• Chad

Interview with Christina Hoy of Enlightened North

Here we are with the first interview for our Midtown box! I had a great time chatting with Christina of Enlightened North about why she went with soy candles, how she comes up with all her different types, and more. Enjoy!

Let's just start off with you introducing yourself and telling me a bit about Enlightened North. CHRISTINA HOY: Sure. My name is Christina Hoy. I am the owner of Enlightened North Candle Company. We've been in business about a year, and I hand-make, and hand-label, and hand-bow all of my candles. Wow. So you have to be pretty busy then? CHRISTINA: Yeah. That seems like a lot of work. CHRISTINA: It is, yeah. My mom and my husband help but only if they're available. But it's a ton of fun. And if it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it. Yeah, for sure. So I was reading on your website about how soy burns cleaner. Can you tell me a bit more about that? CHRISTINA: Sure. I think a lot of people are very familiar with the candles that leave black soot on your walls. And especially in the holiday season, you want to burn a lot of candles. Soy candles, because they're a natural product, definitely burn cleaner, and they don't leave that black on your wall. That way you can burn lots of candles and not have to deal with the unclean air. Definitely. How did you discover that initially? Was it just research that you'd done on your own? CHRISTINA: Yeah, it was definitely research. There's been a huge trend for natural products and I just tried to do as much research as I could before I started the company, on what product would be best for my consumers. So I chose soy candles as the best option.

Cool. I also read that you get the soy domestically. What was your process for making those connections? CHRISTINA: I have a group of people that I buy all my products from that have natural and local products. As local as we can get here in Alaska. For me, it's North Dakota. It's actually easier than you think. America produces a lot of soybeans. So there's a lot of manufacturers that focus on soybeans, especially with soy wax. I definitely like keeping it in the USA. Absolutely. After looking at your website, I saw that you have a huge, huge variety of candles. What is your process for coming up with those different varieties? CHRISTINA: A lot of it comes from customer feedback. I'll be at an event, and they'll be like, "Do you have this fragrance?" And I'll realize that I don't, but I definitely could. So it just ends up being a very long list of fragrances. And I'm completely open to people reaching out and suggesting custom fragrances that they're looking for, and I usually make them. Right on. That's awesome. And so when someone comes to you with whatever the fragrance is that they're looking for, do you have to experiment with it a bit to get it just right? CHRISTINA: Definitely. I just had a customer that asked me to make a tobacco whiskey for her husband for Christmas and she had a candle that he loves and it was all burned out. So I had enough that I could smell it and it took me four combinations to finally get it right. Once you have the fragrance finally figured out, is there anything that you can do to salvage all the experimentation that didn't work out? CHRISTINA: Yeah. So actually the little tins that are going out in the box, I usually use those tins to do all the samples. Just because they're not right for the customer, it doesn't mean they don't smell good. I put them as little travel tins on my website. Awesome. CHRISTINA: That way I'm still able to get them to people. And I also do a lot of donating to different organizations. The Mat-Su Miners baseball team, just different things like that. So I'll do little baskets and stuff for them with things that maybe I can't add to my line but are still good products.

Makes sense. I also saw that you have wax warmers? What are those? CHRISTINA: Yeah, they're like the little light bulb warmers. Scentsy is the big retailer for those, but I handmade mine, so yeah. Very cool. So is it always, "Okay, I've got the regular candle version of a certain fragrance," and then you do that? CHRISTINA: Exactly. And I pour them at the same time. So they're the same fragrance completely. A lot of people just like that because there's no flame. Sure. And as far as the numbers, that you have next to each fragrance, is that just in order from when you made your very first candle? CHRISTINA: It is! And it's just for my sanity when I'm doing inventory. I don't have to write out the fragrances of everything. I can just be like, "Number one, number two." Yeah, cool. And I also saw that you've got some limited ones that don't have numbers. Is that just like, "Oh, I don't know how popular this is going to be," so you're just seeing if it's something makes sense to make more of? CHRISTINA: Definitely. And some of them have made a comeback in my normal line. But I get little samples of fragrances as well to test out how they'll do in soy wax. And after I figure out they'll be okay, I usually add them to the limited fragrances. But not all of them do as good. *laughs* Yeah, of course. You just never know, right? CHRISTINA: Yeah, exactly. So it's a really good way to start getting a product out there without ending up with 300 candles. *laughs* Yeah, I can imagine. Testing the waters first with something like that seems worth doing. CHRISTINA: Exactly. I try to test burn everything too by either giving it to my mom or my grandmother. I test burn them myself to see how long they'll burn and to make sure the fragrance load is good. Fills the room.

