The power of the mind is not to be underestimated, and, apparently, neither should the sentimentality of candles… Did you know that as human beings our sense of smell has a direct connection to our emotional state? Familiar aromas stimulate a multi-sensory experience by triggering feelings of nostalgia recalling our oldest, long lost memories – like wrapping you up in warm hug. You may find that scents of fresh amber & moss hearken back memories of family camping trips, scents of teakwood & tobacco remind you of grandpa’s winter coat and scents of eucalyptus combined with seal salt evoke visions of crashing waves on the golden coast …this is P.F. Candle Co.’s superpower. This California-based, small-batch candle company is spearheaded by scent experts Kristen Pumphrey and husband Thomas Neuberger. We had the pleasure of connecting with Kristen to truly understand P.F. Candle Co’s roots and wow, this start-up turned enterprise lights a fire like no other. Read on for more of the inside scoop!
From Publishing to Passion
But where did the spark ignite? Well, like all history-makers, the spark that fueled Kristen’s passionate fire was none other than rejection. In 2008, shortly after being fired from her job as a publisher in New York City during the Great Recession, she packed up and moved to Austin, Texas to pursue her love of creating. At the time, this consisted of her DIY blog, Pommes Frites (yes, it’s a play on her last name “Pumphrey,” and it does indeed stand for french fries) and running an Etsy store by the same name. Setting up shop in her spare bedroom, Kristen sold everything from handmade candles to buttons and even book safes. While in Austin, she met and started dating Tom who from day one was a big supporter of her entrepreneurship journey, helping her with pop-up events to sell these unique homemade goods. A few years later, Tom decided to pursue his love of film at California State University. Fulfilling Kristen’s longtime dream of living on the West Coast, it was a no brainer decision to move and join him!
“What I love about California is what so many others cherish too — the beach, mountains, and desert — all within a 2-hour range (with no traffic). Not to mention the diversity of people, cultures, cuisine and the awesome design gems like famous architecture and world-class museums. As a perpetual wanderer, if I ever get sick of where I’m living, I just change neighborhoods, not states.”Kristen Pumphrey
In 2013, Tom was graduating with a B.A. in film studies. Simultaneously, Kristen was tirelessly pursuing, a breakthrough purchase order with national retailer that would set her world on fire. There was one caveat… the company, West Elm, wanted 4,000 pieces – way more than Kristen had ever made in her lifetime! Yet, with the help of Tom, saved finances, and much determination, Kristen delivered! Shortly after, Pommes Frites was picked up by both indie boutiques and major retailers such as Urban Outfitters, CB2, and Madewell. It was officially time to update the brand name to P.F. Candle Co. (yes, for the sake of simplicity and everyone’s sanity).
P.F. Candle Co.’s brick and mortar flagship opened 4 years later in Echo Park, Los Angeles. Today, Kristen and Tom own two different brick and mortar locations in LA and San Francisco, a warehouse, and have gathered a community of almost 100 employees.
“This was never a side hustle. Kristen had known she wanted to make a living out of making things, so she did. Even if it took a while.”P.F. Candle Co.
The Heart & Soul of P.F. Candle Co.
Every company has specific mantras or values they live and die by, but P.F.’s commitment to quality, our community, and sustainability is like none-other. Independently owned and operated, each candle is handmade – every single step of designing, testing, measuring, pouring, mixing, packaging, and shipping cycle is carefully fulfilled by the P.F. team. Why? They focus on quality – keeping their customers, employees, and the planet in the forefront of their minds. This means that not only are each and every candle examined by the quality team before they are permitted to ship, but every fiber of the product itself is responsibly sourced, vegan and cruelty-free – from the cotton wick to the domestically-grown soy wax. This venture does not stop at the product itself – just recently, P.F. Candle Co. decided to work to become Climate Neutral Certified. This meant months of measuring carbon emissions, redesigning the packaging, offsetting and neutralizing their carbon footprint as well as adapting their manufacturing processes to become 100% carbon neutral.
But aside from these admirable standards, what gives P.F. Candle Co. its candle-making superpower? Well, remember the human emotional connection to our nose and familiar fragrances? Kristen uses this reality to develop her fragrances. Several of the scents infused in the candles and incenses are uniquely fashioned and inspired by her and P.F.’s employees personal memories and experiences. Each candle crafted embodies just as much nostalgia as it does soul.
“When I first opened the jar it made me take a step back and smile: It smells exactly like how my favorite drink — a lavender lemonade — tastes, and I couldn’t believe they captured it so perfectly. Immediately, I was with my sister on a crisp spring afternoon, driving through the suburbs of North Jersey with the wind in our hair, music blasting, and lavender lemonades coating our tastebuds. Simple bliss.”Sarah M. Vazquez on the P.F. Candle Co. Ojai Lavender Candle
And that’s just one example out of thousands. Click below to experience the power of P.F. Candle Co.’s fragrances!