Annie White Went From Making Products for Family and Friends to the Connecticut Candle Queen
Annie White started her business, NaturalAnnie Essentials, almost accidentally. After creating skincare products to help her baby daughter, she began sharing them with family and friends, and the business was born. After years of growth and transformation, NaturalAnnie Essentials is now a lifestyle soy candle store that sells inspired scents with fun messages.
NaturalAnnie Essentials’ candles are made with love and from quality non-toxic ingredients at Annie’s studio in Bridgeport, Connecticut. With their playful labels and names, the candles are perfect for women who know self-care is paramount and don’t hesitate to invest in themselves.
NaturalAnnie Essentials candles are currently in over 200 stores across the United States and Canada and counting. If you’re interested in buying NaturalAnnie Essentials’ candles wholesale, check out their Handshake profile.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Handshake: So I would love to hear a little bit about your brand!
Annie White: We are primarily a lifestyle, soy candle company, and we tend to create candles for the home that are fun, highly fragrant, and scents and names that our customers can relate to. All of our candles are circled around that core, in which once you bring it into the home, we want our candle to give you that experience like, “Yes, I am home. This is where it happens. This is my happy place.”
We weren’t always a candle company. When we started in 2014, I had the idea of creating my own products; I didn’t have the idea to start a company. That was when I had my first daughter, Tiffany. And Tiffany was born with a condition called Spina bifida, which also led into another condition called Hydrocephalus, so right out of birth, she had to do a number of surgeries on her spine on her brain, and when we finally got home, her skin started to break out. So that led me to start creating products for her skin, just to try to see what would work to help to clear up her skin.
That’s when we got a breakthrough with her skin, so as you can imagine, I was very excited. I made something, and it worked on my baby! So I went back and got certified [in aromatherapy], and we did blending throughout that course, we did product formulation. And that kind of just ramped up everything. I started making everything from household to bath and body products, skincare. I was making so much now I couldn’t keep all of it. I was sharing it with friends and family, and they were starting to like the products. Someone had mentioned you should put a label on this because this is really good. So that’s kind of where the idea of a business started.
Handshake: And from what I understand, you continued to make bath and body products, and then you pivoted in around 2016?
Annie: We did a show in Brooklyn at one point and our customers, because we had a body wash, wanted to know if we had candles in those scents, and at the time we didn’t. And there was another girl there who was selling candles, and she was selling non-stop. So on our way home, my husband said, “We should try candles,” I’m like, “Are you serious? To add another product to all the things I’m making right now?” But we looked into it and actually on that very ride home that night, we bought a candle kit on Amazon. In a few days, we started testing and playing around with it, seeing how we could make this work. And over time, we kind of got the right formula for candles, so that’s how we got thrown into the candle space.
Handshake: So what does the business look like today? Are you still working out of your kitchen?
Annie: Well, you’ve caught me at a really interesting point in our business. Since COVID hit, our sales have way more than tripled. So it has forced us now to find production space. Because I started in my kitchen, then we moved to one part of the basement, because we have a pretty large basement and then we had to take over the other side of the basement. And then, eventually, we added the garage. And I use another room out of my house for my office!
Handshake: [Laughing] Where are your daughters sleeping at this stage?
Annie: [Laughing] It’s terrible! We have only the upstairs part for ourselves. So with all the volume that we’ve been getting, we’ve now had to get a new space, so we will be moving out of the home finally, at the end of September into our new production space, so that’s exciting.
Handshake: You’ve got so many amazing products, where do you get inspiration for all of your scents?
Annie: We have a very active Instagram account, and from time to time, I’ll throw out a poll and say, “Hey guys, what are some of your best scents for fall?” or “What’s a scent you couldn’t imagine living without?” We get a lot of inspiration from our customers. If I was supposed to sit here and try to figure out, “Oh my God, what could I possibly do for Fall?” – can you imagine how long that would take me!
Handshake: And you only use quality materials, such as vegan American-made wax, is that correct?
Annie: We use our soy wax, it’s grown here in the US, and our fragrances are also top-level, top tested, but they’ve been through the whole testing process to ensure that they are safe enough to be used around people in the household.
Handshake: You also sell wholesale, is that where the majority of your business is?
Annie: At this point, I’d say it’s 50-50 [between wholesale and the NaturalAnnie Essentials online store]. I think right now we’re in over 200 stores in the US and Canada.
Handshake: Do you have anything to add about your business and selling wholesale that you would really like to share?
Annie: Especially during the pandemic, it really showed me how small businesses working together can make a big change just by how the stores rally together, how we communicate back and forth. It’s just the great sense of community that I’ve been able to foster with my stockists that has been really, really great. And that keeps them coming back and helping to grow our brand while continuing to grow their business.
We’re always, always looking for new retailers to join our team and to work together and bring in these fun scents to our customer’s home. We do have a variety of collections and also we offer some private labelling. So from time to time we’ll have a store that wants a specific scent for their store. They still carry our candles but they want that one scent that’s just them that has it. We’re always open to do that or collabs with our stores on those.
Handshake: And you were telling me earlier as well that you’re about to re-brand NaturalAnnie Essentials?
Annie: I’m so excited to release that. The brand is still going to be fun and vibrant. As a young entrepreneur, when you’re starting to create a brand, you don’t really think about all the bits and pieces that kind of go into it. You kind of just put something together. But now understanding how our customers are and what they’re drawn to, and the colors they’re drawn to, we’re pulling all of that five years of experience and knowledge and pooling it into the refreshed look. So I think it’s going to be fun. They’re still going to love it, but it’s just taking it to a newer level.
NaturalAnnie Essentials products are available for wholesale purchase from $200. Find the whole range of available wholesale products on their profile page.