A little over seven years ago, Slow North cofounder Michelle Simmons wouldn’t have called herself a candlemaker. She hadn’t even planned on becoming one.
Now, Michelle and her husband Jon are the owners of a sustainable lifestyle brand in full bloom. With features in publications like Domino and the Good Trade, a brick-and-mortar, and a dedicated community, Slow North is living proof that coupling tenacity with a vision can truly pay off. And these days, Michelle can definitely call herself a candlemaker.
To celebrate Slow North’s seventh year of existence, we sat down with Michelle to talk about the brand’s beginnings, where the name originated, its hidden gems, and more.
Here are seven surprising facts you may not have known about Slow North:
1. Slow North began as a side project in Michelle’s backyard.
“I was on maternity leave and wanted to start a side business,” Michelle says of the shop’s humble beginnings. “I thought I was going to find a company to private label candles for me, that we would do the branding and sell them as an Amazon-only business. It’s a start.”
But after finding a few suppliers to produce a few test runs for her, Michelle wasn’t thrilled with the outcomes. She told her husband, Jon, that she knew they could do better.
“I began experimenting more with the recipes and basically taught myself to make candles. We had a detached garage in our backyard, so that became our candle studio. That’s how it launched. I backed my way into becoming a candlemaker,” she says.
Slow North soon expanded as Michelle brought her candles to small pop-ups, co-ops, and farmer’s markets. With the uptick in demand, she hired a part-time candlemaker to help her out in the backyard—but Michelle still showed up every day, sometimes with her baby Carter strapped to her back.
2. The Slow North name is a nod to making small steps towards sustainable living.
Slow, intentional living of course was the inspiration for the “slow” portion of the brand name. But North?
“It represents finding our way through life, and taking small steps towards a more natural, sustainable lifestyle,” Michelle says. “It just felt like a good reminder of small changes we could all make. Truthfully, it encompassed more than just candles, and I knew I wanted it to be more of a lifestyle brand one day, so that name just felt right.”
3. Slow North makes wristlet keychains and they’re seriously underrated.
As a relatively new product, the wristlet keychains are selling, but Michelle expects them to start flying off the shelves pretty soon. They’re made from the remnants of scraps that come as a byproduct of cutting fabric for the therapy packs. They’re a total game-changer and will have you wondering how you ever left the house without it.
4. Slow North’s first appearance at a market was at a college co-op party.
On the second floor of a dorm at UT Austin, Jon and Michelle (with Carter on her back) sat at their booth for four hours and didn’t sell a single candle. While it was certainly discouraging, Michelle sees it as a valuable lesson for any business owner: don’t give up, and evaluate your audience. “You just need to pivot a little bit. Looking back, my market probably wasn’t struggling college students!”
5. The Eucalyptus + Lavender candle is Slow North’s best-selling item—and it’s one of the four original scents Michelle first developed in her backyard.
The floral and herbal blend of eucalyptus and lavender is sweet, uplifting, and calming. It’s a tiny spa experience in a jar.
6. The hot and cold therapy packs actually came from a business Slow North acquired.
The eye masks and neck wraps that offer pain relief always sold well at Slow North’s brick and mortar. But they came from another business entirely.
After the owner announced she planned to close her business, Michelle and Jon negotiated with her to buy the business and keep the production of therapy packs going. Today, the soft goods department accounts for half of Slow North’s revenue.
7. Slow North started sewing mask covers as a way to help out during the pandemic.
March 2020 was a scary time for everybody, and especially for small business owners. But Slow North stepped up, pledging to make 150+ mask covers per week to give to healthcare providers in need. Over 1,600 masks were donated!