Yeah, absolutely. One thing you mentioned earlier, and I was reading on the website too, about how your husband helps you when he can, and the rest of your family and all that. That's really cool. Was it like that from the very beginning or did that build over time? CHRISTINA: I've definitely had a great support system from the very beginning. My husband, he made some really creative solutions to melting my wax and stuff like that. And he made all of my wick bars to keep the wick made straight out of electrical wire. He's an electrician. He always helped me pour. Recently, the rest of my family has definitely got on board as the business has expanded. Even my grandmother has been known to help me put some labels on. *laughs* Oh nice. That's awesome. All hands on deck. CHRISTINA: Exactly. I'm a full-time student at UAA. I'm studying Civil Engineering. So time is definitely a commodity. But as the business grows, my family has been really supportive of helping me get my orders out and be able to do all my events. Oh, that's awesome. So the plan then is to grow this and get it as big as it can go? CHRISTINA: I am definitely thinking I'm going to keep doing this and seeing how big I can get it, within moderation. But I don't think I'm going to be able to give it up. I love it too much. At least an online business if nothing else. But I love when the customer smells the candles and they're like, "This is amazing." It makes it all worth it. It's fulfilling. CHRISTINA: Yeah. Yeah. I'm trying to remember, off the top of my head, the ones that you gave us. CHRISTINA: I gave you the spiced pear and the brandied pear. They're good. Super, super good. I'm excited to share that with everyone and my wife too. She likes candles a lot. It's hard because I have to sort of keep from spoiling stuff because I'm excited. I'll do an interview, or I'll have something up on my computer, and she'll come in. She's just like, "Minimize. Minimize it," because I'm doing research or whatever. It's pretty funny. CHRISTINA: And that's another reason I have so many fragrances is people like different things. That's why I try to do something a little seasonal, but not too much. And it's hard to choose one candle for everyone.

I'm sure. Everyone has their own thing. I'm also excited that we have two different kinds. I like it when we can have that variety. It makes it fun to play the "which one did you get" game once everyone gets their boxes. So as far as Enlightened North, the name, how did you come up with it? CHRISTINA: My husband did. He is really good at that kind of stuff. I was like, "What am I going to call it?" And enlightened is, obviously, a play on lighting a candle. I go to church and it's kind of a play on that. And, of course, North has to do with being from Alaska. On the labels, not the ones in your box, but on my normal labels, I have "Hand-poured in Alaska," on them and stuff like that. Definitely proud of being an Alaskan company. Yeah, absolutely. As far as things for the future, do you have any vendor events that you're going to be at in the near future? CHRISTINA: I'll be at the UAA Crafts Fair in the Student Union, December 1st.

Cool! I just want to make sure we get it out there so that people know where to find you and everything. CHRISTINA: I appreciate it. Yeah. Let's go to a different kind of question. I'm trying to work in at least one non-business-oriented question now. Are you watching any TV right now and do you have any current favorites? CHRISTINA: Yeah. I always have two shows I'm watching at any given time. A show that just I watch, which right now is Blue Bloods. I don't know why, but I started it from the beginning, and now I'm almost done and got to keep going. And then, I have a show I always watch with my husband. Right now, it's The Office. We started The Office from the beginning, and we're going to the end, so. Very cool. Is The Office one where you only ever watched random episodes and now you're finally starting from the beginning? CHRISTINA: Exactly. And all the storylines seemed to make a little more sense now. *laughs* Because when you watch random episodes, it's just not as good.

It's not, no. You don't know the characters. And some of the humor comes from knowing the characters. CHRISTINA: Exactly. It's much better that way.

Yeah, absolutely. Very cool. As far as the Bear Box, what was it specifically that made you excited and want to be a part of it? CHRISTINA: I think, any small business, any opportunity to get out to as many people as possible is an awesome opportunity. And I'm excited for brand-new people to open the box and experience all the new products that they might not realize are local. I think that's awesome. Plus, just connecting all the Alaskan businesses is awesome too. I'm really excited to be partnered with you guys. We appreciate that. CHRISTINA: Yeah. We're happy to have you as part of it too. It's great. I just like when things work out that way. We're very excited. I just have one more question. Do you have any other final thoughts, any wisdom that you'd like to share as far as your experiences with starting this business or anything like that? CHRISTINA: I'd say that any crafter or maker, just try to bring the products to consumers and see how it goes. I was shocked at how far I've been able to get in a year and how excited people are and it just pumps you up. Definitely. Sometimes you just have to get the ball rolling. CHRISTINA: Exactly. In a lot of situations, it seems like you start small and then it snowballs over time once you get a bit of momentum. CHRISTINA: Definitely, definitely. Don't be afraid to start new things. Well, thank you, Christina. I super appreciate you taking the time to sit down with me. CHRISTINA: Of course. I look forward to everyone getting the box and being able to check out your candles. CHRISTINA: Me too! Thanks.

Another big thank you to Christina! If you love her candles, make sure to check out more of what she has to offer on her website, and when you're done there, you can also find Enlightened North on Facebook and Instagram.