Intrigued by chemicals fusing together and forming something remarkable, Rebecca Subrath took this knowledge and started her own unique candle-making business.
Now, some two and a half years later, the Second Haven Candle Company continues to make waves in the local market and prospects for regional and international expansion are bright.
Birthed during the pandemic, the Second Haven Candle Company transports its user to the world of rich scents and also the aromas of a Trini Christmas, while also protecting the environment.
“I tend to make a lot of things during Christmas and give them as gifts,” said Subrath, 23, as she shared her insights with the Sunday Business Guardian about her company and the impetus behind it.
In 2021, she was encouraged and inspired to sell her items and hence her journey into the world of commerce began.
On choosing the name of her company, Subrath further explained, “I wanted my scents to transport people to a second haven when they smell it. Trinidad, in a sense, is like a second haven that transports people to beautiful places.”
All her candles are labelled after local names such as “Sorrel,” “Eggnog,” “Sweet Parang,” “Trini Christmas” and “Home-made Wine.”
The biochemistry and biology final-year University of the West Indes student is already a successful entrepreneur as her unique soy-wax candles continues to garner much interest.
Why soy wax?
Soy wax is made from environmentally friendly, renewable resources, whereas classic paraffin wax is made from petroleum and is non-renewable.
Subrath sources her scented oils from three different sites online, based in the US, while other items like vessels, wicks and packaging are locally bought.
While it is not difficult to obtain her ingredients, from time to time Subrath faces challenges regarding shipping costs.
“The shipping costs fluctuate a lot. The cost of one package can range from TT$85 to TT$600 to clear and that is through a local courier company,” she explained.
Despite this, sales continue to do well.
Candles range from $45 to $120, depending on the size.
Currently, the most popular and best seller is the “Danish Cookies.”
“It is very strong but it is also calming a the same time. Sorrel is the second favourite,” Subrath added.
However, she also crafts candles outside of the Christmas season offering scents such as “Coffee (Maco)” and “Vanilla (Tabanka)”
As her candles continue to grow in popularity, so too do Subrath’s orders as she often works up to Christmas Eve to ensure customers receive their products on time.
Noting that her profit margins remain healthy, Subrath said, “With my smallest candle I make about $16 and then with the bigger ones I make about $40.”
Over time, Subrath said, she has seen a general growth in the demand for candles on the local market, noting that small businesses which specialise in this have been mushrooming.
Asked about her particular clientèle, Subrath said many of her customers are university students.
“They use candles while they are studying and they use them while they are having a get together in their apartment. Also, there are many middle-aged women who buy them as gifts, so on Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, they are good sellers,” she added.
Like any other business, the Second Haven Candle Company has its peak periods; these are Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day and during Christmas.
Why these times?
According to Subrath, candles make the perfect gifts for these occasions and have traditionally remained top sellers.
For Christmas last year, she sold around 30 candles and at her first time offering her products for Mother’s Day she sold 17.
Valentine’s Day 2022, Subrath sold 17 of her candles.
This year, she hopes sales will improve as interest continues to grow based on the feedback she has been receiving on her different social media pages.
But what makes the products of Second Haven Candle Company stand out?
Apart from their catchy names derived from the local culture, they are infused with attractive colours.
“I have yellow, green, red, blue...you don’t find a lot of candles that are colourful and I really wanted to match the culture that we have in Trinidad which is very diverse and colourful and I wanted to replicate that.
“I really wanted my colours to pop to represent the Trinbagonian culture. My candles also have embellishments on top with the actual ingredients such as clove,” Subrath explained.
Currently, she goes to various craft markets to sell her candles, which are also available at two shops: one in Diego Martin and the other in Curepe with one business being a flower shop.
“Candles and flowers tend to go hand in hand,” Subrath said.
Eventually, Subrath wants her “own little candle studio,” taking her products to the regional and international arena and thereby, showcasing the talents of T&T’s crafters.
Recently, she has been contacted by Caribshopper.
According to its website, Caribshopper is a marketplace for authentic Caribbean-made products, connecting Caribbean culture with global consumers and fostering economic development in the islands.
It delivers iconic Jamaican and Trinidadian products in the following categories: food and drink, beauty and wellness, home and living, jewelry, apparel, and paper and novelty.
For Subrath this presents an ideal opportunity for expansion.
“Right now, I am looking into that. The agency will have my products on a website and when someone in the US or in the Caribbean wants a candle, they would source it from that online company and then they send it,” Subrath said, noting that she is expected to soon finalise this deal.
Regarding the Tobago market, Subrath does delivery to the sister island and she has plans to have her candles sold at the airport to further reach that tourist demographic
“I am hoping that comes through by next year. I am also hoping to have my candles at the different malls,” she added
Subrath also offered words of advise to budding entrepreneurs who, at times, may feel to give up.
“Find something you’re really passionate about and that you could stick with. It is tough in the slow periods but continue to do a lot of research and find out what people like and then try to replicate that,” she suggested.