Here at Cottage Life, we realize how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local businesses. To do our part, we’ll be highlighting the stories of different businesses in cottage country. This week, we spoke with Joshua Goodwin, who runs Canadian Candles out of Cobourg, Ont.
What is Canadian Candles?
I make handcrafted timber torches. A lot of the business had to do with the pandemic. I wanted to help bring families together during such a hectic time. I wanted to create something where people could still sit around a campfire, still have marshmallows, still have that spring and summertime feel, even in the fall and wintertime, too. That was the main driving force.
How did the business get started?
I learned about the concept when I was growing up. The idea has been around for a while. But what prompted me to start the business was that I needed to pay a phone bill. So, I reached out to a friend who had some logs, and he was kind enough to cut them up for me. That same night, I made a post on Facebook, just on my own personal page, advertising the first 12 candles that I made. They sold within two hours. That’s when I thought, Okay, I think there’s something here. And it just literally went from there. That was around April of 2020.
What inspired the name?
The name comes from the original product developed in the 1700s: a Swedish torch. I knew the history of the product, but there was nothing here in Canada. I only ever saw firewood. Everyone made bonfires. So, when I started the business, I figured, well, we’re Canadian, and another name for a torch style is a candle.
I went and checked the patent office, and I checked websites, and I bought the website. I checked Instagram, and the name checked out. So, I snapped it up and just kind of ran with it. It seems to fit.
How do you make a Canadian Candle?
I use cedar or pine logs, so a softer wood. I don’t cut down green cedars or pines. I try to find stuff that’s already decomposing, but to the point where it’s still usable lumber, so it’s not just a waste. I try to help out the environment that way. And I try to reuse as much as I can.
I cut down 15- to 20-foot trees, or I go to farmers who have these trees already cut down. I purchase the logs and bring them back to my property. I measure out my 20 inches, and I cut all of the orders by hand. Then I put the log on my pedestal, and I eye where I want to cut it. I make eight individual cuts into the log.
Once I do that, I blow off all the excess sawdust and move it over to what I call my dressing table. My girlfriend makes fun of me all the time for it. She’s got her makeup table, but I’ve got my dressing table. I bring it over, and I clean all the outside of the log. I clean all the burrs and potential slivers as best as I can. Then I slide a hemp rope down the cuts I made with the chainsaw. Next, I flip the log over, and I tie the hemp rope together so that you have a handle when you flip the candle upside down to carry it.
To help start the candles, I also add a wax and sawdust firestarter in the top. All you have to do is light it with a lighter. It’s just like a regular fire, so the kids can have fun with it and add some branches and twigs and paper and stuff like that.
How does the candle work?
Because of the chainsaw cuts, you’ll end up with a directional fire. The oxygen flows from the bottom, causing the flame to travel down the centre of the candle, which helps create that directional upward burn.
It’s all an internal flame, but I still recommend people put it in a fireplace or a firepit because after about two hours, the candle will start burning from the inside, and it will start crumbling a little bit. But because it’s an internal flame, it’s great for the kids.
How long does it take to make one candle?
From start to finish, you’re looking at probably about 15 to 20 minutes. And that includes cutting it, the rope, adding a disclaimer, my card, the wax on the front, everything. And then it sits on my porch or in the back of my truck for delivery. I have some work to do if I have an order of 10, 15, or 25 like I did two weeks ago.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
I’m grateful because it’s been pretty positive. In the beginning, I did porch drop-offs because I knew people didn’t want to get too close to one another. So, I tried to cater to that, and I still try to be respectful about it. In terms of supplies, some farmers don’t have an issue with me coming to their property and picking up the logs, but it’s a mixed bag. Overall, though, it’s been very positive.
What does the future look like for Canadian Candles?
This past year was my first season, and I sold about 400 candles. I didn’t expect that. And this year, the business has been picking up by word of mouth. But to take it to the next level, I’ve spoken to a couple of antique stores and local businesses. I want to start getting into more stores, and hopefully into Airbnbs or camping resorts, stuff like that. That’s where I’d like to go.
Where can people buy your candles?
The best way is through social media. I’ve had one person show up at my house to buy a candle, but most people order through Instagram or my company’s Facebook page. People can also message me personally through my business card, which has my Instagram, cell phone number, and email. But close to 100 per cent of my orders come through social media.
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