Hearing the business name The Fragrance Lab, I picture one fun workshop, with all kinds of flowery, fruity, and fresh aromas swirling in the air. Tanya Odrach launched her business of scented candles and body products in the summer of 2017 and quickly developed an impressive array of scents. Her creations are hand poured, cruelty-free, soy-based, and most importantly, as she describes, they smell damn good!
The Fragrance Lab boasts playful concoctions with names that don’t take themselves too seriously: Unicorn Farts, Cloud Wine, Hide That Pot Smell, Monkey Around, to name a few! Tanya gifted me the Pineapple Express – it’s scrumptious and tropical like a piña colada.
When I asked Tanya about the inspiration for the fragrances, she says: “From the beginning I wanted to make beautiful, high-quality products that smelled great, but I also wanted my products to be non-pretentious, edgy, fun, and maybe a little controversial; to make people smile and laugh and sometimes even shake their head in shock.”
And who wouldn’t laugh when given a candle called Better Than Sex! Tanya continues, “I really like to push boundaries and I think this is something that is expressed through my business. My very first product was my ‘Bad Ass Bitch’ candle which is vanilla coffee scented. I just kind of imagined the Baddest Bitch and what she would look like. I imagined her to be someone who is strong-minded, capable, who takes no shit and gets things done, and for some reason I imagined her always armed with black combat boots, a tight ponytail, and a strong cup of coffee.”
When I asked Tanya if she has a favourite, she reflects, “The type of scent someone is drawn to is very individual I think. I think sometimes fragrances are more than just for smelling good. They can evoke something real in you: a feeling, a memory, a deep nostalgia. I read that our sense of smell is the sense that is the most intimately tied to our memory, and for me I really feel like this is true.”
“For me, my favourite candle is our Mermaid candle and it smells like the ocean. I don’t think there’s anything that I love more than being in water. I’m a Pices, after all, and I could swim before I could walk. Lighting the Mermaid candle just brings me back to the happiest memories of my life – snorkelling in the Caribbean as a kid, discovering coral reefs, meeting fish, feeling so small and awe-struck at the tremendous power and mystery of the sea.”
Tanya first got into candle making for fun, first giving them away as gifts to friends and family. “When my friend told me my candles were better than some of the luxury brands she bought I thought that maybe I was onto something,” says Tanya.
The fun hobby soon turned into an unexpected business venture. It’s an inspiring story – Tanya was experiencing a rough patch in life, having gone through a breakup and also losing her main source of income. “On top of all this I have a disability – a genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – so just getting a normal job was out of the question. And then totally overnight I had this idea to start a candle business, and kind of out of a combination of desperation and lack of alternative options, I dove into it head first,” Tanya reflects. The Fragrance Lab made its first sale a week later, and Tanya hasn’t looked back. “It’s eight months later and I sell over 70 products online and in over 20 retails shops all over the country. When I look back at where I was less than a year ago I can hardly believe it, but I have to say that I never doubted my business for a second.”
Hamilton has proven to be a welcoming place for entrepreneurs, and with networks like Hamilton Fempreneurs, women in particular are pursuing big ideas. Tanya notes, “Hamilton is very unique in that it has an incredibly strong and supportive small business community. I’ve met so many amazing entrepreneurs and I am constantly inspired by all the new and creative things people are working on. It’s really a privileged and an honour to be a tiny part of such an awesome community.”
Ensuring that the candles are cruelty-free and soy-based is also an important part of the business model. What are some of the benefits of working with natural products? Tanya explains, ”I have been vegetarian my whole adult life so it was very important to me that my products were made using ethically sourced, cruelty-free ingredients. Some types of candles emit nasty chemicals that can trigger breathing problems and smoke that can stain your clothes and walls. I absolutely love working with soy because it is all natural, clean burning, and holds fragrance really well. Unlike other types of candles soy does not emit any C02 so it’s the healthiest option for you and the environment.”
You can find The Fragrance Lab products for purchase on Etsy and locally at Vagabond Saints (461 King St. E), Len Democratic (257 James St. N), and The Handmade House (5 Foundry St, Dundas). The products are also carried in Guelph, Cambridge, Ottawa, Smithville, and Québec.