In a saturated market, what makes one product stand out? Colin Skelton and Nicole Antoine have discovered that a truly unique product will hold the attention of consumers. The trick is not just to say you’re different, but to be different.
The couple launched Soylites from their garage in 2007. Skelton made the candles and they were packaged in clear glass and plain white boxes. Today the product range and packaging have evolved, but the basic premise remains the same.
“Soy candles are longer, cleaner burning candles. They are not only a healthier alternative to ordinary paraffin-burning candles, but they’re scented with essential oils, and the wax has great properties for the skin. You can dip your fingers in the melted wax and use it as massage oil or skin moisturiser.”
The problem was that soy candles are more expensive than other candles, and since they were an unknown, the market had to be educated in their properties.
“From the beginning we realised that we needed to get people to try the product. The experience would sell the candles and create brand awareness,” says Skelton.
“We also couldn’t just assume that consumers valued an eco-friendly candle. We needed to promote the other sensory qualities.”
This meant going from store to store demonstrating the product. They also expanded their focus from health stores to the beauty industry too. “We tried to be too niche in the beginning. We might produce healthier candles, but we needed to reach a wider market, and this meant looking at all the properties of the candles and who might respond well to them.”
It’s been a slow process, but today Soylites has a number of competitors in the market, and sells 7 000 units a month. “Our first mover advantage means that ‘Soylites’ has become a brand name for all soy candle products, and our customers now have something to compare us to – which works very favourably for us. It confirms our focus on quality.”
Skelton and Antonie have also just closed a deal with a large Japanese cosmetics company and expect a repeat order by the end of the year, proof that there is a market for soy candles, and that Soylites aims to be the market leader.
Players: Nicole Antonie & Colin Skelton