Interview with Olivia and Marnie Walker, founder of Keep Candles

Find out how the drive of sisters Olivia and Marnie Walker to help save the planet and reduce waste from people throwing away used candle holders inspired them to launch lifestyle brand Keep Candles, a sustainable and beautiful multi-use candle range which doubles as unique homeware products.

The range features candles set in stunning hand dipped ceramic eggcups, mugs, bowls, and glassware, all made with organic plant-based wax, cotton wicks and pure essential oils. Ideal as thoughtful gifts, and perfect for entertaining with family or friends.

Where did the idea for your business come from? 

The idea was born out of lockdown last year while we were cleaning out our flat. We had an abundance of empty candle containers that we had cleaned up with every good intention of using again, until it became clear they were all just a bit useless. 

It didn’t sit well with us that candle containers had to be thrown away, so we decided to do something about it. And so, Keep Candles was born! 

How did you move from idea to actual business? 

Lots of research followed by lots of testing! Our initial idea was to use waste coffee grounds to create a coffee scented candle in a mug, but we quickly realised this wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing idea and so moved onto testing other scents. 

We experimented with a wide range of ceramics (we tried, unsuccessfully, at making the vessels ourselves too!), waxes, oils, and wicks. After many months of experimenting and then sourcing a potter that is a lot more talented than we are on a potter’s wheel(!), we eventually ended up with the quirky, multi-use candles that we have today.  

Now we sell beautiful, re-usable candles to people who love quality homeware but also hate waste and poor value for money. 

What’s your USP? 

Our zero-waste candles can be utilized for a multitude of uses after burning, meaning you never have to throw away a candle container ever again. 

Most candle containers are (not surprisingly!) designed simply to house candles, making them a bit impractical to use after burning, unless the customer knows how to refill their own candle vessel with wax (which is rare!). 

We offer a seamless refill service where, instead of customers sending their old containers to us to be refilled, we make the refills and send them via post. These refills can then easily be popped into the customers’ existing container, offering an eco-friendly and hassle-free experience. 

Our vessels have also been designed ‘backwards’, with everything designed first and foremost as food-safe homeware, and then turned into a beautiful and unique candle. This means the container always has a clear use after the wax has melted down, whether it be as a mug, glass tumbler, egg cup, or bowl. 

It is key to stress the ‘food-safe’ element, as this is a key differentiator for us in the market. Lots of ceramics today use glazes containing metal nasties such as lead, rendering them useless for anything food related. We work closely with our potters to ensure that everything is not only stunning but also safe for a range of different uses. 

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome? 

Definitely starting a candle business during Covid – it’s quite difficult to describe a scent through an Instagram post as there’s nothing like smelling a dreamy scent in person to help clinch a sale! 

One of our key business challenges would have to be around automating the process, as currently everything is made to order. We want to keep the personal element to the business, we as sisters – Marnie & Liv, hand-blend, and hand-pour every candle, then write a personalised note on every order which can be pretty time consuming!  

And your proudest moment so far? 

Receiving positive feedback from our Keep customers – we feel extremely lucky that people appreciate and really understand our products. We love going the extra mile and delighting our customers wherever possible, so sometimes we will add an extra egg cup or some personalised matches to an order.

This once led to us receiving the most heartwarming feedback: “‘I CANNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH. Seriously, so so so kind. What a lovely gesture, I appreciate it so much. The candles were for my Dad as it’s his birthday today and he adores candles and eggs! Added it to his present and he adores it. They look gorgeous in the house. I have been looking for something unique and they are so perfect. Superstar, thank you!’ 

How can you not be incredibly proud of knowing that you have made someone so happy and that the products perfectly fit the intended occasion?! Personally, we feel very proud knowing that our products can help people and their events feel special. 

Another super proud moment would be being asked to take part in a pop-up at a major department store in December – we can’t announce where until the beginning of November, but this is major for us! 

Why is your work so important to you? 

We are both big nature lovers so looking after the planet is definitely important to us – hence starting a zero-waste business using ethical ingredients. 

Working with family – it’s so nice to be able to spend quality time together as sisters and be able to bounce ideas off each other. 

We’ve always both been super driven and love challenging ourselves, be that with an ultramarathon or starting a new business alongside our day jobs in lockdown! 

What are your top three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar? 

  1. Just start – begin with just trying to make £5, you’ll be surprised how quickly things can grow and how much confidence this can give you. 
  2. Speak to anyone and everyone about your idea – most people will be really interested in your idea and would love to help you. 
  3. Don’t be embarrassed to want to start your own thing – get over the cringe and embrace the uncomfortable. We read a quote recently that really stuck with us and has helped us to take on new challenges – ‘fear and excitement are the same thing’! 

Find out more about Keep Candles.