The Airplane Engineer Turned Candle Maker

JULIA JULES WAN, FOUNDER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF CANDLE PIT STOP

What is it you do?

I deliver a different perspective on your usual scented-candle product. It is my job to "light' up my customer's life by injecting a lot of fun and creativity into the art of candle-making. Besides making our own natural scented candles, I conduct candle-making activities that touches all groups of customers because the art of candle making allows a person to explore their inner creativity. Any age group and skill can have fun making my candles.

Julia Jules Wan, founder & creative director of Candle Pit Stop

What is the most surprising thing about you that most people don’t know?

Despite now being in the scented candle business which gravitates more towards a feminine touch, I used to fix airplanes and dealt with a lot of grease, engines, fuel tanks and metal! Nothing that smelt nice. I knew every tool, nut and bolts name by size and material.

So, learning the art and science of candle making was just an extension to my aircraft engineering part in me! I thoroughly enjoyed both worlds. Creating something out of nothing was nothing new to me when I started my hand in business. I also love farming and built my own farm of organic vegetables, goats, chicken coops and even a duck pond during my stay abroad while following my husband as an expat wife.

What’s a typical day like in your life?

I have been a fully hands-on mom to my 10-year-old daughter ever since she was a baby. My day starts early, sometimes as early as 6AM. I send her to school and come back to my dogs. I make it a point to play with them every morning in my garden.

I love gardening. So it is vital for me to prune and give TLC to my flowering garden as a form of meditation and reflection to organise my day and thoughts. I own kois too and love watching them while I go about gardening.

Between that, I do my exercise in the gym at least 3 times a week. My real work starts by 10AM. Every email is looked into.

By afternoon, I can squeeze in my social life or meetings. I love to network and meet people where I can. I feel all work and no play is not an entrepreneurial path. I make sure I have space and time to interact with people other than my suppliers, clients or staff. Listening and conversing with people of diverse backgrounds and careers injects new and constructive ideas when I need to look into how my business plan is evolving.

By evening, I am ready to pick my daughter from school, cook her dinner, chat with her on her school day, look into her homework, and lastly, I end my night with stretches like Yoga or a good book to read. Lights and candles are out by 9PM in my household.

What’s the hardest thing you have had to deal with in your life?

Keeping CALM during a test flight when an engine shut down is part of the test flight! I sat in during my aircraft engineering days on a test flight when the pilot did a routine engine shut down test in mid air. And you could feel the whole aircraft start to be airborne silently while starting to nose dive! I worked on that aircraft, so I had to convince my brain that my team and I did a brilliant job in maintaining that aircraft! It was only me, my other engineer team mate and 2 test flight pilots in that aircraft.

You can safely say, I was confident but thoughts still run through your mind during that few seconds you feel gravity pull the aircraft down while the pilot did his job to restart the engine. It made me realise since then, do everything right! Always! Look into all details when you are working on something, no matter how small to prepare you to be more confident during trying times. This lesson served me well especially when I jumped into the world of business as being confident in your decisions can either make or break your business.

What motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough?

The fact that I have proven to myself through my own hardships that every problem, every challenge eventually has a solution. Because every challenge may look mountainous at that point of time but when conquered, and I look back, it looked so tiny and small!

How do you relax when you’re not working?

It is tough! My work entails scented candles! I am relaxed even when working. But I do love everyday simple luxuries like cooking a special meal for my family while creating a very warm ambiance with my own scented candles lit up around my home, or enjoying good music and a good book or reading materials. Seeing the smiles on the faces of those I love is my best relaxation therapy! Maybe that is why I try to deliver that same feeling to my customers, always.

What tools do you use that are indispensable? What can you not live without?

The invention of smartphone! My music (Spotify). WhatsApp is amazing and has allowed me to interact so much faster with clients when I am on the go. Waze has also allowed me to time manage my appointments/meetings as I get to set and predict my routes beforehand!

What books/documentaries would you recommend for someone who’d like to go into business?

Business is all about mindset! And constantly learning and picking up valuable tips and tools that suit your business needs. For motivation and coaching, I follow on gurus like Tony Robbins, T Harv Eker, Zig Ziglar in their books and also on Youtube. I also make it a point to tune into other parts of a business economic aspects like CNBC, Bloomberg, CNBC Asia as they do great interviews and documentaries on start up and as well as established businesses. It also lets me know more about current market trends. As a woman, I am thoroughly inspired by impactful women through their journey in life like Michelle Obama and even fashion gurus like Coco Chanel.

What project are you working on at the moment?

As the business moves forward and stabilises, I have made a personal pledge to reduce the carbon footprint that Candle Pit Stop produces via the materials we use in bulk. Where I can source a more safer alternative, I will consider it. I have also started making my own base materials whereby this allows me to control all ingredients used by us, ensuring only natural non toxic materials are used. Also, Candle Pit Stop has always favoured working with any associations to raise funds as part of our CSR. Previously, we have done candle sales to aid charitable organisations like Woman:Girls Project, Penan Women Project and UNHCR via our #LightofLife candles. I hope to deliver the awareness that candles is a form of hope, light and joy for the receiver and from the giver.

Your all time favourite song?

Anything during the 1980's era always gets me in the groove! But super cliché is “Somewhere over the rainbow” especially by the late “IZ” Israel Kamakawiwo on Ukulele version.

If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

When facing a challenge or problem, solve it step by step no matter how difficult and it will be solved one day. “I never put a timeline to solve any problems. If I don't have solution today, maybe tomorrow. If my idea fails today, maybe it might not tomorrow. So I keep trying but I never ignore the challenges or problems that arises” Also, KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE or "KISS" . Focus and get your ideas moving by keeping things clear from the beginning. In branding, in your business plan, in your message, and even the way you organise your life.