We spoke with Becky Hutley about which candles are most popular, current industry trends, and how the name 'Hutwoods' came about.
When did you realise you had a love for fragrances and homewares? And when/how did Hutwoods come about?
I’ve always been a huge fan of beautiful home fragrances and love the way a scent has the ability to change an atmosphere or evoke a memory. Home, for me, is about creating a sanctuary and ensuring it’s a place where you feel truly at ease and relaxed. That’s why I love to create an ambience using fragrance and where my interest and passion originally came from.
I’d always been a big consumer of candles but was often disappointed with the candles that were on the market, so I decided to make my own. I got so much enjoyment out of testing and trialing different wicks, waxes and fragrances and the obsession started from there. A lot of hard work and long hours went into the business in the early days and there were certainly a lot of learnings along the way! I was determined to create a product line that I was truly proud of and that was high quality in every aspect. Seeing and hearing people’s positive feedback and then receiving repeat orders was what made me realise it was a viable business and gave me the confidence to go ‘all in’.
Hutwoods was born because I truly enjoyed every aspect of growing the business and I loved creating a brand that reflects my own values and interests. Wearing multiple hats was certainly a juggle at the start, but as the business has grown, I’ve been able to outsource some of these tasks so that I can focus my time and energy where it benefits the business most.
What is the main purpose and vision for the business?
Hutwoods’ main purpose is to create products that promote rest and relaxation. We encourage customers to take a moment for themselves and unwind from the busy world outside. Everything we offer comes down to this same vision. You’ll notice that all of our products are designed for people to focus on self-care – whether that’s for themselves or for a thoughtful gift. As we expand the business and the products that we offer, we will always come back to this vision to ensure that we are consistent in what our brand offers and how it makes our customers feel.
Who's your target audience and why?
Our varied product range has a broad appeal and suits a wide customer audience. That said, our primary target audience is women aged between 25-45 which makes up 70% of our customer base in Australia. However, more men continue to purchase our products and in the UK it has tipped the other way with more male customers!
Which are the most popular (from a customer point of view)?
Our most popular customer fragrance (and a personal favourite) is our Wild Jasmine & Sandalwood. It’s the perfect blend of floral and woody and has a beautiful, clean, fresh scent. This fragrance also comes in a matching reed diffuser which so many of our customers love.
Our luxury range is also very popular and people often buy these for gifts. Our luxury candles come in beautiful engraved brushed brass, brushed silver and matte black vessels and come with a layer of seeded paper on top. What this means is that when the candle has finished, you simply plant the seeded paper back inside the jar, add soil and water and the vessel can be re-used to grow a herb garden. The seeds come in a choice of; basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. This is normally a real talking point and something unique in the market.
How was business during the peak of Covid?
The peak of Covid was a really tough time for many small businesses and it was also a very uncertain time for us at the beginning. When Covid first hit, we were very quiet and could really sense that everyone felt unsettled and unsure of what was going to happen. Then all of a sudden, when the lockdowns were announced, we found that there was a huge spike in online orders and we were overwhelmingly busy!
We were working around the clock to keep up with orders and the demand for our products almost outweighed our ability to be able to keep up with hand making them. It was an exciting but overwhelming time of growth for the business. We took on extra staff and many of us were staying back late at night to keep up with the orders we were receiving. What was really lovely was that so many orders had heartfelt personal notes attached to them. We saw so many beautiful messages from people sending gifts to loved ones and telling them how much they missed them during lockdown. It was a nice feeling knowing that we were able to ship a gift to someone and put a smile on their face.
The issue with being much busier meant that this resulted in huge raw material shortages across the whole candle making industry. Although it was exciting that we were so busy, we were then unable to get many of our raw materials required to hand make our products. This then brought added hurdles and we had to really think outside the box and come up with new solutions with some of the issues that we faced during that period of time.
Do you have any plans for the business this year?
We are currently working on finalising and launching a new Natural Bath & Body range and also a separate Natural Baby Bath & Body Range! We have been working on these new ranges for the past 12 months, so it’s exciting to think that we will be able to bring these to life soon! It’s amazing how many steps are involved in launching something new, but we have really enjoyed the process and know it will be worth it in the end.
What trends do you see happening this year?
That’s a tricky question to answer as trends can come and go so quickly. However, If I think about it more broadly, then the biggest trend I can see becoming more important is the increased interest in having a sustainable approach to business. I think many of our customers buy from us because they know all of our products are handmade in Australia and appreciate the care and attention to detail we put into every single product.
Nothing from Hutwoods comes off a conveyor belt. This also means we employ local people and try to buy from local suppliers as much as we possibly can. We are always thinking about how we can be more environmentally friendly and are constantly trying to find ways to improve on this. We ensure all our packaging is either made from recycled materials or is 100% biodegradable. This is also why we introduced the idea of the seeded paper that comes with our luxury candles. We wanted customers to have a reason to re-purpose these beautiful vessels and wanted to provide a way for people to upcycle these jars, whilst having fun in the process.
Do you have any tips for those wanting to start their own business?
Don’t wait until the ‘right time’ to start. If you have an idea for a business and feel a passion to start, then just go for it. Test the market first and tweak your product or service based on the feedback you receive. We attended weekly local markets for the first three years of our business journey and the customer feedback we received was invaluable in steering our business in the right direction. It’s really important to listen to your customers to ensure you are providing something that they want.
I’d also advise someone to ask themselves to focus on what their long-term goals are. Do you want your business to be scalable and grow into something big? Or would you like it to be something that you do on the side, for some additional income? Knowing your long-term goals for the business from the start will enable you to make the right decisions along the way.
Do you have an interesting story to share about Hutwoods?
People often ask where the name Hutwoods comes from. It’s actually a combination of my husband’s surname ‘Hutley’ and my maiden name ‘Lockwood’. Seeing as we specialise in wood wick candles, the name suited perfectly and we decided on it very quickly!