For our first maker's spotlight we chose to talk with my sweet friend Brittany Roennigke of Roen Candles. Brit and I met 8 years ago working in corporate retail in San Francisco. I’ve always admired her effortless, laid back California sense of style and when she started making candles I knew we had to carry them in the shop.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Brit, I am a San Diego native, former San Franciscan, and current Los Angeles resident. I have 2 little ones under the age of 5. When I am not making candles you can probably find me at the beach, it is definitely my happy place.
What did you do before starting your business?
Before starting ROEN, I was a retail buyer in women's fashion. I was in that industry for roughly 10 years, I had some wonderful experiences and some not so wonderful experiences. Its a fun but very demanding job with little flexibility. As soon as I had Fritz I knew that finding the balance was going to be a challenge. For a long time I was operating feeling like I was doing an incredibly mediocre job in both my buying role and my role as a mom. After I had my daughter Illy, I decided I was going to take a break from retail. It was a tough decision but it was right for me and my family. I wish there were more jobs that allowed a working mother more flexibility and balance, especially in the retail industry. This is not unique to just me, I have spoken with countless mothers who all echo the same sentiments. You feel you have to choose between time with your child or advancing in your career. In fact, before I started ROEN I thought about creating a consulting company that worked directly with retail companies to help carve out more part-time and job-share roles to support working parents. I still think it's a good idea ;)
It was a very specific moment actually, it was a beautiful spring day and we were taking the kids on a walk through our neighborhood in Glassell Park. The intoxicating scent of citrus blossom, jasmine, and osmanthus filled the air. It was magical and I felt compelled to replicate it in some way so I began to dabble with scents as a creative outlet and I quickly fell in love with it. I have always had a love for candles, they fill my home and they are always my go to gifting item so I started making them for friends and family and it grew from there. It was by no means an overnight process, there is a lot of trial and error involved. I learned quickly that candle making is art but also a lot of science. The wax needs to be the right temperature, blended properly, poured properly, wicked properly, all of these components affect the overall performance. The first scent I ever created was L.A. Bohéme which was inspired by that very neighborhood walk.
What is the most fun and the most difficult part of making candles?
The fun part is creating the scents, I love blending the fragrances together to create a scent that is uniquely mine. There are a lot of misses along the way but it is truly magical when you create one that you love and that fits your initial intention. The most difficult part for me is the wicking process, especially in the beginning. Finding the right wick that is compatible with your specific wax blend and fragrance combination is a journey. There are literally thousands and thousands of wicks out there that offer a wide variety of results when burning. If you are over-wicked (meaning your wick is too big) you will get a ton of sooting if you are under-wicked your candle will put itself out, both of which are bad outcomes. This part of the process cannot be rushed, in order to test properly you have to wait for your candles to cure and then burn and observe. Its a painful process but it is truly elating when you find the one that works.
What is the meaning behind your brand name - Roen?
Roen is a short version of my impossible-to-pronounce last name, Roennigke. I always thought ROEN was such a beautiful name, simple and slightly androgynous. I have always wanted to create a product of my own, I wasn't always sure what that would be but ROEN was always in the back of my mind as a brand name.
Where do you find inspiration for your wonderfully unique scent notes, and what your process for creating a scent?
A lot of inspiration comes from past experience, I think back and try to pinpoint what smells come to mind when I think back to that moment. When I created Le 'Bu, I knew I wanted it to feel beachy. I grew up in Encinitas and beach culture was a big part of my childhood. I can always recall the subtle hint of coconut from surfwax, or the lingering notes of gardenia from the monoï oil that all the high school girls would slather on, and of course the fresh scent of coastal air and seagrass. I put myself in that moment and try to recreate that general feeling. Scent, however, is incredibly personal, what might make me think of beach might conjure an entirely different experience for someone else.
The most surprising part has been the sense of community from fellow small makers, independent boutiques, family and friends. People have been so supportive throughout this entire process. I was always aware that this venture might sound like an outrageous whim to some but really I have been met with nothing but encouragement, support and helpful insight.
The flexibility is invaluable, being able to spend the days with my 1 year old or pickup my 4 year old from preschool before 5:00 pm is amazing. This time with them goes so fast and I feel so lucky to be able to enjoy it. The beauty of owning my own schedule is I can do a lot of things in the evening after the kids go down. I am truly passionate about this little company, the hardest part is turning it off and remembering to be present. I have a million ideas floating around in my head at any given moment and I want to act on every single one of them. I'm constantly adapting every day, trying to incorporate more effective ways of balancing everything. I've discovered that I have become a very detailed note taker, when something pops in my head I just write it down so I can revisit it later.
We tend to stay in our east side bubble since LA traffic is a total force. Also, going out is a rarity with two little ones so when it does happen we retreat back to our few favorite spots: Sugar Fish, Little Beast, Little Dom's, Sqirl, Cafe Stella. When we are looking for kid friendly we usually visit Town Pizza in highland park, Cacao Mexicatessen in eagle rock, Modan Ramen in eagle rock and Din Tai Fung in Glendale, which is in fact in a mall but the dumplings are amazing and will instantly win you over. Weekend rituals include Grifith Park, it has it all, hiking trails, vintage merry-go-round and an old abandoned zoo plus oodles of playgrounds and open space for the kids. Usually on Saturday or Sunday morning we walk to our favorite coffee shop, Little Ripper, we were so excited when it opened and it has created such a beautiful community vibe in our neighborhood. When it's not 100 degrees out we love to walk around the Pasadena Rose bowl, we usually end the 3 mile loop with the the chili-fruit bowl from the street vendors parked on the corner. The Pasadena Flea Market is also worth a visit - my advice, get there early. In terms of shopping destinations, check out Dotter, Social Studies in highland, Yolk and Mohawk General store in Silverlake, Shout and About in Echo Park, Individual Medley and Kin + Kind in Atwater, lastly, Poketo in downtown LA.