MANILA, Philippines ? The candle has not changed much since its invention by the ancient Romans. But people?s preferences have.
And tastes continue to evolve, pushing candle makers to search for new combinations of wick and wax.
For business partners Tisha Namin-Gonzalez and Vencer Viray, owners of Alice Blue Candles, that perfect combination must have one important element ? scent.
They say that the key to producing candles with a scent that lingers lies not in the scent itself, but in the candle?s basic makeup?wax.
?Vencer suggested that I look into soy wax,? said Namin-Gonzalez. ?So I did research on it, and that?s how [Alice Blue] came to be.?
A natural and renewable material, soy wax comes from the soy plant.
?Other candles are from paraffin, which is a by-product of crude oil,? said Namin-Gonzalez.
?Soy is more efficient because it burns longer than paraffin. Our six-ounce candle will burn 10 to 15 hours ? so when you burn it, it really dissipates [the scent],? added Viray.
Even their wicks, imported from Germany and United States, are made of renewable materials?cotton, paper and hem.
Their scents, also imported, come in two collections: Garden and Café.
The Garden collection includes Bamboo, Baby Shower, Cranberry Spice, Pine Forest, Lavender, Lemongrass, Lush Garden, Mediterranean Fig, Orange Clove, Peppermint, Pink Grapefruit and Ginger, Sandalwood, Vanilla Mint and White Tea and Ginger.
The Café collection, on the other hand, has Banana Nut Bread, Berry Crumble, Café Mocha, Cinnamon Sticks, Dutch Apple Pie, Hot Chocolate and Vanilla Sugar.
Set in clear glass, almost all of the candles come in white.
It was precisely this ?lack of color? that got these business partners thinking of a color that would be a catchy and memorable name for their products.
?Alice Blue is a pale shade of blue which is named after Alice Roosevelt-Longworth, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt,? said Namin-Gonzalez. ?We wanted a company name that has a story behind it,? added Viray.
With their products ranging from P175 to P700, the business partners admit that their main market is the well-off.
?Some say our candles are expensive, but once they start using, they find that it?s worth it, so they end up buying a lot,? said Viray.
These scented white lights are also becoming popular party giveaways.
The partners have also sought the service of ceramics artist Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, who encases candles with Sampaguita and Ginger Ylang-ylang scents.
?That seems to be popular? with ?balikbayan,? or visiting overseas-based Filipinos, said Viray.
Alice Blue is busiest during the holidays. ?[We?re busiest] from October to December,? said Namin-Gonzalez. ?I don?t sleep until January.?
And that?s because these partners are as hands-on as they can get.
Even with their own candle-making crew, the two still take the time to make their own products.
?We?re very particular about the quality,? said Viray. ?[And] it?s not as simple as sticking wick into wax,? added Namin-Gonzalez.
The partners also do their own testing, as well as experimenting for new scents.
With an undergraduate degree in Botany from the University of the Philippines and a master?s in Biology from New York University, Namin-Gonzalez was mostly responsible for the preliminary research for their products.
?She was the one who came up with most of the formulas,? said Viray. ?My background?s totally different, it?s Computer Science [in California State University], and it helps now with the accounting side.?
Prior to this business venture, Namin-Gonzalez was a stay-at-home mom, while Viray, a systems developer. They met through their children, who played baseball together.
Four years and three kiosks later (in the Glorietta, TriNoMa and The Podium malls), the partners are still excitedly looking for new ways to expand their business, possibly even for export.
And while the partners strive to continue providing their customers with quality scented candles, they?ve also kept in mind their responsibility to Mother Nature.
?The idea? is renewable materials, said Viray. ?Sometimes, [the customers] return the glass to us. What we do is we clean them up and give them away for reuse, like to nongovernmental organizations.?
With the ceramic container, ?when the wax runs out, you can just take out the wick, clean it up and it can be [used as] a teacup,? said Viray. ?It?s the little things we can do.?