A quick interview with ECOYA Founder - Mr Craig Schweighoffer:
1. How did ECOYA first start out as a candle company?
The idea to make a natural candle came from the USA. I was visiting LA and noticed an abundance of natural candles. When I arrived back in Sydney, I could not find one natural wax candle. It did not make a lot of sense as USA was not known for its natural resources and Australia was. Anyway, after years of research and testing, a natural wax candle was developed and feedback from those that sampled it was encouraging. And the business began.
2. What does the name mean?
Combination of two words ECOlogical and sOYA (as in soy wax).
3. Tell us a bit more about Botany Bay? Does this place have special significance for starting a fragrance-based company?
Botany Bay is the birthplace of Australia, where James Cook first landed in 1770. It is also the place where Sir Joseph Banks catalogued thousands of new botanicals. It is rich in plant life and really is an inspirational place to be based. A great many of our product ideas and fragrance concepts are drawn from this area.
4. What made you think it had the power to evolve? Why did you wish to expand the range?
The decision to evolve our products and move into bath and body was really pushed on us by our customers. They loved the fragrance in our candles and wanted to have this same fragrance in other bath and body products. It was a natural extension to our range and the transition has been a good one for us with positive feedback and sales from our newly released bath and body range. We are excited about the future.
5. Why the decision to switch from vodka (42 Below) to skincare?
This decision was really made for me. 42 BELOW was acquired by Bacardi, which meant I was no longer involved in this business. Around the same time, I was starting up ECOYA, so once the sale to Bacardi was complete, I was free to start developing ECOYA. It really was fantastic timing.
6. What were some of the difficulties faced in setting up the company?
Most of the difficulties are around cash flow in the early days. We knew we had a great product which customers were purchasing and loved. We were also trying to grow our business as fast as we could, which puts a great deal of strain on cash flow.
7. How did you come up with your six signature scents? What were they chosen to represent?
You start with an idea or scent brief. We wanted scents that went from the delicate floral’s to the sweet and decadent vanillas. A fragrance range that would satisfy all ages, all occasions and all seasons.
8. Is it difficult basing your products on soy and natural plant-based waxes?
In a way it is difficult. It takes time to develop and really have to think outside the square to overcome the hurdles making natural products. Of course using natural products is much more expensive, so that is a deterrent for most companies. However looking back, it is not that difficult and we really cannot understand why you wouldn’t do business any other way.
9. What is the hardest thing about producing eco-friendly products? In particular is there anything difficult about producing candles of this nature?
The hardest thing about producing eco-friendly candles is the additional costs to purchase the raw materials. Which means a whole consumer education piece around why you should use natural candles. Which is no problem for us to explain. . . I mean natural candles produce 90% less soot than paraffin candles. So there really is no choice if you are serious about the environment.
10. How do you get the ECOYA “throw” to be so expansive for the candles?
The throw is 90% about the quality of the fragrance. Simple equation is: High quality fragrance = great scent throw
The remaining 10% is about the blend and using fragrances that work well in candles. Understanding this takes time and hours of testing. For example, citrus based fragrances are not typically good in candles, as the citrus will burn off before the fresh scent has a chance to diffuse into the air.
11. Tell us more about the kinds of natural ingredients used. Are these sustainably sourced? Where from?
Our soy wax is made from good old, earth grown soy beans. They:
· Are 100% vegetable, made with Pure Soybean oil, sourced from farms in the USA
· Are all NATURAL and biodegradable.
· Are Kosher Certified.
· Are NOT tested on animals.
· Are FREE of petroleum, paraffin or beeswax products.
· Are FREE of pesticides and herbicides.
· Are FREE of toxic materials.
· Are FREE of Genetically Modified Material.
12. Tell us about this decision to be an eco-friendly company. What else does the company do for the environment?
We are actively involved in a number of initiatives. The biggest being EARTH HOUR, a WWF initiative, which takes place in March every year. As part of this initiative we manufacture the EARTH HOUR candle.
We are also active participants in our local community, and are involved as a company in a number of activities, including Clean Up Australia Day and also in work around Botany Bay and the Towra Reserve.
In our operations we look at eliminating waste wherever we can and obviously do whatever we can to reuse or recycle our waste.
13. How big is the ECOYA team at the moment? Has it grown over the last few years?
We have around 60 employees based in 3 countries. We have been growing quite aggressively over the past few years and have aimed to double sales.
14. How has the reception of ECOYA been worldwide? Do you have plans to expand the range?
We are extremely pleased with how the overseas markets have received ECOYA and are getting fantastic placements in stores like Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Bloomingdales in USA and Redcurrent in New Zealand.
Our plans at this stage are to slowly evolve our range and introduce new fragrances along the way. We really do have a comprehensive home fragrance and body care range now and are pleased with how it is being received in the market.