When businessman, James Robertson, was in primary school, he could often be found melting wax crayons over the radiators. His teachers may not have approved of his exploits, but perhaps this fired James’ love of the candle-making process – ultimately leading him to start the award-winning Isle Of Skye Candle Company!
However, James did not anticipate his career. He reveals: “I grew up in Glasgow and I was accepted to do a course in aeronautical engineering at university. I soon realised it wasn’t for me. I then headed out to Canada, where I became a snowboard instructor. However, that was too seasonal to be a career.
“I had to decide what to do with my life, and that’s when I realised how much I missed Skye! My Mum is from Skye and my Dad is from North Uist, so we used to come up to the islands on holiday. I made the decision to move up to Skye and then looked for work.”
After spotting a gap in the market, James formed the Isle of Skye Candle Company - a career that could combine his penchant for melting wax with a fascination for experimenting with essential oils.
“I worked in the Isle of Skye Soap Company and was intrigued with what they could do with aromatherapy,” James explains. Basing his workshop in a renovated bothy in Braes, James spent two years researching and experimenting. From there, he built up outlets in Broadford, Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews and now also has distributors as far away as Australia!
“Our aim is to make candles that are an affordable luxury, creating the best-quality products at reasonable prices,” James says. “Our goal is to be the biggest natural candle company in the UK. Because all our candles are hand-made, business expansion will create more employment opportunities, which is a big part of my ethos.”
Using evocative fragrances, such as Bohemian Rose, Lemongrass and Pomegranate and Plum, Skye Candles capture the senses and take you on a scented journey. “One of our more unusual combinations is Vanilla and Fig,” says James. “It surprises people that we put those two together, but that is actually one of our best candles!”
Last year, Skye Candles introduced a Scottish Range, capturing Scotland’s most magical and iconic fragrances, such as Scottish Bluebell; Bog Myrtle and Fresh Mint; Heather and Wild Berries; and Raspberry and White Ginger. “The White Ginger isn’t very Scottish, but the Raspberry part is,” laughs James.
Skye Candles favour the use of soya wax (a vegetable wax made from the oil of soya beans) in their candles. “It is completely renewable as well as healthy and toxin-free,” explains James. “It also burns at a lower temperature, which means longer lasting candles, and a better fragrance.”
James outlines the candle-making procedure, saying: “We start off with our flakes of soya wax. Then we add botanical oils to give it better burning properties. We put that in our boiler, heat it to the right temperature, then add premixed oils. We wait for it to cool down, then pour it into a mould.
“Because the process is fairly simple, I often say it’s easy to make a candle, but to make a good candle is pretty difficult! It has to burn properly, have a pleasing fragrance and look good!”
In spite of the company winning “Best New Scottish Company” at the Scottish Variety Awards and the ScotEdge award, James’ dynamic drive means he is never complacent. “We are always working on developments! We will be opening a cafe in Broadford, where Skye Serpentarium used to be,” he reveals.
“I also want to concentrate on exporting our candles throughout the world. The ScotEdge award gave us extra funding to make that happen - so watch this space!”
If you want to spark off a scented adventure, visit the nearest Isle of Skye Candle Company shop or view their website at www.skyecandles.co.uk.