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The cult candles you need in your home this season


No home is complete without these fragrant, modern scents

Many businesses begin with a five-year plan and a slew of spreadsheets, but these two enterprising women took a different approach, using their instincts and experience to launch successful companies in a country far from their homes.

Now, Nicole Eckels’ Glasshouse Fragrances is a 50-million-dollar business, while Elise Pioch’s Maison

Balzac has doubled growth every year since it began. Here they share the stories of how they started.

N I C O L E  E C K E L S

Founder, Glasshouse Fragrances

Nicole Eckels Photograph courtesy of Glasshouse Candles

When Nicole Eckels moved to Sydney in 2005 from her native New York, she wanted to buy a candle for her apartment. First stop was David Jones, but the only candles she could find were more decorative than fragrant.

Curious about how Australians felt about fragrance, she organised an informal focus group with a bunch of friends. The consensus was that candles in Australia were either too expensive or didn’t smell at all. So, drawing on her experience from years of working in the cosmetics industry, Nicole set out to fill the void.

“For me, the power of scent makes you feel different things at different times,” says Nicole, who wanted to “create a fragrant candle better than anything I’d experienced... rich and deep and beautiful and complex.”

GLASSHOUSE FRAGRANCES | Triple Scented Candle Marseille

After a year of developing 12 candle fragrances, she launched Glasshouse Fragrances. At her first trade show, the orders flooded in. “The floor was so packed with people, I had to walk out at one point,” she says.

And demand hasn’t declined. Glasshouse Fragrances has sold more than one million candles in David Jones alone since it became a stockist in 2010. And, since launching the original collection, Nicole has expanded her range to include diffusers and liquid soaps, all made in Australia.


“Have a network of people you can rely on – it’s really important. Mentoring and getting mentored is something close to my heart.”

E L I S E  P I O C H

Founder, Maison Balzac 

Photograph by Sylve Colless, courtesy of Maison Balzac. Photograph by Sylve Colless, courtesy of Maison Balzac.

Living in a new country can bring to the fore what you really miss about your birthplace. For Elise Pioch, who arrived in Australia in 2004, it was the perfumes of her childhood in the south of France.

“I was missing them so much that I decided to recreate them and to set them in wax,” she says.

After working as a fashion buyer, Elise spent a year creating her first collection, which comprised five fragrances, and launched Maison Balzac in 2012.

“I found the best nose in Australia, who trained in Grasse, France, and the best candle maker in Sydney to achieve the products we have today,” she says.

Elise had planned to make them herself for the first year, however, after two months she had to outsource production when the concept store Colette in Paris ordered the first range.

“Sales went crazy after that,” she recalls (although, sadly, the store is set to close in December). “The initial reception was phenomenal.” In fact, keeping up with demand was one of the biggest struggles in the early years: “The reality is that everything is made by hand by real people so the process is slow and careful.”

MAISON BALZAC | 1642 Candle

Fortunately, her team has since grown and she is now able to chase production and plan better. The range has also expanded to now include 15 scented candles, as well as some products for the home. What’s the appeal?

“I think the flame of a candle brings life and warmth to spaces; then the scent fills a room and tells an invisible story,” Elise says. “Isn’t this magical? A candle can bring that.”

Most recently Elise has returned to the south of France, although her head office is still based in Sydney. Not surprisingly she packed a few candles in her luggage, including Sainte T, her personal favourite.


“I truly believe that the original vision needs to be written somewhere. Any new business owner needs to read this vision over and over to never forget what was the original dream and point of difference. We can easily get side tracked and so many people will try to divert you from your path. So stay focused!”

S U C C E S S  S T O R I E S

J O  M A L O N E left school at 15 but went on to launch one of the world’s leading fragrance brands after creating a range of bath oils in her home in 1994. She sold the business to Estée Lauder in 1999 for millions.

JO MALONE LONDON | Oud & Bergamot Home Candle

T H E  A R O M A T H E R A P Y  C O was established in 1990 by kiwi Sarah Townsend with a focus on products with natural ingredients free from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates and mineral oils.

THE AROMATHERAPY CO.Elements Soy Candle, Earth

M O R was the creation of Melbourne-based Deon St. Mor, who studied industrial design and founded the business in 2001 with Dianna Burmas.

MOR | Fragrant Candle, Bohemienne

E C O Y A started making natural soy wax candles out of Botany Bay and now has revenues of about $20 million a year, selling a candle every 29 seconds all over the globe.

ECOYA | Madison Jar - Summer Spritz

C O C O L U X  A U S T R A L I A was founded by Meisha Strykowski in her garage. Now her handcrafted candles in copper, onyx and brass holders are sold around the world.


COCOLUX | Luna Brass - Palm Leaf and Bamboo

Words by Georgina Safe