Noël & Co. grows from fundraiser to booming business
In August 2021, Annapolis Valley, N.S. teenage twins Lauren and Janie Noël poured 250 candles to raise money for a school trip to Greece. In two weeks, they sold out. This year, they intend to pour 15,000 candles as part of their Noël & Co. shop inventory.
“Small-batch gifts and goodness” is not just the business’s tagline, it’s a clear set of internal values at Noël & Co. to help guide the sisters’ decisions. They structure their business on three core principles: community, health and planet.
“Our packaging is 100-per-cent recyclable and all of our product labels are made with tree-free material,” Lauren says. “We’re continuing to take steps to eliminate, reduce, reuse and recycle where possible. We offer a jar-return program and reward our customers for bringing their used candle jars back to us.”
The business also donates two per cent of all proceeds to the Atlantic Kidney Foundation of Canada. As a two-time kidney transplant survivor, Lauren notes it’s a cause dear to their hearts.
Whether it’s designing labels, inventing new scents, coming up with scent names, staging photography shoots, or even writing social media posts, they revel in the endless opportunities to stretch their creative muscles.
“Inspiration normally strikes when we’re brainstorming together — drinking coffee and listening to music,” says Lauren, who has a passion for writing, while her sister Janie enjoys painting. “One of our favourite activities is what we call our scent parties. We gather around the coffee table, often with friends and family, and bring out our scent finalists for everyone to sample and vote on.”
Janie’s favourite scent changes with each new release, her latest obsession being the saffron and tobacco candle. Lauren loves lemon and thyme.
“We play to our strengths,” says Lauren. “We may be twins, as close as can be, but Janie and I are different in many ways too, including our skill sets. Janie pours the candles, because out of the two of us, she’s the one with a steady hand. When candle-making, you have to be precise with everything, from heating to measurements, and even pace. There is a science behind it, a science Janie is good at.
“I, on the other hand, have mild cerebral palsy, which affects my coordination, making both pouring and labelling challenging tasks for me. So, while my sister pours, I am either restocking inventory, preparing online orders, or planning our social media posts.”
In addition to being a money-making venture to save for education and travel, the twins also negotiated their business into an opportunity for school credit.
Janette Pearson and Colin Duncan lead the O2 program at Northeast Kings Education Centre where the girls attend high school. O2 is a career exploration program that includes co-op courses where students can test career pathways.
“The girls were investing so much time and effort into it, and it met the outcomes for the co-op program, that they asked if they could invest their co-op hours into developing the product line, branding and social media,” says Pearson.
While it wasn’t a typical co-op placement, Pearson says the sisters have exceeded all expectations for the program.
“I was a little skeptical at first as I have never had students embark on a co-op of this nature, where they are guiding the process and learning,” says Duncan. “Once Janie and Lauren had some of the product completed, packaged and ready for market, they invited me over to their home with their mom to show me what they had and how it may look once the business opened at local markets.”
Duncan says that from the moment they greeted him at the door, he knew there was something very different about these two students.
While it’s been an exciting ride, the entrepreneurship journey hasn’t been without its challenges. When they started the venture, neither sister had ever poured a candle.
“How naïve were we?” Lauren jokes. “Candle making is at once a science and an art form, so learning the craft was certainly the biggest challenge at first. At 16, we had zero idea how to run a business. We thought candle making would be the hard part. We were wrong. We’ve had to learn everything from marketing, bookkeeping and purchasing to selling, inventory and production, and more.”
Despite all of this, Lauren says one of their biggest struggles was overcoming their shyness and insecurity. Both she and her sister are naturally quiet and private introverts, so the business really pushed them out of their comfort zone.
When it comes to inspiration, the sisters don’t have to look far.
Inspiration normally strikes when we’re brainstorming together — drinking coffee and listening to music.Lauren Nöel
“Hands down, our mom is our greatest role model,” says Lauren. “She works two jobs and is a businesswoman herself. The woman has crazy dedication and work ethic, and she truly inspires us to achieve our goals. We’ve discovered though, that our nana is like that
as well, so it possibly runs in the family.”
The teens’ mom, Raina Noël, runs a website design company, as well as a home organization and staging business.
Despite the growing pains, Raina couldn’t be prouder of what her girls have created.
“These girls are pouring their hearts and souls into this business, and as a parent, it’s amazing to watch the growth and confidence that comes with that,” she says. “Their success has truly been exciting to witness.”
Others have noticed their hard work too. Support and accolades have overwhelmed them, with invitations to take part in many interviews. Their candles were featured in the QEII Home Lottery show home and they recently won the Best New Business award from the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce.
With plans to grow their business over the coming year, the pair will have their hands full as they finish high school.
“We bring in our mom and nana to help with finishing the candles, and with the four of us working together, we’re comfortably able to keep on top of things, and feel like even with our school schedule, we have room to grow,” Lauren says. “The great thing about being your own boss, and working with your family, is that we have flexibility too. It’s great knowing we have each other’s backs.”