Kristina Kochran, founder and driving force behind the renowned candle company, Wilderess, is every bit the essence of her creations. It's cliche to say, but she completely embodies what her company stands for; honestly, creativity, individuality and a distinct presence in the world of small business. Is it obvious we have a total girl-crush on her?
We got to hang out with Kristina in her Long Beach workshop (which smells absolutely incredible, by the way), while she prepared a batch of her newest candles, talking about what inspires her, how she founded the company, what she does in her free time and what she loves about the city she lives in! Check out the article below!
Hi Kristina! Describe Wilderess for us! How did you get your start?
I basically founded wilderness when I found there was no transparency with a lot of companies. They weren’t being honest about what was in their products or how/where the products were made. I actually worked a corporate job briefly and saw a lot of that lack of transparency. That’s why I quit. So I started Wilderess! To answer your 1st question, It’s all natural, clean products with an emphasis on being honest with my customers.
When did candle making turn from a hobby, into a full time business?
I actually started with lip balms. And that happened because I read the label of my favorite lip balm and was absolutely horrified with what was inside. I started making my own lip balms and I made one giant, horrible batch. I was absolutely devastated because I saw all this money go down the drain! It was terrible. So, I decided to go to Micheals, buy a wick and made a candle out of it. And it was quite nice. So I taught myself candle-making for about a month and then launched Wilderess right afterwards. It just took off!
Tell us more about your process (i.e. where you source your supplies/inspiration/etc.)
I have a box filled with all different kinds of oils. I sort of blend them all together in different combinations to make scents that I think might smell good. Once in awhile you get one that is exactly what you’ve been looking for and it’s always amazing. Then you want to do a test burn because different parts of the scent will come out as you burn it. Sometimes it has a completely different smell from when you just open the candle.
Do you play around with scents, or does it happen where you smell something out of the blue and think “I need to recreate that!”?
YES! My nose has gotten a lot better since I started doing this, and I can pick up on different scents, but when something is SO blended it’s hard to figure out where the magic is coming from.
What does a typical work-day look like for you?
Generally I need to get woken-up early. I come to my workshop and make my coffee (and drink it as well! Drinking is the important part). I’ve been really fortunate to never have a bad work day. Any day I can be working is an ideal day for me. The good day is when you can get a lot done, you get your orders finished and you don’t feel so overwhelmed.
What is your all-time favorite scent?
Okay. So there’s a new one, that I think may be my all time favorite. It’s called ‘Great Plains’. It’s different. And when it burns it’s really complex. I really like 'Vetiver', it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. And then of course, the all time best seller, 'Oak and Amber' (editors note: Oak and Amber is our favorite scent as well).
Do you see yourself expanding into different realms?
Yes! You know I’ve definitely considered it. I think it’s important to not grow too big, too fast, because you end up spreading yourself too thin. I did that in the beginning. As far as different realms are concerned, I started making vintage jewelry since I studied in fashion and I wanted to incorporate that into my brand. I’ve also had a lot of people tell me that they want to smell like my candles, so I’m looking into a line of body oils.
I want to like tea. And I try to force myself. But its hard! I drink my coffee black, no cream, no nothing. Tea just can’t really compare.
What do you like to do on your off days?
A perfect day is full of walking. I love to walk. I live in Belmont shore so I’ll walk to the beach, walk along the peninsula, walk to the bay; it’s amazing. A good 4 mile walk is my favorite thing to do. I love going with my boyfriend to some of the bars downtown. We have some amazing restaurants and bars down there. I love cooking! So either I'm going to go out for lunch and come back home and cook, or vis versa. Basically lots of food and drinks. That’s perfect to me.
Any advice for people wanting to take their hobby to the next level?
I think its all about growing at your own pace, not rushing it, and being realistic. If I didn’t think my business stood a chance, I would have stopped a long time ago. It’s really about reading the feedback, looking at your sales. You have to ask yourself ‘Does it make sense to keep going?' You don’t want to live a life where you’re barely paying your bills and you’re miserable.
What’s next for Wilderess Candles?
Vacation! I’m going on a big roadtrip with my boyfriend. We love traveling. Last time we took two weeks to travel all around the New England area. This time we’re flying into Portland, renting a car and going down to Mt. Hood. We’re going to see The Redwoods, Oregon Coast, all the good things! I can't wait.
You can buy Kristina's candles from our store front location, or on our online store! Click here to purchase!
Article written by Madelaine Turner
Photography done by Daniel Freeman