Pretty Frank make beautiful soy wax candles, in a range of amazing scent combinations. With so many different candles on the market, it can be hard to stand out, but Leonie is kicking goals (she’s just hit her sales target for the year and it’s only October!) and seeing her business go from strength to strength, by focussing on creating great products, that are also sustainable and eco-friendly.
It can be hard to find scented candles that offer a consistent fragrance throw, and that is one of the reasons why Leonie decided to start making her own candles. But she didn’t want to create just any candle, she wanted to find ways to do it while having less impact on the environment.
She’s achieved this by looking at her entire business, from manufacturing to packaging and delivery to make her business ‘as green as possible’. We caught up with Leonie to learn all about her business, how it got started, the ups and downs, and how creating eco-friendly candles has helped her business grow.
How (and why) did you get started?
I started making candles at the start of 2016 because I had the idea that it would be a super simple and fun hobby.
After a bit of testing and experimenting, I found out it wasn’t so simple and there was a fair bit of science and an art to it. I took my time and perfected the basics and came up with some lovely fragrances that were pretty popular with friends and family.
I worked to source products that were vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, and this took some extra research, but I’m so thrilled with where the business is today.
As for the name “Pretty Frank”… my dog is named Frank, and he was blessed with that name when I adopted him from the pound about five years ago.
I wanted a name for the business that was a bit open to interpretation and had potential for growth, and his name was a good fit.
To be frank is to be authentic and honest, and that’s what my business and products are too. I don’t like some of the wishy-washy marketing in the industry, so I try to keep it “pretty frank.”
What was your launch (or the first few months of business) like?
Here’s a hot tip for any budding entrepreneur or small business owner… having a great product doesn’t mean it will sell! Marketing and creating a profitable business took me some time and some research, but the lessons are great and I know they will serve me in the future too.
The Pretty Frank launch in 2016 yielded a few sales but it was pretty quiet. I’ve since moved platforms from Wix, to Squarespace and now to Shopify, and I’m grateful for the lessons and the result of the website now.
In 2020, shopping should be simple and fun, and I try to give that to my customers with an easy to navigate website.
Tell us about your products, and what makes your business different
There are lots of candlemakers but none are quite as sustainable as Pretty Frank. I’m all about sustainable home fragrance.
I have a collection of nine fragrances of candles in a few sizes, and then a few Limited Edition fragrances at different times in the year.
I keep it simple with ethically and sustainably sourced soy wax, fragrance oil and a simple cotton wick – I’m pretty frank about what I use because it’s important to know what you’re buying.
With every purchase, I arrange for a native tree to be planted in Australia – this makes them a great gift.
The soy wax is sourced ethically and sustainably, and every element is vegan-friendly and cruelty free.
The experience continues as your order is shipped carbon neutral and using recycled boxes wherever possible, then continues on when I arrange for a tree to be planted because of your purchase.
You have a bunch of great eco-initiatives, can you tell us how these came about? Was it something you planned to include from the start or has it evolved over time?
Building a business with minimal eco footprint has been part of the DNA of Pretty Frank.
The environment is so important to all of us, and I felt that building a business with the earth in mind was natural and the ‘only’ way to really do things.
The suppliers I choose are Australian-owned, and whenever possible they’re women-owned and local businesses.
How do you think these initiatives have helped your business?
I think most people, and young people especially, expect that businesses are built on a respect for our world and they don’t want to shop with people who don’t show they care about the planet.
If shopping a different brand is an easy way to reduce your footprint, why not do it?
You give customers a choice of boxed or unboxed when they place an order, I’m curious to see what most people choose? Have you had any feedback from customers about this?
Most people choose unboxed, or “naked” as I like to call it!
Unboxing your order when it arrives is FUN and I always want to offer that part of the experience, but if you’re a serial candle burner like most of us, then you may want to avoid some of the packaging when you can.
What has been your most popular product(s) so far?
Without question, it’s the Indecisive Sample Bundle, although the Christmas range is always a bestseller too!
The bundle is perfect for an online store like mine because it’s a simple way to experience each of the nine main fragrances first-hand, without committing to a larger size. Smell is so powerful and so personal, and the best way to know if something is for you is to try it!
Where are your products made?
All of my candles are handmade here in Sydney, Australia, from my lovely bright studio. My dog, Frank, loves to supervise/nap while I work.
It’s an important part of quality assurance that I can manage every batch from start to finish, and box/wrap, pack and ship every single thing I make. There’s such a sense of pride and ownership in every single order that I send out because I’ve been across every single piece of the puzzle.
How do you attract and retain customers?
Starting with a quality product is key, but being honest and sharing the stories of my business and how I operate on social media has been key. People like to support a business they know is doing good work.
My customers love my rewards program and enjoy shopping the limited edition fragrances for something new, too.
I keep my lovely customers up to date with regular emails to my VIP Candle Lovers List, as well as my Facebook Group, Candle Connection. These guys to be my beta testers and get all the special offers too!
How much time do you spend working on your business?
My business is my passion, so whatever time I can spare goes into it! I love working on it, in it and planning for the future.
What’s something you’ve learned since starting your business?
I have “Shiny Object Syndrome” when it comes to Pretty Frank and I want to do it all and try it all, so I’ve had to learn to simplify and execute, otherwise you wear yourself too thin and end up disappointed. You simply cannot do it all!
What have been the hardest parts of running a business?
There’s so much opportunity and it’s really tough to know where to invest your time, energy and money. With new platforms like TikTok, and then the classics like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, it’s super tough to know where to focus.
What have been the best parts of running a business?
Making a decision and executing as quickly as you like is such a good feeling. Your business can take shape however you like – the only approval you need is your own!
What tools and software do you use?
My MacBook Pro is the best thing I own. I’m clearly an Apple fan but the laptop has been so good to me and I rely on it every day.
My website is on Shopify and I love it. It has all the capabilities you need to run a business that will scale. I love Asana for list making and goal setting.
Here’s another personal “tool” that I find very useful. A to-do list is important, but allowing yourself to have an admin day if you want it, or a creative day if you need it too, is a really powerful way to keep yourself feeling positive and excited about your business.
What’s the point in building your own thing if it keeps you so restricted!
What’s next for you and your business?
Pretty Frank’s next steps are growing the online business, getting into some stockists and working on custom/corporate orders.
Do you have any advice for other business owners who either might be thinking of starting a business, or looking for ways to make their business more eco-friendly?
Regarding both, it’s ok to take baby steps. Building a business is a huge undertaking and it’s ok to take your time, do your research and create purposefully.
I’d also recommend documenting the journey! Storytelling and bringing your customers along is fun for me, but it’s also a great way to connect with them. Maybe keep a video journal or take photos of things as you go. I wish I had photos of the first candles I’d ever made! It’s important to see how far you’ve come, so don’t be afraid to document and capture these parts of the journey!