Interview with Colleen Dimmitt of Alpenglow Candle Co.
We're wrapping up the Juneau box interviews with Colleen Dimmitt. She and her husband are Alpenglow Candle Co., and they were responsible for those amazing coffee candles that made their way into our box. We talked about the inspiration for new candle scents, adventures, and more. Check it out!
Tell me a bit about yourself, about Alpenglow Candle Co., and how you got started.
COLLEEN DIMMITT: Well, actually, some really dear friends of ours are the founders of the company. Eric and Brandy founded the company a couple of years ago. And we were kind of part of the discussion with them from the very beginning. They're sort of our adventurers in crime. And we'd talk about it on every hike we went on and every dinner we got together and really encouraged them to start it. And then, they had an opportunity they couldn't refuse this fall out of state. They weren't prepared to move the company with them just because so much of the identity of Alpenglow is Alaskan-based. And so, they offered it to us. And my husband and I purchased the company as well.
Nice. Got you. So, yeah, because I was looking on the website a bit and I saw that you had the company starting in 2017. And so, the '17 was when they started it. But then, you just recently got it. Okay.
Very cool. And as far as having your own company, that entrepreneur side of things, is that something that you and your husband have always had as a goal?
COLLEEN: Yeah. My husband actually has a small business himself. He has a metal shop. His primary job, he's a medevac pilot. But he's gotten into metalworking as well. So, he has his own small business, which he really enjoys the freedom to do the work and the artwork that he is inspired by. And so, this was something that got me into the realm as well.
Right. This was basically the first time then for you as far as like, hey, I'm doing my own business and all that?
Got you. And had you ever thought about doing a business with candles?
COLLEEN: I did a couple of candle making courses as a kid in camp and stuff, and just loved it. I had such a blast doing that. But no, I never really envisioned this. But then, when they got started, when Eric and Brandy started the company and we helped out a little bit, I just was like, "This is so much fun. I love this. What a great idea."
That's awesome. Tell me about how you figure out and decide on your scents.
COLLEEN: So all of the scents are adventure-based. Adventure or experience-inspired. So, beach bonfires. Beach bonfires are a big thing down here. I'm not sure if they are up in Anchorage.
Yeah. Sometimes, over at Point Woronzof and stuff like that. That's definitely a thing for sure.
COLLEEN: Sure. Yeah. Others are named after local trails. But yes.
You're talking about creating experiences, a sense of adventure, like you were saying, and I was curious kind of maybe the specific story behind some of the inspiration. So, for example, the Mountain Coffee. What's the story behind that as far as how that scent came to be?
COLLEEN: Well, actually, so my husband's a coffee addict. *laughs* Boy can drink some coffee. And if he doesn't get his coffee, then we all have a problem on our hands. So, when we pry him out of bed to start an early morning hike there, a thermos of coffee is mandatory. And there's a couple of times this winter where we pried him out of bed very early and started our hikes in the dark and frigid temperatures. And we get to the top of the mountain somewhere just as the sun was rising and sit down and break open that hot thermos and it was just wonderful. But last summer, we did a big hike with Eric and Brandy. We did the Wonderland Trail, which was amazing, and we packed all of this coffee for my husband and then he decided to not need coffee that week. It was pretty amazing. It was fun, we had all of our bags of food that we pack away into a bear bag and hang every night, and we'd open up these bags of food and smell coffee every day because we never drank any of it. *laughs* It's still a good scent even if you're not drinking it.
Oh, for sure. It's kind of funny because I'm not a big coffee drinker but my wife is. Occasionally, like, it'll be a Saturday morning and I'll think, "Coffee sounds good." But generally speaking, I don't drink a lot of coffee. But the smell of coffee is something that I've always really loved. It's not necessarily something for me that it's going to make me want to drink coffee. I just like the smell. The candle is perfect for someone like me. *laughs*
COLLEEN: *laughs* Sure. Yeah. Exactly.
That's very cool. And I want to go back a little bit more into the scents again, as far as the process and perfecting things. Say, you've got a new scent that you want to do. I would imagine it's a bit of trial and error, but what's your process like as far as perfecting that?
COLLEEN: Well, we have an idea of what we think of, different scents that come to mind when we're thinking about a particular experience. So then, it's a matter of trying to find oils, incense that get that mental picture that you have. And so, it is a matter of trial and error and sniffing a lot of different samples and trying to find something that captures different elements of that mental scent picture that you have when you picture what experience is inspiring that next candle.
That makes a lot of sense. I was just thinking about, so when you go out, is it sort of like we're just going on an adventure and then, you just sort of leaving yourself open to, like, get that inspiration?
COLLEEN: Oh, yeah. You can't plan inspiration, you can't plan an exceptional experience. So, you've just got to get yourself out there and just sort of cross your fingers that maybe today's the day. But if it's not, it's not, and you wait for the next one.
Right. There'll always be another one around the corner.
Right on. I was looking on the website, and I saw that there's a bunch of stores that carry your candles that were all across Alaska. Did that start out as them reaching out to you or did you reach out to someone initially and then it sort of progressed from there or what was that like?
COLLEEN: All of the stores have actually reached out to us directly and it's grown organically.
Nice. Sort of like a word of mouth thing.
COLLEEN: Yeah. A lot of the stores have actually -- I mean, this isn't true for everyone, but I believe a lot of them have purchased a candle just for themselves to enjoy at home and then have thought, "This would be great to have in my store."
Got you. It's got to be a really cool feeling when these places are just reaching out to you.
COLLEEN: Yeah, it is. Very neat.
