By Amy Sherman | firstname.lastname@example.org
With scents like Bergamot + Moss, Fern + Floral, Lilac and Cedar Smoke, lighting a candle from Rich & Maple is almost like taking a walk through the Michigan woods.
“I take a lot of inspiration from nature,” Rich & Maple owner Kate Cook said about her candles. Combining things from outside, with “things inspired by memory” the West Michigan resident makes all-natural candles created to brighten your home with scent and light.
Rich & Maple’s candles use coconut wax as the base. Cook started out using soy, but after doing some research she realized that soy wax is not very sustainable. Soy is in high demand over a variety of industries, so during the recent pandemic, she began exploring coconut wax. “I just love it, it’s so natural, it smells so much better, it’s more clean, it burns more evenly, it’s easier to work with,” she said. “Coconut is a highly sustainable crop. I was really excited to find that.” All-natural wicks, and all-natural fragrances complete each of Rich & Maple’s candles.
Rich & Maple is one of the businesses that Founders Brewing Company is highlighting through its Crafted in Michigan campaign. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be bringing you the stories of the locally-owned businesses behind Crafted in Michigan, introducing the people behind these businesses, their products or craft, and the inspiration behind it all.
Check out our interview with Rich & Maple’s owner below, where we talk about her leap into business ownership, and discuss some of the yummy fragrances she blends.
After a five-year stint working at Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Cook started making candles as holiday gifts for family and friends in 2017. “It just kind of took off,” Cook said. “People loved them, and after the Christmas season, people kept asking me for them, how to buy them, can I make some more, could they pay me on the side. I was like, ‘You know what, maybe I can just keep doing this.‘”
Cook had been making the candles on the side, manufacturing them at night and on the weekends, as a fun project. She expanded into local craft shows and makers events. “It’s just blossomed from there.”
Why candles? “I just kept thinking that it’s something that everybody likes,” Cook said. “What is a gift that if you get you are never going to think, ‘Aw man, another candle.’ Everyone likes candles. And you can’t have too many candles.”
After having some bad reactions to non-natural candles, Cook knew her path forward would be 100% natural. “I didn’t want to give my friends and family a product that was going to cause that kind of reaction,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that it was super natural and that it was healthy for them.”
According to Cook, “you’ll know right away if you are burning a candle that has toxins in it. It will give you a headache, it will make you cough, it will flare up any allergies that you have. This is really a high quality product that you can feel safe burning in your home.”
But not every candle is made equally, and Cook set out to make not just candles that are all natural, but ones that offer unique scents as well.
Mixing scents, whether for candles or perfume, is an art form all its own. Not only do you want to pick interesting combinations, but you need to combine them with just the right touch. “As I started playing with it, I realized that I was really good at mixing my scents,” Cook explained. “They were really unique.”
Cook spent a lot of time researching scents, and noting what she liked, what she didn’t, and what she would change to make it perfect for her nose. She also tests new candles extensively, getting feedback from friends and family before she releases them to the public. “There’s a lot of trial and error,” she said.
The holiday season is a hot bed of candle activity, and Cook brewed up a concoction she named Merry to celebrate the season, and it is a great example of her creativity as a maker, and attention to detail as a producer. Cook wanted something that would combine all the Christmas scents into one candle, so she added notes of pine, orange, and cinnamon. “It just nailed it,” Cook said. The candle turned out to be very popular with customers.
Cook creates seasonal candles throughout the year, from light florals in the spring, to deeper woodsy offerings in the fall. She also relies on “scent memories” from the past, and tries to recreate certain ones, like a lilac bush from her childhood. “Creating a certain scent brings that memory out for me,” Cook said. “I think that’s really special to people, too, because a lot of us share those memories, having been in West Michigan, and there is the same flora and fauna” for all of us.
Cook has recently expanded her home-based business, purchasing a big, new 65-gallon boiler for melting the coconut wax used as the base for her candles. You can purchase her candles online, and when craft fairs reopen, she’ll be out there selling in person again.
Candles from Rich & Maple are “not cookie cutter” Cook said. “It’s not something you are going to smell if you just go to TJ Maxx or Home Goods to pick up a candle. It’s completely different.”