Fenton & Gregory: Interview with Polly Oswald
LIKE MOST OF US I LIKE A GOOD STORY, AND WHILST SHARING A FEW HOURS WITH POLLY OSWALD AT HER HOME IN IDBURY, CHIPPING NORTON, I ALSO GOT TO MEET HER HUSBAND AND HER THREE CHILDREN, AND ALL WHILST WE SET UP PHOTOGRAPHS, AND MADE CANDLES IN HER SHED. SHE TOLD ME, “IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE”.
We all have commitments and other things we have to balance along with our businesses to run, but I was genuinely staggered as to how Polly manages to run a successful business, whilst also managing her young family. School runs, nursery runs, making lunch, keeping the children happy, more school runs, paperwork, cooking the kids tea’s, arranging supper, (and her youngest is a bit teary as hasn’t been too well), so she’s been up all night, and oh yes, a huge bunch of new candles to make, package, and then get to the post office for delivery…and now the dogs are looking at her for their dinner and no doubt a long walk!
…and so to the beginning of Polly’s story as to how she has managed along the way to create her fabulous Cotswold Candle Company…
Polly and her husband moved out of London to Idbury near Chipping Norton when she was expecting her second child. They felt they not only needed more space, but also wanted to bring up their family in the countryside. Where better to do this than the cotswolds, where her sister had lived and so they had grown to love the area.
Once they’d arrived at their recently renovated farmhouse, Polly had what she refers to as her ‘lightbulb moment’. Her desire to make her own candles came about when she decided there was a gap in the market for delicious smelling affordable candles. Having read an article about candle making, she instinctively knew this was what she wanted to do in the Cotswolds.
What Polly admits to having not quite realised, was just how complex candle making is, and so she then spent over a year studying and experimenting with candle making. She quickly realised the science involved along with the huge choice of wax, wicks and fragrances that needed to be combined in just the right way, and so with many experiments later, she eventually found her way and The Cotswold Candle Company was born. Polly uses a blend of soya and mineral waxes, so that she can ensure the best scent throw possible whilst keeping carbon emissions to a minimum.
The Cotswolds have inspired Polly to create her scents, and she has been drawn towards quintessentially English smells many of which are found here in the Cotswolds. Maybe it’s a beautiful rose, a bouquet of sweet peas, the flowers in her garden, which are just starting to bloom, or the hedgerows in the fields where she walks the dogs. Polly’s scents are a continuous work in progress which will evolve throughout the seasons.
All Polly’s candles are handmade in the Cotswolds, hand poured and feature wooden wicks that are centred in the middle of the candle by hand. The advantages of using a wooden wick are endless: a fast burn pool (thus maximising the scent), no smoked out rooms and no carbon build up or wick mushrooming. They even produce a soft crackling sound when burning. Aside from her growing range of candles, which come in various sizes, polly also produces a range of reed diffusers.
One other area of her business which is also doing very well, is her bespoke service. Polly can adapt quickly to any company request to supply bespoke candles, which can have the company brand displayed on both the candle and the packaging. Due to Polly’s flexibility as a small business, she can almost always adapt to the clients needs, and produce a bespoke candle, often in shorter than other lead times and with a smaller order number.
Cotswolds Limited Edition: Our comment.
Polly Oswald epitomises everything good about growing a small artisan business. She decided what she wanted to do, she researched her market and she created a business from start up. The business is now firmly up and running and the candles are selling well, but like all successful artisans, she knows she doesn’t have time to watch the candle burn if she wants to keep ahead of the competition. Knowing Polly, and with her young family to balance, she is one artisan who is definitely having to burn the candle at both ends…