A month ago, I had the opportunity to speak casually with Anita Renault, young owner and founder of the most attentively curated handmade candles in France. Although our tete-à-tete ended quite prematurely because I had to get off the metro, I knew we would revisit the matter.
At a stage in life when many twenty-somethings still have no idea what they’re doing, Miss Renault seems to have it all covered. She describes herself as ‘enthusiastic’ and that cannot be denied. Only an enthusiast would be willing to take on risk after risk with that wide knowing smile.
Two years ago I chose to study Law at the Sorbonne right after high school. Then I discovered that Law wasn’t my cup of tea: it was too boring. I couldn’t find my way there. So during the second semester my head had started to go reeaally far from what my professors were saying… and one day during “Law History” – the highest level of boredom, I took a paper and started making some sketches of a logo with an invented brand name. ‘La Bougie de Paris.’ The Candle of Paris. Why the logo for a candle and not for something like clothing? Because my father works in glass printing. So I thought, ‘I love perfumes, I love drawing, I have a father who’s working in the industry of decoration of glass, why can’t I make my own brand of candles with my own designs and fragrances?’ 20 days later, I was looking at my first hundred candles.
How active are you in the decision-making and production process?
Today, two years after founding La Bougie de Paris, my job is no longer to produce only my collections, but I am also one of the first and few producers/manufacturers of personalised candles in France. In fact, just three or four months after the start-up, many people started to ask me questions about the design of my candle, where I find the fragrances and so on. I found then that there was a true market to exploit in the candle industry.
Some weeks later, with the help of my father, we were opening our first atelier of production with several machineries for the different steps of production in the making of candles. I can tell you now that my job consists in the personalization of candles for brands and direct customers, in addition to my own collection.
Concerning decision-making, I am very proud that we succeed in delivering the products within short periods. For the moment we are focusing on the French market only, but we are not against exporting our knowledge and products one day.
What’s the hardest part of running your own business?
I would say that the hardest part of running a business is being your own boss. You have to take responsibility for everything and in every situation, it’s always at the back of your mind that you have to take all the risk. I think this is the hardest part but that doesn’t mean that it is the worst. I think that it is something absolutely fantastic.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I generally don’t like to speak about the far future, I’d rather speak about the near one. Yeah, I am pretty concrete when it comes to thinking business! But if I really have to answer I would sincerely say that I would love for my business to continue going at this pace, slowly but securely. As I mentioned before, at the moment I am not pretending I want to export my products abroad. I prefer to concentrate on doing the best job I can within the French boundaries.
You once told me you tried to bring your merchandise to Italy but it wasn’t very successful. Why was that?
Yes, months ago I made a survey consisting in asking Italian friends and random people in shops if they would be willing to pay more than 15€ for a candle. The result? Many more nos than yesses. The most common reasoning was ‘if I want a candle I go to Ikea and I buy a pack of 100 for less than 3€.’
One of the many reasons that could explain such a result is that Rome, unlike Paris, has warm weather year long and people tend to be more willing to buy a designed and perfumed candles where the weather is colder to give rooms warmth and create a welcoming ambience.
What makes your candles different from the pack of 100 for 3 euros?
I would say that what differentiates my private collection from others is that my candles are 100% handmade in Paris and that makes a big difference.
Talking about the custom design, a more technical issue, I can proudly say that we are one of the few businesses in France able offer a complete service package, managing every project from the customer’s very first idea to the final delivery.