How a financial services manager turned his candle-making hobby into big business
Back in the summer of 2016, frustrated financial services manager Drew Cockton, aged 30, was looking for ways to channel his creative energy.
Drew started making scented candles in vintage teacups in the kitchen of his Wirral home with ingredients sourced on the internet. It started as little more than a hobby, with the products intended only to be given as gifts to friends and family.
Within a matter of months, Drew was making hundreds of the candles in his spare time and selling them at craft fairs and via social media. “People told me they were the best candles they had ever used”, Drew explained. “They burnt beautifully and didn’t give off black smoke like mass-produced candles. It was because I was using completely natural ingredients – vegan soy wax and wood wicks”.
By the time Christmas 2016 approached, Drew was struggling to keep up with demand, as more and more strangers and friends of friends contacted him wanting to order his candles as Christmas presents. “There were a lot of late nights!” Drew explained, “Which was very hard as I had a demanding career with a lot of European travel as well”.
In January 2017, Drew decided he couldn’t manage everything and took a gamble, leaving his secure position with a Chester based financial services company to launch his business, “Owen Drew” full time. “My family wasn’t pleased at all and saw it as a huge risk, however, I’m a firm believer that life is short and it’s best to take chances and only regret what you don’t do”.
Drew then employed his next door neighbor, Shirley, to help with the production of the candles whilst he focused on business development. A few months later, Drew’s partner, Mike Skeggs, also joined their cottage industry operating from their Wallasey home. Orders for their candles continued to come in thick and fast until the point was reached at which making everything from a back kitchen was not feasible, so the pair signed a lease on a 750 sq ft workshop in Birkenhead.
Drew networked heavily and soon the business received a few celebrity endorsements from reality TV stars such as The Real Housewives of Cheshire. Demand grew even greater and it became necessary to hire an extra set of hands to help in their fledgling business.
Fast forward another year and the business now employs a total of 8 people, including three apprentices, and is currently recruiting a further two.
Crowned “Best Start Up Business” in May 2018, Owen Drew Luxury Candles now supplies to over 30 independent retailers nationwide, ships its wares across the globe and has even gained fans amongst the rich and famous, including hotel heiress, Paris Hilton, who has recently posted pictures to her social media.
“We also opened our first shop in March 2018, which has been a big success, despite being located on an industrial estate with zero footfall. Thanks to social media, people come specifically with the intention of shopping and know they can park hassle free”.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Drew who admits that his first business venture was a total disaster. Aged just 23 and fresh out of University, the entrepreneur took a huge gamble, opening a 13 bedroom hotel on Manchester’s trendy Canal Street at the height of the credit crunch in 2009. Whilst not lacking in ambition or enthusiasm, Drew explained that he was woefully inexperienced in business and not prepared whatsoever for the challenges he would face running the business. It was closed down less than 12 months later and threatened to bankrupt Drew.
“I had always been ashamed of my past failure”, he told us, “But now I am extremely grateful for the experience because it taught me everything I needed to know about running a business – what to do and more importantly, what not to do. These are skills I wouldn’t have ever learned in academic setting – they had to be learnt ‘on the job’”
What’s next for Owen Drew Luxury Candles? The next 12 months will be very exciting, for sure. Drew told us that they are in talks to design a bespoke wedding candle for a Hollywood A Lister’s wedding and that the 5* Chester Grosvenor Hotel wanted to work in conjunction with the firm to create a signature fragrance for the historic establishment.
VOGUE magazine has also recently described their candles as “Simply Gorgeous!”, whilst their 24 Carat Gold candle in celebration of the Royal Wedding received international attention with publications in Hungary, Brazil and Italy featuring the £750 piece.
“I hope my story inspires people to follow their dreams”, Drew says “And that it’s OK to fail in business. Indeed, it can be a blessing in disguise, as my experience has for me!”
To learn more about Owen Drew Luxury Candles, please see www.OwenDrewCandles.com
For more information about Drew’s previous unsuccessful attempt in business, please see: