Harris company lights up the mainland

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An Isle of Harris candle maker has complemented its Tarbert shop with the opening of its first mainland outlet in Inverness Airport, creating four new jobs.

Tarbert-based Buth Bheag Candle Co opened its store in the departure lounge in August after totally refitting the unit, and will shortly be looking to invest in new machinery to meet growing demand for its products.

The candle company, which was set up by James McGowan and Christine Macleod last May after gaining advice from Business Gateway Outer Hebrides, has also just added Crieff Hydro Hotels to its growing list of stockists.

Now, the couple has set themselves a goal of opening a further three airport shops within the next three years and hope to host pop-up shops in leading department stores throughout the UK to further promote their brand and the Hebridean Islands.

James said: “We’re very passionate about our products and very proud of the island where we live. We also believe the provenance of our candles helped us secure both the Inverness Airport tender and the order from Crieff Hydro Hotels.

“When we first decided to make our own candles we approached Business Gateway to see what help might be available to us. Our start-up adviser helped us secure funding to buy our first machine and gave us a lot of good advice; guiding us in the right direction. Because demand for our candles is high, we’re now working with a growth adviser whose input has been invaluable to us, most recently putting us in touch with Highlands & Islands Enterprise, with whom we are now discussing our growth plans.”

Richard Tarves, Business Gateway, said: “James and Christine initially turned to us with an idea that has grown into a flourishing business.

“In just over a year they’ve secured significant orders and continue to add leading names, such as Calmac Ferries and the Aros Centre on the Isle of Skye, to their growing list of stockists.

“We have been with them every step of the way, initially providing general business advice and specialist support regarding intellectual property as well as guidance with funding. All of which has helped them grow.

“We are now working with them to ensure production can be increased to meet demand, while maintaining the quality their customers have come to expect.”

James and Christine, who run two other businesses on the Isle of Harris, initially rented their premises on Tarbert Main Street as an office for their car rental company.

“Quickly they realised they had space to also open a shop within the unit and set about sourcing high-end, locally produced products to sell including artwork by Seonaid Clarke and Ruth Morrison Jewellery.

During their search they realised there were no manufacturers of 100% soy wax candles on the island so began making their own at their kitchen table, naming them after local beaches. Since May last year, the couple have added two new scents to their four-strong range and now produce their own reed diffusers, wax melts, and room sprays.

Christine said: “We started off making about a dozen candles a week; now we make around 800. We’ve also started to make test batches of our own lip balm, soap, and hand lotion.

“There is a growing demand for Hebridean products and we not only want to meet that demand, we want to give back to the local community who have supported us by creating jobs and by supporting local causes such as Isle of Lewis Cancer Research.

“For every candle bought from our Niseabost range we donate 50p to the charity, and will present a cheque to them at the end of the year.”