could claim for that loss, or how much could we claim from it. This kind of talk definitely had to happen before any of the production work. I also think that being honest and understanding with people you collaborate with is very important for a long lasting relationship, which in turn will make working together so much more pleasant.
Understanding the nature of the production was also very important for us to ensure everything runs smoothly. For example, knowing how long a particular item takes to produce. Some items may take at least 3 months to make so you need to put that in the schedule when you plan your timeline. Everything needs planning.
Do all your suppliers coordinate?
In the past, each of the suppliers didn’t talk to each other. I’m the one who has to make sure all of them get their work done on time so I can pass their work on to the other suppliers. Now we produce some items in-house, but we still need to make sure things line up. That’s why it is important to plan things out thoroughly. We also needed to know what to do if they don’t get their work done on time. We needed to know what we would cut down on and what we could let go in that situation. It’s also good to make sure to have more than one supplier for each thing, just as a fallback. Mostly, work that has to be done by people takes more time and can have more errors than work done by machines, so we need to keep that in mind as well.
Who takes care of where and how much to sell?
Me (laughs). I didn’t come from a business background but I took some business courses from the government which I really recommend, especially the one called NEC from the Ministry of Industry. Generally, we divide work by what each of us are good at and we make decisions together when it comes to important things.
How do you find your customers?
We were lucky that we attended the TCDC event and tried it out even though we weren’t ready with a lot of things. It really helped us understand our potential audiences and introduced us to potential buyers (shop owners). We wrote down the info of everyone who bought our candles from the event. Their age group, gender, nationality, etc., and used that to improve our product. We found buyers from events that we go to and that’s how we expand.
Our product is harder to sell online. Unlike clothes, you actually have to hold it and smell it to know whether you want to buy it or not. We also used to think of our online platform as a platform for our regular customers and people who already know they like our products, but now a lot of people who want to look us up online also end up there.
But you lose some percentage when you sell through shops?
That’s a factor that we took into consideration when we came up with our product pricing. We did some research on how shops/malls calculate their percentage so we knew what we were working with. When we found out we had the opportunity to put our product in these shops and malls, we made a lot of improvements to our product. We improved the scents so that they were more consistent, improved out packaging, added more natural coconut oil and other essential oils, and also adjusted our pricing accordingly.
How do you sell your product outside of Thailand?
Fifty percent of foreign customers found us, and the other fifty we reached out to them. We would send them a cold email with our portfolio and everything to introduce ourselves and asked if they would be interested in having our products at their shops.
We have candles, diffusers, and organic hand creams. More things are coming!
What is your day to day like?
It’s never the same. I go all out with work and I have no work-life balance (laughs). I do mostly everything myself. I talk to suppliers, talk to the shops, look at excel, and take care of the overall business and the logistics. There’s no fixed schedule. I just work based on the priorities of the work.
How do you take care of yourself?
I’m not very good at that (laughs). I hope, in the future, I can build a bigger team and so I can have more time to take care of myself.
Do you use any skincare?
I use body cream, at least. I sometimes mask my face. I use whatever anyone buys me as long as I’m not allergic to them (laughs). I really like SKII the essence.
Where do you shop?
I rarely shop both online and offline. When I do, I like to go to Greyhound because it’s easy since I don’t wear colorful clothes. I also like COS and Uniqlo. For formal wear, I like Massimo Dutti. I also get my clothes tailor-made sometimes.
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