Kristian’s job made him feel disconnected. Starting his own business let him put his energy into causes he believed in. Here’s the story of Cozy Glow.

Kristian started making scented candles as a hobby

Kristian loved scented candles; so he learned how to make them himself.

At the time, he was sharing a flat with his friend, Ashley, while finishing university. Kristian and Ashley loved how scented candles could transform a room, make it feel more like home.

But store-bought candles were not up to scratch. Some of them had weak scents that never quite filled the room. Others had synthetic ingredients that could be bad for health. Kristian and Ashley believed they could make a better alternative to store-bought candles, one made with healthier ingredients like soy wax and pure natural oils.

In between classes and work, the two had some spare time to experiment, and soon got the hang of making candles. They decided to give them away as little handmade gifts.

Kristian's handmade candles were so good, friends and family suggested he try selling them. That was the start of Cozy Glow candles.Click To Tweet

The two found an opportunity to test out the business at a county fair stall. Between them, they put their best effort into making everything perfect, and the first Cozy Glow candles were sold at a county fair in 2015.

Cozy Glow candles at the Surrey County Show in 2015. Via FB 

Cozy Glow was a hit with the locals

The first batch of candles sold well – so much so that Kristian and Ashley were soon invited to other county fairs and started getting repeat customers.

Kristian enjoyed creating the brand. He had always wanted to run a business of his own, and he relished every aspect. Meanwhile, Ashley took on the challenge of marketing the brand and starting to set up their online store.

Things were looking up. Business was so good that Kristian’s grandparents were recruited to help with the production and packing of candles.

For Kristian, the best part of working on the fairs was interacting with customers. He loved chatting to customers, seeing the smiles on their faces, and explaining why Cozy Glow candles were different. He was proud of the healthier, handmade candles – and customers clamored for more.

But it became harder to keep the business going when both Kristian & Ashley graduated and started their full-time jobs.

Kristian had to juggle Cozy Glow and his day job

When Kristian and Ashley first started making candles, they were both still in university. They had more free time and energy to make and sell the candles.

But now, they had to juggle their day jobs as well. Kristian had started a full-time job as a programmer. Ashley was in the same situation, working as a commercial pilot.

The two of them were selling at country shows, through Amazon, everywhere – but that left them precious little time. Kristian worked Monday to Friday and sold candles on the weekend when county fairs were held. Ashley’s work meant that he was sometimes away for shifts, and might have to work on weekends.

It was exhausting. It got to the point where Kristian and Ashley were spending all their annual leave on Cozy Glow, to drive up to a country fair to sell candles. That left them no rest time, and they went straight back to work. And that was when Kristian knew something had to change.

Programming paid well and was a stable source of income. On the other hand, Kristian loved working on Cozy Glow. It allowed him to connect with the local community and allowed him to work on causes he cared about: better health, the environment, and sustainability.

That was when he and Ashley made the decision together. The choice was easy. As an employee, he would have a stable income. But as a business owner, he could make sure that Cozy Glow was a carbon-neutral business. He could support environmental causes and charities. And he could direct his energy towards causes he believed in.

Kristian and Ashley decided to quit both their jobs to work on Cozy Glow full time.

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Kristian decided to work on Cozy Glow full time

Opening a storefront gave the brand a permanent home, where his customers could find him. It meant more foot traffic. And Kristian and Ashley could channel all of his energy into the business, instead of trying to straddle two jobs. Between them, they pooled together under £40,000 to start their shop.

With a spot of luck, Kristian secured a storefront on the main street, and Cozy Glow officially opened.

The Cozy Glow storefront in Coulsdon. Via The Sun

But the business faced difficulties in the first year.

Not everything panned out as Kristian expected. Foot traffic was lower than he had expected. There was also a trend towards eCommerce and shopping online, which reduced foot traffic in the main street further.

Meanwhile, both Kristian and Ashley had to contend with the drop in income. They needed to make lifestyle changes to keep the store going. It was a conscious decision to take the pay cut, but reinvest the money back into growing the business.

Trying to expand the business also proved difficult. Malls and landlords rejected his brand for being too new, and would rather rent to more established businesses and franchises. Expanding the business looked difficult.

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Finally, his hard work was recognized

Building his own brand, and standing by what he believed in paid off for Kristian. Together, Cozy Glow candles’ handmade process and natural ingredients caught the attention of Amazon, who invited them to be a part of their Amazon Handmades show. This helped the Cozy Glow brand grow.

While maintaining their retail business, Kristian and Ashley continued to take part in pop-up shows, county fairs, and festive markets. That allowed the two of them to continue to get in front of people and share more about the brand.

Ashley conducting a Cozy Glow candle-making workshop for #AmazonHandmade. Via FB

Cozy Glow also started taking part in community events, including Halloween and Easter, earning them goodwill with the local area. Slowly, word of mouth got around and Cozy Glow was featured in the national newspaper. That helped bring more attention to the business.

Their hard work also paid off. Taking the pay cut meant that they could start the business without a bank loan. They were able to scale the business in a way that meant they have never made a loss. Growth was slow but built up over time.

Starting Cozy Glow was a Rewarding Journey

For Kristian, the journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has been rewarding.

Customers really resonated with Kristian’s drive to create a high-quality, healthier candle. In 2018, Cozy Glow expanded into products like bath salts, face masks, and scents to meet consumer demand. The same year, Kristian was recognised for Best New Startup at the Croydon Business Excellence Awards.

Kristian, taking home the Croydon Business Excellence Award for Cozy Glow. Via FB

At the same time, the brand has grown and expanded to ship products worldwide. The Cozy Glow online store has also expanded to offer eco-friendly items, with a focus on recyclability and plastic waste. Kristian and Ashley are both still working on Cozy Glow today.

Since setting up the business, Cozy Glow has raised money for several charities, including the Samaritans. On top of that, the business is climate-positive, and all carbon emissions are offset. 

Starting Cozy Glow allowed Kristian to connect with his community, and focus his energy on causes he cared about.

Cozy Glow celebrating Halloween in style, with the rest of Croydon’s small businesses

Kristian Matthews is Director of Cozy Glow. Shop for handmade soy candles, home decor, and vegan products here.

Merchant Stories: Real entrepreneur stories from real people. If you’d like to share your merchant stories, email us.

Darren Foong

Posted by Darren Foong

Darren works on Growth at Candybar. He spends too much time reading fiction, performing improv, and doing things that don't scale. One day he hopes to be quite interesting.