Awesome. I was also looking on the website and I saw that you talked a little bit about Alaskan-themed weddings and other Alaskan-themed events. When did you sort of first discover that there was sort of a demand for that? Like, "Hey, we're having a wedding and we want it to be Alaskan-themed" or "We're from here, we grew up here, and we want to have your candles for our event." How did that sort of come about?
COLLEEN: Again, they have reached out to us directly. They've said, "Hey, this is what's going on. This is what we're thinking." And we have come up with, for a couple of those events, individualized special edition scents for them. And so, that's been kind of a cool, neat little thing. I also wanted to talk about the process of making the candles. It's all just in our kitchen. We have a big 40-pound wax melter. And so, we'll get that turned on and clear the kitchen counters and get everything laid out and start pouring.
So everything's hand-poured, as I understand it.
And then, you do the labels yourself as well from what I understand.
COLLEEN: Absolutely. Yeah.
So then, is it just you and your husband do it or do you sometimes get outside help when you have really big orders and things like that or how does that go?
COLLEEN: No, it's just my husband and me.
I imagine it's something where you have to kind of get the process down to a tee, where it's like, "Okay, we got this many, it's gonna take this much time." That sort of thing.
COLLEEN: Yeah. And wax is surprisingly finicky. You really want your room warm. Otherwise, you can have issues with the wax cooling correctly. And it's a process to learn. I mean, you wouldn't think that it's rocket science and it's not rocket science, but there are a lot of balls to keep in the air.
Do you like that aspect of it? That it keeps you on your toes?
COLLEEN: I do, yeah. It's really fun. And we have to calculate the amount of scent oil that goes into each pitcher of wax that you pour.
And that probably goes back to perfecting that process, right? I'm guessing it's not the same for every candle? Some might have more, some might have less.
COLLEEN: Yeah. I mean, they're all fairly close, but it can range from 8 to 9 percent by weight that you want, the oil per wax ratio.
Very interesting. So obviously, there's been all these companies reaching out to you or businesses reaching out to you, there's been people reaching out for events, do you have any particular standout stories as far as somebody sharing how much they loved your candle and how it impacted you?
COLLEEN: Gosh. Well, I'm struggling to come up with a particular story.
Sorry to put you on the spot!
COLLEEN: No, that's all right. We are coming up to Anchorage later this month for the Christmas Arts & Crafts Emporium. They're all Alaskan-made products up there. And we're really excited to do that. That'll be our first time doing that.
That's very cool. What are the dates for that?
COLLEEN: Shoot, that's a really good question. I think it's November 25th and 26th. It's the weekend, the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Is this the first Anchorage event that you've done or have you done other Anchorage events before?
COLLEEN: No, this is our first.
Very cool. Turn over a new leaf.
COLLEEN: Yeah. We're excited to meet some people face-to-face and expand our presence up there.
For sure. Yeah. That's super exciting. As far as any potential upcoming candles, do you have anything that you kind of know of on the horizon that you can tease or is that still up in the air as of right now?
COLLEEN: We do have a couple that we're thinking about. I don't think I'm prepared to announce them quite yet.
COLLEEN: But we had a couple of really special experiences this past summer and thinking about maybe trying to commemorate those with the candle.
Very cool. So, as far as The Bear Box, what was it about The Bear Box that made you want to be a part of it?
COLLEEN: The first thing that struck me is that you do all Alaskan-made products. That's such a cool thing to really be able to highlight makers that are here in our state. And our state is so big and so diverse that it's really cool that you are doing something that takes makers from everywhere and lets people sample their trade, wherever they are, in the state or outside of the state.
Yeah. Absolutely. That's been the big driving force for us, for sure, with not just supporting everybody here, but kind of getting that word out more to people from out of state that might not be as familiar with us and let them know, like, we've got a lot of cool, inventive people up here making, like you said, a huge range of things. In your case, making candles, but a lot of great artists and photographers and just all sorts of different artisans and food products. Just tons of stuff.
COLLEEN: I mean, we have a lot of tourism down here and a lot of people come up here and they have this incredible once in a lifetime experience. And they really want to be able to bring a piece of that experience home, not just a postcard or something, but that's something that is going to take them back to that experience that they had while they were here. And I think a lot of these products that you are putting in these boxes can help them do that, whether it's a smoked salmon or a candle.
Yeah, for sure. Yes. It's nice to be able to, like you said, leave a place that you had a really great experience in and have something extra to kind of bring you back. And I think particularly in your case, candles being so good for that just because, I know you mentioned this a little bit on your website and it makes a lot of sense, but scent being so powerful as far as being strongly linked to your memory and you can have a smell that you're familiar with and it could be from something 20 years ago.
COLLEEN: Exactly. Exactly.
And it just completely illuminates this very strong, vivid memory in your mind, which I think is really cool. Is there anything else that we haven't really talked about yet that you'd like to mention in particular or do you have any words of wisdom for up and coming business owners?
COLLEEN: I think I'm still the definition of an up and coming business person, so I should be the one receiving the advice. *laughs*
*laughs* Fair point. I figure, if you've got more experience than the person that has no experience at all, then any tidbit of info that you give can be incredibly helpful, especially when it's still fresh in your mind as far as a struggle you might have had right in the beginning.
COLLEEN: Yes. Gosh.
Sorry, that was a lot of stuff. I have a tendency to do that sometimes. *laughs*
COLLEEN: I think it's probably just important to -- you may not have a perfect plan in place, but to just get started and try it and get it out there.
Great advice for sure! Well, thank you, Colleen, for taking the time today to chat with me.
COLLEEN: Thank you. I appreciate it.
COLLEEN: Thanks, Chad. Thank you to Colleen for taking the time and sharing Alpenglow's amazing candles with The Bear Box! If you want to check out other scents, head on over to her website. You can connect on Facebook and Instagram as well!