When NHS doctor Emma Darbyshire started suffering with depression, she turned to candle making as therapy.
“I discovered my creative side and became more interested in self-care,” says Emma.
She realised she had a nose for it. She loved playing with ingredients and blending scents. And in 2015, she gave up her medical career and set up Wilton Street Craft Co.
“I started my business with the idea of giving other people candles for their own ‘me time’ and self-care.”
Around the same time, she got Lady, a sausage dog, who has become the brand’s logo and her trusted advisor.
“She really is my business partner, of the four-legged wet nose variety.
“And as hilarious as it may sound, she’s actually a really good quality assurance officer because whenever I’m developing a new scent I always get Lady to smell it. She’s very discerning. If she turns her head away it doesn’t get sold. So far, her favourite has been the spiced apple scent that we do.
“She’s definitely earned her place on the logo.”
Emma has turned the kitchen in her Whitefield home into an ‘alchemy lab’ where she constantly develops new scents. Everything is made in small batches, ensuring the high quality of her candles and pays great attention to detail.
All the candles she crafts are vegan and environmentally friendly – another thing inspired by her canine business partner.
“As I was burning different candles that I bought, I realised that Lady’s behaviour was changing quite dramatically,” she remembers.
“I eventually realised it was what was in the candles. That made me aware that in mass produced candles there are all sorts of toxins. The more research I did, the scarier I found the results.”
That’s why she uses soy wax, and all her scents are created using different blends of essential oils – something that makes her stand out, she believes.
“I create my own scents instead of pouring things out of a fragrance bottle.”
Besides her basic candle range, Emma also produces seasonal scents, like the Christmas festive range or the recently launched collection she did for National Tea Day.
“I’ve always had Earl Grey Tea in my standard collection but I added to that with Lady Grey Tea, Rose Grey Tea, and Black Tea & Vetiver.”
She takes inspiration from the world around her – places she’s been, people she’s met – and loves recreating the scents in her candles.
She laughs, saying that gin features heavily in her collection “for obvious reasons”.
“I always had a Gin & Tonic one – in fact that was the first candle I’ve created. I’ve also worked with The Gin Society at their festival at Manchester Cathedral and decided to launch a sloe gin candle which was so popular that I’ve kept it in the main range.”
She says she enjoys a challenge so if someone approaches her and asks for a bespoke candle that has a specific meaning to them, she’s ‘always up for it’.
This is, in fact, her favourite thing about the business.
“One of the things that I absolutely love about scent is that it’s so personal to everyone. It can transport you through time and distance. It can be very nostalgic.”
Recently she started hosting workshops where she and no more than six other people at a time sit around her kitchen table and learn about candle making.
“I’m totally well now and loving what I do and I think this idea of changing my career and becoming more interested in wellbeing as well as the environment has touched a nerve with a lot of people.”