Roxie and Tom built a successful brand with Frostbeard Studio, but they also built a community along the way. We sat down with them to learn more about their story and how sharing their passion for books and reading grew into a business.
Read and watch more inspiring insights from Roxie and Tom below.
You’ve said that you became candle makers “almost by accident.” What’s the story? I was selling pots and mugs and stuff at craft fairs and online. I had an Etsy shop. But then, I had always made candles as a hobby with my mom. I probably learned in high school, in the late 90s, early 2000s. My mom and I learned how to make candles and I always just had made them. Actually, she encouraged me to put them on my Etsy site. I think I had some plain traditional candle fragrances at first, but then when I created the Oxford Library candle, that was the first bookish candle. And that one was basically created because I personally wanted a candle that smelled like the library, and I couldn’t find one. I looked all over online—there was nothing like it that existed. There was a perfume but no candles. And then so I just looked at what fragrances were available and thought, “How can I mix these to create a unique fragrance that invoked a library?” So I thought about the wood and the leather, and the paper, and that kind of thing. And then I made the Oxford Library candle. It was an easy transition from there to keep going in that direction. So I just kept creating these book candles. Then they started out-selling my pottery, and I was like, “Okay, I should not ignore this!” I knew that I had something good going on. And then my husband, in 2012, started working for me, and he sort of was like the business side. He would do the website. He made the new logo and labels, which made me look a little more official, because before I was literally putting labels on jelly jars. It was very handmade. But he made things look a little more professional. Then, which was lucky, that Christmas of 2013, Buzzfeed featured us. Right at Christmas—I mean, it was crazy timing—people just clicked on it and bought. Our fans and sales spiked. Since then, things have changed totally, and we’ve been able to do it full time.
You got some great publicity when BuzzFeed featured your candles. Did you contact them, or did they contact you? How’d that story go? It was a total shock! It was maybe two or three weeks before Christmas, and we were busy compared to the rest of the year. We had every single weekend booked up with craft fairs. So, we’re sitting at a craft fair and watching our Etsy sales go up, up, up. And we’re asking, “What is going on?” Somebody messaged us, and we figured it out and were kind of freaking out. And then we were celebrating, too, and at the same time, we were panicking because all of these people are going to want to get these items shipped to them for Christmas presents. So, Tom started to do the calculations and we figured we needed to shut down the shop after a given amount of orders because we cannot physically make these many and turn around and ship them in that timeframe. It was very exciting but also stressful at the same time. It’s funny how those sorts of things happen, and we have no control over it. People often ask, “How did you get featured on BuzzFeed?” And it’s not like you have any control over that. They just found something they thought was interesting and posted it.
You’ve mentioned that, in the beginning, you didn’t have to do much marketing. How have you handled marketing since then? Recently, maybe a year or half a year ago, we did hire a marketing team to help us out to improve SEO and get stuff set up that was honestly just over our heads. It’s one of those things when you’re trying to run your own business: You can get a grasp of all these different things, but it came down to us needing to hire some professionals to help us out. Other than that, we like to do things to engage our customers. So we do stuff like giveaways. That’s always a fun way to interact with our customers, and that’s something we want to do more of.
How do you use social media to promote your brand? For the first couple of years, we really didn’t have to do much marketing. We posted some stuff on Facebook and Instagram. But as the “newness” of our product and company began to wear off, we had reached the initial market that we could reach organically. So I did some initial research about what you can do, and basically it’s just engaging and communicating with people. I looked at the people who were already following us and commenting on our photos, and I followed them and commented back, and I offered to give a few samples to some of the more popular profiles that had a bunch of likes. I offered for them to give our products away. That became a really good way for us to reach these other audiences. People are honestly interested in hearing what I’m reading and what books I recommend. Recently, I found someone who had never heard of Neil Gaiman, who is one of Tom and mine’s favorite authors, and we recently did a candle inspired by one of his books. Because of that, they went and looked up his books, read them, fell in love with them. Just that kind of story brings me so much joy—because of this candle we made, you were able to find an author that you absolutely love. A community based on books—it’s never something that I would have expected. I don’t know why it’s so popular, but it is. It makes reading cool—you post a cool picture of your book and what you’re drinking and where you are. Part of it is people want to be able to share their experiences. Not everybody can travel to amazingly photogenic places, but everybody can get a book from the library.
How did you come to the point where you realized it’s time for a rebrand? This past fall, we went through a big rebrand, where we changed up our labels, and we added the 4 oz and 2 oz tins. We wanted to add on smaller sizes, partly to make little samples available to our customers. We know shopping for scented items online is really hard, so we wanted something at a lower price point so that people could just kind of try out the scent to see if they really like it first. Another reason was for our international customers. Shipping internationally is crazy expensive, especially for candles because they are so heavy! So the smaller 4 oz size is perfect for international customers because it’s large enough that they’re going get a decent scent throw out of that, but it’s small enough and light enough that it’s going ship for cheaper. At that point, we liked our old labels, but we were thinking they looked a little a bit amateurish at that point because it did start as a hobby for us, but it did turn into a business for us. Our actual label itself with the books on it, we were like okay our first label didn’t have any books on it, so if we were at a craft fair or something, people would just walk by, and not know the uniqueness of the candles. Like “those are just whatever, normal candles, I got a million of those sitting at home.” So we decided that we would put books on the labels to make it more obvious and the design is actually based on a tattoo I have on my arm that Tom also designed, and it’s a bookshelf. So, we wanted something that was kind of like simple, geometric, but you could also at one glance be like, oh those are books. And it would tie in with the name, and at a glance, you could know they were book themed with the idea.