It’s not just wax and a wick: Ecoya CEO on the rise of home

sp;Reflecting on the journey, for me personally it’s the people and culture that I love. There is nothing corporate about the way we think or operate. We have always been owned by clever, entrepreneurial people who value brands. They have put their trust in us to nurture and drive the brand as if it’s our own and that’s why we have such a creative, talented bunch of people on the team who stay long term and really own their roles. When I started, there were five of us and now there are over 30 and that same drive and entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. 

Secondly, it’s the evolution and constant change in product and marketing. We are always evolving product and expanding, so every year it’s like a whole new challenge. Both the category and the business have grown immensely over that time. When I started, the concept of scented candles was very new, we were the first of a few players. Now they are in every home and we are so much more than a candle brand, with our diffusers, body care, kitchen, laundry, car, and sanitiser collections.

IR: What are some of the most interesting aspects of the home fragrance category that would surprise people?

CB: Over the years, we have developed an archive of thousands of fragrances. Our fragrance team takes its time creating, formulating, and rigorously testing products before they make their way into the home. Around 60 ingredients go into each new formulation and getting those elements just right is a delicate balance between creativity and science. 

IR: What are some of the unique challenges of the home fragrance category? 

CB: Safety is incredibly important to us; candles are a part of our everyday lives now and consumers have to respect an open flame in their home. Candle manufacturing is not regulated in this part of the world; however, we believe it should be. As new players enter the fold, they don’t always have the knowledge around glass, wick composition and sizes, wax and fragrance, solubility, etc, and that’s a risk. We follow the most stringent manufacturing standards in the world and look to the US and Europe to make sure we are always at the forefront of new technology. Despite what people think, it’s not as simple as combining a wick, fragrance, and wax in just any vessel. We want consumers to be educated about what they choose to burn in their homes and how.

IR: How would you describe the home fragrance landscape and how has it evolved in the last few years?

CB: The shift in ‘self and home care’ has been interesting. Covid-19 obviously [required everyone to spend] significant amounts of time in their own space and the importance of making that space comfortable has meant that people have invested in affordable home luxuries, and our online store felt the impact of that. We had a significant increase in sales online over that period and that has continued. Consumers have felt comfortable purchasing smaller luxury items that have elevated the environments where they were isolated.  

IR: What are some of your favourite New Zealand retailers or brands and why?

CB: Maggie Marilyn. I really believe in buying once and buying well…investing in pieces that are classic and will last forever. I also love the conscience that Maggie Marilyn has and has been so brave to speak out about, challenging the way people view and consume fashion, which given the state of our planet, we all need to take more notice of.

Boring Oat Milk. Our son is lactose intolerant so we started buying alternative milks and who would have thought a brand could make this a fun experience? I love Boring’s personality. They are honest, transparent, have a laugh with their consumers and at themselves, and are making something people might think is ‘boring’, fun. I think it’s super clever. 

IR: If you could organise your dream work Zoom call, who would you want to dial in – dead or alive – and why?

CB: Jane Goodall, scientist, humanitarian and activist. I listen to her Hopecast every few days and I find her voice so soothing. She has dedicated her life to championing animals and our planet, which is immensely inspiring. I love her famous quote, ‘Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.’

Pip Edwards, co-founder of PE Nation. She has created a brand worn by women worldwide. She exudes the brand and is a tastemaker of our time. Her ideas and conversation I would be fascinated to hear.

IR: If you had some advice for our busy retail professionals reading this, what would your go-to tips be for creating a relaxing WFH environment?

CB: Well I have two small children so a relaxing WFH environment has been a challenge during lockdowns. But certainly getting up every day with the intention of getting dressed and ready for the day has helped. In our home office, I obviously always have a candle burning so my space smells nice, it elevates an everyday moment to something a bit more special. And I take regular breaks or I call our team for check-ins. When in the office, we’re quite a rowdy bunch, so I try to keep up that culture through those check-ins.